Sen. Sc. Dr. phil. Ulrike Möntmann

Parrhesia: The Risky Activity of Speaking Up and Speaking Out

Habilitation Project; Elise-Richter-PEEK program, FWF

February 2021 – ongoing

The project »Parrhesia: The Risky Activity of Speaking Up and Speaking Out« focuses on a marginal group, and with the aid of arts-based research and practice seeks ways out of systematically imposed powerlessness.

The research project centres on the conditions of life for female drug addicts before and after the onset of their addiction. That they are regarded as a negligible social phenomenon and, moreover, the women experience themselves as guilty in principle and justifiably imprisoned, in no way diminishes their suffering from a life on the streets and in prison characterised for the most part by (sexual) violence. On the contrary: being structurally condemned literally to voicelessness and therefore also to defencelessness raises the question of whether recounting the stories of their lives in public can prove to be an emancipatory act. In an interdisciplinary amalgamation of art and social science, this gender-specific study analyses a phenomenon that concerns society as a whole from a variety of perspectives. To expand areas of action and the circulation of knowledge of her Outcast Registration network, the findings of the projects conducted so far in central Europe will be supplemented and extended by a number of projects conducted in prisons in northern and southern Europe.

The key theoretical concept of the project is Michel Foucault’s conception of parrhesia, which describes the courage and the duty to speak the naked truth; from a seemingly powerless perspective to take up a stance sincerely and candidly against powerful persons and the established order at the risk of being sanctioned. Parrhesia reveals existing hierarchies, here based on the position of female drug addicts pushed to the outermost margins of society. The initial question contradicts the widespread cliché that junkies have nothing significant to say. In prison, society’s most isolated space, the project participants discover art as a potential space of action. In their biographies recurring patterns and contingent structures become visible, in particular the disproportionate nature of the consequences of offences they have committed and that have been committed against them.

Art thus becomes a socio-political means of mediation and, through the employment of aesthetic media, an instrument of public visibility. Art interventions and empirical research prove to be effective and complementary investigative methods that can be applied in an interdisciplinary context. Within the framework of new collaborations with research institutions in the countries where the project will be carried out in the future, a large-scale network is being established with expertise that will promote and enrich arts-based research on possibilities for socio-political interventions in the long term.

See also:



Sen. Sc. Mag. arch. Valerie Messini

VOID SET. About Emptiness in Virtual Space

Dissertation project
June 2019 – ongoing

Initiated through the technology of telecommunication and thereafter by the massive expanse of the digital data space the demand arises towards the discipline of architecture to shift its fundamental concept such as materiality, gravity and volume towards ones belonging to the virtual realm.

This shift has already happened in the field of art throughout the 20st century as well as the theoretical topic of virtuality has been treated by numerous works and thought models. Peter Weibels work, both theoretical and artistic, plays a central role in this discours . This dissertation aims to combine this two threads in order to come up with artistic proposals for virtual voids. The existence of the virtual void and it’s importance for the future development of architecture as a professional and academic discipline should be proofed by this means.

In preceding artistic projects possibilities of the experience of physically non existent space and the creation of notion of calmness and vastness trough digital media has been explored.

The increasing absence of this very notion in current times seems to go alongside with the psychopathology of our society. This work seeks to prove that virtual space can be used to reduce the overstimulation and can help to attain the constantly growing need of stillness and emptiness arised in our society at the beginning of the last century.

See also:

Sen. Sc. Sophie Publig, BA MA

What is Life?

Dissertation project
July 2019 – ongoing

In order to keep up with the rapid developments of synthetic biology, geo-engineering, and cybernetics, we need new understandings of the bio-ethical implications of life. Following Erwin Schrödinger and Lynn Margulis, I propose a multi-layered re-evaluation of the most basic question: What is Life?

Instead of privileging certain creatures with the attribution of the ontological quality of life while others remain outlawed, I draw on the idea of sympoiesis or the stance that not individual entities, but only systems of living and non-living agents that are working together, can be considered to be alive. Ethical guidelines are nonetheless called for in the acknowledgment and conservation of living systems, even if the search for universal principles appears to be obsolete. I argue that biological forces such as life, evolution, and homeostasis are subject to change depending on their definition and context. Therefore, our understandings of these most basic notions of existence are in constant change depending on our approach to them; they bear a recursive relationship to their environment. In the twenty-first century, our scientifically sound understanding of life has become outdated due to the emergence of a variety of inventions: artificial intelligence, geo-engineering, neural networks and deep learning, CRISPR gene editing, or cloning. I want to examine how life is re-negotiated in the light of post-humanism and post-anthropocentrism, exploring questions like:

• How does the definition of life change in light of the post-anthropocene? • How do these updated notions relate to our current era of late capitalism? • What factors influence technological evolution? • How are the prevailing definitions of life rooted in colonialism and racism? • How will we deal with genetic discrimination due to the possibility of designer babies? • How will the possibility to infinitely extend human lives influence our relationship to death? And what happens with non-biological life after death?

Sen. Sc. Mag. art. Michael Loizenbauer


Dissertation project
June 2019 – ongoing

The developments of the last 20 years in the field of artificial intelligence, and here in particular the field of neural networks, is constantly accompanied by the question of the functionality of emotions in terms of decision making and its optimization. Although we have made great strides in processing huge amounts of data, we are still at the beginning in terms of machine evaluation of the quality and ‘correctness’ of decisions.



The aim of the work is to contribute to the research of the quality of decisions made by machines. The focus is on neural networks.



The underlying thesis for the work is that a purely logical problem solution is not an optimal solution at the same time, but a non-rational component, like emotions in human decision making, has an immanently functional and correspondingly useful character for solving problems.



Especially the field of art offers an optimal background for this reasearch of non-rational and non-logical methodologie.