an image of desiree

Desiree Foerster

Postdoc (Jul 2020, University of Chicago); previously PhD (Potsdam, Germany)

My research revolves around the study of embodied aesthetics. My goal is to incorporate additional sensory modalities into the current aesthetic frameworks, such as thermoception, interoception, chemoception. Taking on the perspective of process philosophy and media-aesthetics, I investigate the role that liminal experiences play in situating the human subject apart from a conscious reference to the world. My PhD thesis "Aesthetic Experience of Metabolic Processes" asks questions such as: in how far can an aesthetic framework inspired by pragmatism, process philosophy, and biological concepts such as metabolism provide new understandings to the human-environment relation?

I graduated with a PhD from the University of Potsdam, where I was advised by Birgit Schneider (Potsdam) and Sha Xin Wei (Arizona State University). From July 2020 I will be Postdoc at the Department for Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago, where I have been a Visiting Scholar since January 2019. Before, I graduated an MA in Media Studies at the University of Düsseldorf and a BA in Philosophy/Literature at the Ruhr University Bochum. I typically present my work at conferences such as the annual conference of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts and the annual meeting of the Social Studies of Science (4S). I have lectured workshops on Foucault's “heteropia” at the Utopia School in Copenhagen'15 and in Athens'16. In 2017, I was awarded the Emergent Scholar Award of the New Directions in the Humanities Research Network. Also, I worked as a program assistant for the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW in Berlin) and as a curator in Berlin.

Research interests

Aesthetics, Media Ecologies, Affective Media, Embodiment, Phenomenology, Embodied Cognition, Enactivism, Process Philosophy, Immersive Environments.

On-going research projects

Give&Take (VR experiment)

in collaboration with Sarah Hermanutz & Andreas Rau (supported by IXDM Basel).

 

How can we use unseen sensual experiences, such as interoception, to improve our understanding of the relationship between a human body and its atmospheric surroundings? How can we create immersive environments that induce meaningful perceptual experiences for thermal, climatic, meteorological processes? To engage with these questions, I created an interative experiment together with designers and artists from Berlin and Basel. This is an interactive VR simulation that utilizes thermal feedback and sensing technologies. The project was the starting point for a multi-media installation at IXDM. The immersive environment induced a perceptional link with thermal, climatic, meteorological processes that were enacted in partial response to the engaging individual. I am especially interested in exploring VR technology to shift our conscious awareness towards processes in our surroundings that we are usually unaware of.

 
 

Affective Atmospheres (installation)

in collaboration with Synthesis Center (Arizona State University) and Topological Media Lab (Concordia University)

 

A collaboration with colleagues at the Topological Media Lab (Concordia University) and the Synthesis Center(Schools of Arts, Media + Engineering at Arizona State University) that resulted in “Caustic Scenography + Responsive Cloud Formations”. This is a synthetic cloud generator, built to investigate the potential that lies in the experience of atmospheric conditions. This project reflects on the contemporary environmental challenges and possibilities. In this collaboration we explicitly tie together philosophical inquiry and experimental practice in order to maximize the potential of both fields without returning to ready-made and limiting concepts and questions. During a second workshop we build another prototype that was also exhibited at the Leonardo Laser event "LASER 6: Ecologies X Voice X Body X Atmosphere". See more at: Experiential Model of Atmosphere (project page).

 
 

PhD dissertation

Thesis: Aesthetic Experience of Metabolic Processes (Jan 2020)

 

With my PhD thesis “Aesthetic Experience of Metabolic Processes” I explore how aesthetic theory can be extended to account for bio-chemical processes. The concept of an “aesthetics of metabolism” makes it possible to explore how bio-chemical processes, such as energy production in respiration, impact our subjective experience. What is thereby subjectively experienced is not so much a concrete feeling, thought, or invitation to act, but rather how feelings, thoughts, and behavior arise in different phases of experience, sometimes leading to one another. An aesthetics of metabolism enables to become aware of different phases in experience and how they relate to each other as well as to processes that happen outside of the experiencing subject’s body, in the immediate surrounding. Thereby, I propose, an aesthetics of metabolism offers a new perspective on the human-environment relation, one that is processual, relational, and not depended on a conscious reference to the environment. Ultimately, an aesthetics of metabolism highlights that meaning-making is not only reserved for conscious thought but happens on a pre-reflective layer as well.

Education

  • 2020-2022

    Postdoc at the Department for Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago.

