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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Matters of Activity. Image Space Material

Object Space Agency

The Cluster of Excellence Matters of Activity is currently hiring outstanding researchers and designers.

The project Object Space Agency especially encourages applications by:

  • Candidates with a PhD in Social or Cultural Anthropology, Heritage Studies, Museum Studies or a related discipline
  • Candidates with a completed academic education and/or a PhD in Architecture, Engineering, Interaction Design or Computer Science


This project focuses on the consequences of active materials in the sphere of objects, persons, and architectural spaces as important components of a new culture of the material. We address the incommensurable insight that material objects appear to be stable and instable entities at once. How can we deal with objects stored in museums and scientific collections, given that they have to be considered as dynamic, instable, and ever-changing entities? How can the inner activity of objects, which is mostly suppressed as dysfunctional, be used in a productive way? We will use objects from scientific collections and museums as a field of research. The project’s goal is to develop a procedural model that connects analysis, design, experimentation, testing and finally the development of new ways and formats of spacing and objectifying. We aim at redesigning research processes and transforming their performance into a research method: Both the lab bench and the museum collection will be operating spaces for interactions in research processes. Our goal is to open up these spaces in order to create a site for encounters, for exhibiting, and for interacting with society –to design and curate new formats that transfer collaborative research processes into activities in which the public can actively participate. These scenarios, which will be established in the Humboldt-Labor and the Laboratory of Objects, will incorporate the potential of the insufficiently interpreted activities of objects and spaces into the collaborative research processes.
The project starts with following experimental settings:

If the museum, in particular its storage spaces and practices of conservation, can be seen as a means for stabilizing and passivizing objects, what would reconfiguring the activity of matter entail? Traditional conservation, which freezes a certain state of objects, can be understood as a reaction to their intrinsically active instability. In the setting Anatomy of Collection Objects, these modes of suppressing agency will be used as examples in order to reflect the agency of materials and objects in their historical and theoretical dimensions.

Addressing the activity and processual character of materials, objects, and spaces will alter our standard research processes, which are centered on the activity of individuals. In the setting Collaborative Interaction, we intend to include persons capable of other ontologies that may attribute completely different agencies to objects. These resulting interactions and functions can be incorporated into research processes on new object agencies. Gamification will enable us to generate game-based settings for experimenting with, and exploring, adaptive and situated modeling of interaction scenarios.

In the setting Open Lab, we will focus on how architectural space will be fundamentally changed when it is transformed into an experimental assemblage of active structures. This architecture-driven research will incorporate a microperspective in order to draw upon ideas of space syntax and bringing together expertise from architecture, interaction design, ethnology, sociology, and media theory. This approach will be developed to map complex assemblages of active matter issues in objects and spaces relevant in the field of collection, storage, and exhibition.

Principal Investigators: Blümle (Art History), Geipel (Architecture), Kassung (Cultural History & Theory), Macdonald (Social Anthropology), Müller-Birn (Computer Science), Niewöhner (Anthropology), Sauer (Architecture & Design), Schäffner (Cultural History & Theory), Sieck (Computer Science), Staudacher (Mathematics & Physics), Thümmler (Art History), Zwick (Interaction Design)