Imagining the Unimaginable

Saturday this week (22nd of November) my seminar „They are amongst us. Towards an intergalactic and interdisciplinary cultural history of aliens“ starts at the department for art research and media philosophy of the art academy HfG Karlsruhe. With art students from different disciplines I will try to find out how and why the unimaginable is imagined the way it is and how, why and when the imagination has changed in history and how all of that depended on the evolution of media.

We will be reading theoretical texts e.g. by Immanuel Kant, Nikola Tesla, Hans Blumenberg, Umberto Eco, Kodwo Eshun, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Joseph Vogl, novels by Stanislaw Lem and H.G. Wells, listen to Orson Welles‘ radio drama „The War of the Worlds“ (1938) and watch movies like „Alien“ by Ridley Scott, „2001: a space odyssey“ (1968) by Stanley Kubrick, „Solaris“ (1972) by Andrei Tarkowski, and „Contact“ (1997) by Robert Zemeckis. Of course this will be for me as a radio researcher one of the highlights:

Essential component of this seminar is an excursion to the current exhibition „Outer Space – Faszination Weltraum“ at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn.

The idea for this seminar arose while I was writing „Mars attacks & stardust. An essay on the relationship of pop culture, the universe and space trips“ for Earnest & Algernon in 2013 and was meant as a little prostest against the alleged logical reasoning of sciences. But surprisingly enough during my research since then I came across many very interesting and promising current research projects like „Conditio extraterrestris“ at the University of Zurich, „The Future in the Stars“ at Freie Universität Berlin or the latest book project of Hania Siebenpfeiffer on early modern science fiction. Thank you to all of them for their inspiring work and to Wolfgang Ullrich for letting me hold this seminar. In case you are interested or would like to join the seminar or the excursion, just contact me.

I am very much looking forward to what our findings will be and can already recommend a nice presentation of one the participants of the seminar, the starship-researcher Jörg Hartmann:

Space Oddities: Weltraum-Science-Fiction in Film und Musik aus astronoetischer Perspektive