  • 2017-2020

    PhD, Institute for Arts and Media (Philosophy), Potsdam, Germany

    Thesis: Aesthetic Experience of Metabolic Processes (Jan 2020). Advised by Birgit Schneider (Potsdam) and Sha Xin Wei (Arizona State University).

  • Nov 2018

    Research residency at Topological Media Lab, Concordia University, Canada.

    with Sha Xin Wei. (1.5 months)

  • Feb 2018

    Research residency at Synthesis Center, Arizona State University, USA.

    with Sha Xin Wei. (2 months)

  • Aug 2017

    Visiting scholar at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA.

    at the Department of Social Studies of Science (3 months)

  • 2013-2016

    Program Asisstant at Literature & Humanities at the Haus Der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin.

    Main projects: Anthropocene (2 year project) and Technosphere (4 year project).

  • 2007-2009

    MA (Master of Arts) at University of Düsseldorf, Germany.

    Master Thesis: "BioArt. On the motif of hybrid forms of life in art in the age of biotechnologies" (in German) with Timo Skrandies

  • 2003-2006

    BA (Bachelor of Arts) in Comparative Studies and Philosophy at the Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany.

    Bachelor Thesis: "The surrealist portrayal of everyday life in Svankmajer and Magritte" (in German).

Talks at conferences

  • Developing New Habits of Care in Sentient Environments.

    Uncommon Senses III: The Future of the Senses. Center for Sensory Studies, Concordia University, Montreal (CA), May, 2020.

  • Breathing with Others. The New Aesthetics of Air in Art and Architecture.

    Experimental Engagements. SLSA 2019. UCI Irvine (US), Nov. 2019.

  • Affective Atmospheres | Ambient Feedback Ecology.

    ISEA2019, Gwangju, South Korea (SK), 2019.

  • Affective Atmospheres.

    LASER 6: Ecologies X Voice X Body X Atmosphere. Hexagram, Concordia University, Montreal (CA), Nov. 2018.

  • Hybrid Art. On performative materiralities and mediality of encorporation

    Keynote for Stories for a more-than-human world 06/07/2018, Berlin, Germany.

  • Attuning the Body, Stretching the Feeling. A Coliseum for the Senses

    Second Annual Posthuman Network (PHuN) Graduate Student Conference 2/22-25/2018, Tempe, Arizona, US.

  • Environments of Shared Concern

    Nonhuman Subjectivities 11/24/2017, Berlin, Germany.

  • Presentation: Hybrid ecologies, affective atmospheres and metabolic systems in art and design

    Challenging Corporealities 11/9 – 11/10 2007, Barcelona, Spain.

  • Hybrid Ecologies, Affective Atmospheres and Metabolic Systems in Art and Design

    Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), 8/30- 9/3 2017, Boston, Massachusetts, US

  • The Cognitive Shift: Ecological Figurations of the Human in Art and Design

    Fifteenth International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities (Special Focus: New Directions of the Humanities in a Knowledge Society), 7/5–7/7 2017, London, UK

  • Affective Atmospheres and Hybrid Ecologies

    The SLSAeu Conference 2017 “Empathies”, 7/21-7/24 2017, Basel, Switzerland.

  • Negotiations of instability of life itself in technologies of interoception: the interface as epistemic object

    Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), 8/31-9/3 2016, Barcelona, Spain.

  • Beyond human senses – technologies of new interspecies-entanglements

    SCOS 2016 – The Animal, 7/11-7/14 2016, Uppsala University, Sweden.

  • The monster lies in between. On the motif of the precarious in artistic practices

    Promises of Monsters, 4/28-4/29 2016 University of Stavanger.

  • Contamination, Abstraction, Interoception – New Artistic Strategies Challenging The Human Condition

    Strata: Art and Science Collaborations in the Anthropocene, 1/15 2016, Aberysthwyth, Wales, UK

  • Arts in Collaboration: New Artistic Practices with a New Ecoaestetic

    Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), 11/11-11/14 2015, Denver, US.

  • BioArt. Über die Möglichkeit nichtmenschlicher Perspektiven in der Kunst (German)

    Evolution in Menschenhand? Synthetische Biologie aus Labor und Atelier, 3/13 2015, organized by Schering Foundation, the National Academy oft he Sciences Leopoldina and the Berlin-Brandenburgischen Academy of the Sciences.

  • Arts in Collaboration

    Ninth International Conference on the Arts in Society “The Lives of Art”, 6/25-6/27 2014 Rome, Italy.

  • Under the surface, under the skin.

