We all feel that we have to change our way of life. We are living in a moment of transition where old world orders, economic systems, social contracts, ideologies, authorities, and political institutions are at the end – and new ones are yet to grow. At the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe we analyse, shape, debate, and design… what is to come.

We start with orientation courses in the first year where students exercise different ways of intuitive and analytical understanding of the media (from forms, colours and materials to other codes) and learn different and new ways of communicating through them. The students start to navigate between different dimensions, from 2D screens and surfaces, 3D objects and spaces, moving images and performances (4D) to intellectual exercises fighting the reduction of the world and our life to one dimension (towards minus1D). Together we explore your talents and affinities of appropriating the media as extensions of your bodies. A structured programme of project based modules acquaint you with the workshops, the studios, the libraries and various tools. First year students are given a shared space where they design and develop their own learning environment.

While modernisation instigated specialism and atomisation, at the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe we revert this by reconnecting, reconfiguring, and recontextualising. The contemporary world is not lacking specialists, but the ability to synthesise diverse specialist perspectives and solutions. Our world also needs professional non-experts, capable of continuously switching between perspectives and dimensions, in order to visualise the field of action and ultimately reorganise the world. At the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe, this is the moment for art (4D), critical theory (-1D) and design (2D, 3D) to unite. Building further on the legacy of the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe, we call on art – as a continuous performance of switching perspectives; critical theory – as a never-ending dialogic exercise of switching perspectives; and design – as a continuous project to produce individual and social life through objects – to merge.

In the second and third year after the first year orientation phase, students, teachers and guests from various backgrounds work their way through common but also individual projects launched from intuitive as well as intellectual starting points and lasting from one semester to one or two years.
Through these projects the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe works as a self-commissioning studio as well as a third-party-commissioning agency, a research and resource centre for urgent issues, a networked platform where we invite specialists to challenge us, a stage for performing utopian prototypes of society. The project themes are initiated by the collective of teachers. A project coordinator convenes collaborators with contrasting perspectives and from complementary disciplines (i.e. from the 7 degree programmes). Every project is a platform for authors and has its own dedicated space where prototypes are presented and discussed, thematic lectures and courses are held. The content of a project is contextualised and critically analysed by theory, questioned through artistic practices, prototyped by different design disciplines and technologies and finally staged or published as an open Gesamtkunstwerk. 

The fourth and the fifth year of study start with a series of workshops exploring different modes of research and investigation, enabling graduating students to create their own way of working and developing their practice. Every student sets up their own studio space. We expect graduating students to take a clearly articulated position and a strong critical, relational or speculative attitude that contribute to the international discourse of art, design and or critical theory. The graduating students are therefore coached in their projects by mentors with the most diverse perspectives. At the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe, we do art by theory. We do theory by design and design by art and theory. We consider theory as a tool to make the world and use design objects as tools to create new world views. We see art, theory and design as attitudes that become form that become attitudes that become form …  

At the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe, we choreograph and perform research through continuous exercises of performing a u-turn, of switching perspectives: reading the individual as a collective and the collective as an individual; seizing constraints as opportunities; detecting the poetic in the cracks of reality; discerning the utopian in the dystopian and the dystopian in the utopian; finding high values in the lowly valued and vice versa; considering the expert a non-expert and the non-expert an expert. In the research flow of the temporary projects and studios, everyone is a student, and everyone is a teacher. All participate in an ongoing process of learning and unlearning, of mutual schooling and continuous self-education. 

We understand society as a complex phenomenon where we have to open echo chambers and escape comfort zones. We encourage ourselves to continuously exercise switching perspectives and exchanging one-dimensional standpoints for the most inclusive perspectives, embracing diversity from gender and generation to background and ability.

In the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe we explore and experiment with the performative and affective dimensions of discourse. We use objects and technology from printed matter to exhibitions .... as tools of reflection and research. The University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe is a design school that does not aim to produce more of the same solutions, but to question the function and implications of design for producers and consumers. The relations between individuals and objects are social relations that can be changed by redesigning the objects. We read all objects as hyper-objects, as networked and networking objects. Hyper-objects point to a bigger picture beyond themselves; they make their multiple connections to the world explicit; they reflect the social, economic, and political conditions of their production and use; they compel us to continuously switch perspectives; they become keys to enter and change reality. We expect that graduating students become active citizens and masters in being comfortable with doubt and conflict, debating, provoking and conflicting ideas. We expect them to burn before they get burned.

Together, at the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe, we look at the world not as something given, but as something made – that can be remade, and which urgently needs to be redesigned. We radically look inwards and explore ourselves – dreaming, speculating, longing, fearing, dealing with issues of isolation, depression, and melancholy, love and recognition, self-indulgence and self-control. We look radically outwards and explore the world, zooming in and zooming out, from individuals to societies, from agents to networks, from the microscopic to the cosmos. Together, we see how both perspectives, inward and outward, mutually contain each other. We find ourselves all over the world, and we find the world inside us. We understand freedom as something that is not given, but made through self-reflecting, self-organising, and reappropriating our media. We aim to design moments of freedom.

We cherish a culture of self-reflection and applied scepticism and we are aware of being in a privileged position. As members of an organisation with a public mandate we are all supposed to serve each other – the students by taking risks in their work, the teachers by challenging the students, the workshop and studio mentors by fostering students’ autonomy, the administrative service by making things possible, the facility support by embracing change, the heads by connecting minds and hands, and the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe by serving society. This serving attitude of mutually taking care implies constructive critique aimed at improving the quality of what we do. 

University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe graduates will be able to consider the production of the social and the individual as a design process, in which they are needed to unfold the bigger picture. As professional non-experts, they will be able to work with specialists from different disciplines, from science and technology to design, art and theory. Our graduates will be able to synthesise and convene interdisciplinary teams that are able to embark on radical change, and engage with changing world orders. Artists and designers increasingly seek and find more links with science, philosophy, technology and other domains in their work. This research is conducted in the process of working on art and design projects and can be defined more as applied research instead of strictly academic or scientific research.

As an institution committed to enhancing this interdisciplinary knowledge we will in 2020 establish HfG Research, a design and art research lab within the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe. From the beginning, HfG Research consists of thematic research studios that focus on research within a specific theme for a number of years. This thematic research is used as an undercurrent for a variety of projects, exhibitions, events and public activities that investigate the theme from different perspectives, sub-themes and forms. This approach also enables creating strong and substantive ties between the projects and forming a sustainable network of experts and peers around a specific theme. In the future, the majority of projects at University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe will be developed even more towards a research-based approach to art and design. Part of this process is developing the concept and strengthening the role of HfG Research within the institution. In 2022, the ongoing development process of HfG Research will extend the research labs towards strong, international online presence that will function as a platform for accumulating knowledge and exchanging ideas, resources and research between artists, designers, curators, writers and other experts and share it with the wider public, both locally and internationally, in both digital and print publications. The HfG Research website collects and connects all these different research threads, currently labelled under two topics: Studio Democracies and Studio Economies.

We see democracy not as a static object but as a dynamic project that has to be reevaluated, reworked and redesigned continuously. In times in which democracy is disrupted and in which economy is socially and environmentally extractive, we want to create alternative processes of collective decision making as well as alternative and sustainable ways of exchanging values. The two research studios Democracies and Economies will instigate transversal projects within the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe  and in partnership with ZKM (Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe) and others. They will be multidisciplinary platforms for convening agents from all parts of society. Through these projects we build an ecosystem including our alumni, partners, companies and other universities, and act as an incubator for addressing, facing and answering future challenges. Schooling for analysing, debating, designing and shaping what is to come.