The greatest danger for design

Interview for Campus Magazine at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg
April 1st, 2024

In October 1998 I started to work for Germany's renowned film school, Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg (FABW). It has been a challenge, pleasure, and honor to chair the Motion Design class for almost 26 years now.

This year the FABW invited me to do an interview for their Campus Magazine with their head of press, Andreas Friedrich, he asked me among other things, "Your biography reads as if there must be at least 48 hours in a day. How do you manage all your activities?"

My answer, "I self-consciously perceive that I‘m ultra-fast, even when I‘m talking. What I have to deal with is that I make mistakes. This insanely high speed and the fact that I do many things at the same time is almost a kind of handicap. As a result, I always need people to look at things again. Here at FABW, for example, I could not do my job properly without Jürgen Klozenbücher, Motion Design Study Coordinator, and I feel deep gratitude for this kind of support. That‘s why I have a great openness to criticism, because I depend on others to correct my mistakes. I also often provoke backlash from people who shy away from my pushiness. Today I don‘t care so much what others think of me and I trust my inspiration more and more as I get older. The motto I like best at the moment is: Love what loves you back! So don‘t shake doors that won ́t open. And I just need a community, people who are specialists. I am a generalist, I can do a lot of things, I can talk about everything, but I am not an expert."

Happy to share the interview in German and English.

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Students in my Visual Music class acquire knowledge of design principles and techniques by producing visualisations of sound/music – e.g. as installations, videos clips, VJ sets, installations, and computer games.

Visual Music Studies 2024

Annual show of student's Visual Music projects
January 22nd, 2024

Every year composer and assistant professor Marcus Schmickler and I host the Visual Music Studies at Dusseldorf's Filmwerkstatt. This year's class - Noah Bugalski, Anna Hummen, Vladyslav Masko, Lena Ruzicka, Meryem Saral, Konrad Simon, and Jakob Walheim - will present their final projects on February 14th, 2024.

Creating a work for this show is part of the assignment in my Visual Music class at the Institute for Music and Media at Dusseldorf Robert Schumann conservatory. Many of the students decide to concentrate on transmedia installations, others are interested in video clips, experimental film, and animation as well as audiovisual performances.

The students are supported by an amazing team of assistant professors: Prof. Ulla Barthold, Leon Monschauer, Jan Höhe, and Christian Schäfer.


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'The World of Music Video' exhibition catalogue by Völklinger Hütte World Cultural Heritage arrived yesterday. (Thanks to Andrea Piontek for the flowers.)

'The World of Music Video' exhibition catalogue

Völklinger Hütte World Cultural Heritage
March 11th, 2022

When I was invited by Völklinger Hütte World Cultural Heritage to contibute to their exhibition catalogue The World of Music Video, I knew in no time that I could and would only do a text about Gender Roles in Music Videos if my friend and renowned sound artist, poet and professor Swantje Lichtenstein and I could work on it together.

Swantje Lichtenstein and I enjoy ultra long and deep phone calls. So, we applied what we do anyway to this project. Ultimately, Swantje took the pieces of our conversations and wove them into an intimate piece of text. I admire her craft, the way she uses her tools, and her inspired, honest, and free spirit.

After our performance with Johanna Dombois for LCD - Literature Club Duesseldorf at the Duesseldorf Salons des Amateurs in 2014, and our collaboration for the performance on c’s terms. heroine and sister for Nico (Christa Päffgen) in 2018 this was our third collaboration.

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The visual identity for NICA artist development was created by Cologne art director Christian Schäfer.

NICA artist development

Outstanding jazz and contemporary music artists
September 15th, 2020

About a year ago Svenja Doeinck asked me to join her in the process to define the identity for a program, which offers outstanding musicians from North Rhine-Westphalia working in the field of jazz and contemporary music a platform for artistic profiling and professionalisation of their careers.

In our first sessions Svenja introduced me to Pannonica de Koenigswarter’s book Three Wishes: an Intimate Look at Jazz Greats. "Compiled between 1961 and 1966, it is a book of interviews with 300 musicians who told her what their three wishes would be, and is accompanied by her Polaroid photographs. The book was edited for publication by Nadine de Koenigswarter, whom Nica always introduced to people as her granddaughter but who was in fact her great-niece." (Wikipedia)

Svenja Doeinck and I explored the biography of Pannonica (shortened to "Nica" as a nickname), and quickly became obsessed with her character and legacy. It was obvious to us and felt inevitable that we had to name the artist development program, which was led by Svenja Doeinck and funded by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, after Pannonica "Nica" de Koenigswarter because she was the most fabulous and glamorous jazz patron of all times.

Later in the process art director Christian Schäfer took over and now works on defining and creating the visual identity for NICA artist development program based on our briefing.