    Man, Meat, and Method ,6/5-6/6 2013, Bergen, Norway.

  • Interspecies Relationships

    Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), 10/17 – 10/20 2012, Kopenhagen, Denmark.

  • VJing jenseits der Clubkultur. Konzeptionierung urbaner und kommerzieller Räume (in German)

    11/23 2010, University Siegen, Germany.

  • Bioart – Vom Laborprojekt zum sozialen Subjekt (in German)

    International Graduate Conference „Biopolitik, Bioökonomie und Biopoetik im Zeichen der Krisis“ , 1/20-1/23 2010 Heinrich-Heine Universität, Düsseldorf, Germany.

Publications

Figurations of Hybrid Ecologies in Artistic Practice (buy book)

In: Dialogues Between Artistic Research and Science and Technology Studies. Edited by Henk Borgdorff, Peter Peters, Trevor Pinch, Routledge, 2019.

Being Interspecies. Negotiation Processes of Subjectivity and Event Beyond Representation (buy book)

In: Andreas Greiner: Anatomy of a Fairytale. Verlag für Moderne Kunst, 2016.

Bioart – Vom Laborprojekt zum sozialen Subjekt (in German, buy book)

In: Wissen und Leben – Wissen für das Leben. Hg. v. Vittoria Borsò, Michele Cometa, Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld, 2014.

Die Immersion des Bildes. Notizen zum VJing als eine hybride Bildpraxis (in German, buy book)

In: Im Kontinuum der Bilder. VJing als Medienkunst. Hg.v. Prof. Dr. R. Görling, D. Förster, A. Olbrisch, L. Handel, Peter Lang Verlag, Frankfurt a. M., 2011.

Teaching

University-level teaching

  • Aesthetics of Engagement (Bachelor / Masters level, 1 semester, 2018)

    Course taught & designed by Desiree Foerster at University of Potsdam.

  • De-constructing Clouds (Bachelor level, 1 semester, 2017)

    Course co-taught & co-designed by Desiree Foerster together with Myriel Milicevic at University Potsdam and FH Potsdam (Design Department).

  • Re-figuring the animal. The animal in Catherine Chalmers and Allison Hunter (Bachelor / Masters level, 1 semester, 2013)

    Course taught & designed by Desiree Foerster at University of Düsseldorf.


Workshops lectured

  • On Foucault's Heteropia (2016)

    Independent Event Space in Athens.

  • On Foucault's Heteropia (2015)

    at the Utopia School Copenhagen


Pedagogy Trainning

  • Teaching certificate from University of Potsdam (in-progress, 2018-2019)

    Junior Teaching Professionals, intensive workshop based certification in Pedagogy.

Chairing & Organizing

Conference organization

  • Sensing Technologies (Spürtechniken) a three-day conference at University Potsdam (5/24-5/26, 2018)

    co-organizing with Birgit Schneider.

  • Technosphere (at Haus der Kulturen der Welt)

    as program assistant at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin.

  • Conducting the amplified body - a matinee of electrically [de]controlled musicians

    A week-long research residency, which culminated with public talks & performances by Michaela Davies (artist), Ian Douglas-Moore (guitarist), Jonathan Heilbron (double bassist), Robert Lindenberg (neuroscientist), Pedro Lopes (researcher & turntablist), ACUD Macht Neu, Berlin.

  • Anhroposcene (2 year project at Haus der Kulturen der Welt)

    as program assistant at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin.


Session Chair & Moderator


Curator & Project Manager

Summer Schools / Residencies

  • Short residency “Atmosphere”

    Topological Media Lab 10/25-11.30.18, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.

  • Lurid Space. Ecology Beyond Organisms

    PhD Course in Art History, University of Oslo, 2/1/2018, Oslo, Norway

  • Short residency “Atmosphere”

    Synthesis Center School of Arts, Media and Engineering; Arizona State University, 2/14-3/3 2018, Tempe, US.

  • Research residency at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

    8/1 – 10/30 2017, Troy, NY, US.

  • Trainee in COST: New Materialism Training School: Research Genealogies and Material Practices

    5/27-5/29 2016, TATE Modern, London, UK.

  • Summer School “Sensing Collectivities” and the “Thermal Objects workshop”

    7/14 – 7/18 2017, Hamburg University, Hamburg, Germany.

Contact

dfoerster@uchicago.edu
  • Institute for Arts and Media
  • Faculty of Philosophy
  • Haus 2, Raum 1.11,
  • Neuen Palais 10, 14469 Potsdam, Germany