The NICA program started with four amazing musicians, and I am so delighted to now support three of them. In our sessions we work on exploring their ideas concerning a public and visual communication strategy with their enchanted fans.


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Monheim Triennale 2020 poster design by Vasilis Marmatakis.

Monheim Triennial – The Adventure of Music in the 21st Century

Defining the identity for a new music festival
September 10th, 2019

The successful collaboration on defining a new identity for Cologne's infamous Stadtgarten, a European Centre for Jazz and Contemporary Music, led it's musical director, Reiner Michalke, to contract me again for his most prominent recent project, the Monheim Triennal.

Via the Monheim Triennal's website: "The Monheim Triennial is an international music festival aiming to present ground- breaking artistic positions in current improvised, composed and popular music. The first edition of the Monheim Triennial will take place in 2020 and will be continued every three years on the last weekend of June. The Monheim Triennale will focus on telling musical stories at the highest artistic level. Artistic Director is Reiner Michalke."

In order to define the identity of the festival I worked in three concentrated workshops with a core group of decision-makers and consultants: Meryem Erkus (Curator for Gold+Beton), Prof. Dr. Swantje Lichtenstein (Artist, Curator for Monheim Triennal), Reiner Michalke (CEO, Artistic Director for Monheim Triennal), Melanie Rossmann (Head of Concert Office for Stadtgarten), Achim Tang (Artist in Residence for Monheim Triennal), Thomas Venker (Editor Kaput Magazin, Curator for Monheim Triennal), and Daniel Zimmermann (Mayor of the City of Monheim am Rhein).

The workshops resulted in a consice design briefing, which Reiner Michalke took to Athens, Greece, and invited graphic designer Vasilis Marmatakis to work on a series of posters for the festival. Today, Cologne based art director Christian Schäfer is working on the corporate design for 2020, and the Monheim Triennal's website is one of the first results of this cooperation.


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Framework is a collection of open, hand-drawn graphic scores and recordings by Danish musician/composer Mads Emil Nielsen.


Catalyst and mentor

Working with Mads Emil Nielsen
June 28th, 2019

Mads Emil Nielsen (b. 1989) is a musician/composer based in Copenhagen, DK. He works with basic sound sources, often combined with short percussive and orchestral samples, real sounds and an amplification of machine produced errors. Raised in a family of architects and artists, later discovering synthesizers and sequencers, he developed a graphic/visual approach to working with music and sound.
In 2014 he founded arbitrary, the label and artistic platform on which he released his solo works and collaborations.
Mads has performed at the Présences électronique festival in Paris (2018) and contributed to various theatre pieces/performances and the Notations 21 Project exhibitions. His music is featured on compilations by The Wire magazine and raster-media label.
He completed his studies at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen and has received grants/scholarships from the Danish Arts Foundation and Léonie Sonning Music Foundation.

In January 2019 Mads hired me as his catalyst and mentor. Our sessions are dedicated to his various graphic score explorations, including drawings and sound pieces, and also to his recent, complex Framework project – a series of scores, recordings and interpretations.
Just now, we enter the next stage, and started to work on repositioning the visual identity for his website and label. Working with Mads is not only deeply gratifying, it is also a productive challenge, hugely inspiring, and a delightful pleasure.

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Portrait of Nico by Guy Webster.

11 Himmelschreierinnen

on c’s terms. heroine and sister by Swantje Lichtenstein
August 29th, 2018

Ralph H. Christoph, Head of Program at c/o pop Convention in Cologne, invited me to give a laudatory speech at this year's c/o pop opening ceremony. They will unveil a sculpture to initiate the Nicoplatz [Nico Square] at MAKK (German for Museum of Applied Art, abbreviated MAKK).

Christa Päffgen (1938-1988) known by her stage name Nico was born in Cologne, and since 2006 a large group of artists and musicians from Cologne have tried to convince the city council to name a square after her, but the motion was finally denied.

So, I thought crying out to heaven in a group of female artist and musicians for whom Nico's music means a lot would be even more appropriate, and asked my wonderful friend Swantje Lichtenstein to write a text for a choir of 11 female crier.
Frauke Berg, Julia Bünnagel, Suzie Kerstgens, Elisa Kühnl, Linn Meissner, Elisa Metz, Angela Spizig, Sarah Szczesny, Britta Tekotte, Marie-Claire Delarber, and me will perform Swantje's wonderful, amazing text on August 29th to open the 15th edition of Cologne music festival c/o pop.

Our opening lines are:

"c is for christa und wir
sind der chor, die chora
ihr mund und ihr ohr.

c is for colonia und wir
sind himmelschreiende
schwestern der stadt."

Here is a PDF of the complete piece.
Video of the performance filmed and edited by Anja Bergk and Jan Höhe.

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Example for Stadtgarten's new corporate design by Christian Schäfer.

Redefining Stadtgarten's personality

European Center for Jazz and Contemporary Music
April 4th, 2018

Via Stadtgarten: "The Park-Restaurant Stadtgarten was first opened in 1898 and is located within Cologne's oldest inner-city park Stadtgarten. After a colourful history, in 1985 the city of Cologne agreed to a long term lease contract with the Initiative Kölner Jazz Haus e.V., both for the park grounds and its building. Initiative Kölner Jazz Haus is an association of Cologne musicians, founded in 1978. Also in 1985 Stadtgarten Restaurant Betriebs GmbH was founded, and reopened the restaurant after its renovation. [...]

On September 4th 1986, the concert hall was opened and in 1997 Studio 672 [former Schmuck-Kästchen] was reopened in its basement. Today the entire venue hosts up to 400 concerts per year.
In 2016, Stadtgarten received the Venue of the Year award by the German government as part of their the venue programming award Applaus. In 2018, the venue was transformed into the European Center for Jazz and Contemporary Music with support from the state of North-Rhine Westphalia and the City of Cologne."

Reiner Michalke, program director for the renowned Stadtgarten venue, hired me to support their executive team to reposition the Stadtgarten identity. Over the course of one year I led the team to reflect and brainstorm on the uniqueness of their concert hall, club, and restaurant. We also started a concentrated research into the different audiences to understand their values and interests.

This process finally resulted in a precise design briefing, which Reiner Michalke used to call a pitch for Stadtgarten's new corporate design. Cologne based designer Christian Schäfer won and created a striking visual identity, which is praised throughout the community and widely recognized.

The Stadtgarten team was one of the most engaged, and inspired clients I have ever had the pleasure to work with. And it is quite wonderful to see how they achieved a complete repositioning of this much loved venue. The endeavor of carefully refacing an identity is always quite a challenge, and achieving it in a group is even harder but if you succeed, you win on all levels.

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Series of lectures at Institute For Music And Media

In 2005 I initiated the BASECAMP lecture series at the Institute For Music And Media.  For the course of 12 years I curated, and produced this monthly event. I invited over 70 amazing speakers and perfomers. The name BASISLAGER was inspired by my professor Bazon Brock, who gave a lecture on BASECAMPS in January 2006.

For the first BASECAMP lecture on June 17th, 2005 I invited John Tilbury. He talked about the music of Morton Feldman, and played three piano pieces by Feldman. I still show Tilbury's talk every year in my Visualize Music seminar to introduce Morton Feldman's music to the freshman at the Institute For Music And Media.

The last BASECAMP lecture was held by Prof. Sylke Rene Meyer on Developing Content For Non-linear Storytelling. Sylke Rene Meyer is Professor and Associate Director, MFA Creative Writing at California State University-Los Angeles. In her talk she is pointing to the future of storytelling.

Choosing my favorite BASECAMP talk after so many years was no easy task, but Terre Thaemlitz On A Completely Fabricated Evolutionary Trajectory was mindblowing on so many levels. He chose to not allow publishing her lecture online because he has a very specific perspective on ownership. Consider her interview by Dubspot for more information.

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New master's degree program

Klang und Realität, Master of Music
March 3rd, 2017

In close collaboration with my inspired colleague Prof. Julian Rohrhuber we created the amazing Klang und Realität master's degree program at the Institute For Music And Media.

Via Institute For Music And Media: "Following the principle of the unity of research and teaching, the Klang und Realität master’s degree program combines aesthetic, technical and theoretical approaches. The program benefits from the unique academic situation at the Institute for Music and Media: the multiple facets of time-based art, such as composition, performance, and algorithmic art forms, have been established here for many years.

IMM students autonomously develop their own stance, and learn to integrate it with a range of artistic, technological, economic, scientific and cultural contexts. Graduates of the Klang und Realität master’s degree program are ideally prepared to shape, influence, advance and even anticipate developments in the 21st century.

Musicality is not attached to musical instruments exclusively – it includes many aspects of artistic and scholarly work. That is not least of all the reason why this degree program is generally open to graduates from all disciplines.
It is therefore particularly appropriate for those who are interested in the diversity of media forms, schools of thought and topics. The institution of a Musikhochschule is ideally suited for promoting exchange among interests and abilities in different domains.

Student projects play a vital part in this exchange. In the course of their studies, students learn to re-conceptualize their proposed project on the basis of critical and differentiated feedback and to bring it to fruition at a high level through collaboration with other students. They carry out their project in one of two areas of focus – Epistemic Media or Transmedia Forms – both of which open up completely new perspectives in the environment of a state conservatory."

The fabulous flyer was designed by Double Standards, Berlin.
Here are the PDF files: German version and English version.

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