Doctoral Research Group Representation Visuality Knowledge

Knowledge and discovery – ancient rhetoric already taught us this – are bound by modes of representation. Since the modern age, the arts, in particular, have been characterized by a reflected, critical, deconstructive or even affective preoccupation with questions of representation, as a combination of forms, content and media of representation. Artistic practices, for example, can demonstrate the extent to which the persuasive force of a visual and/or textual object is an effect of representation work. The Doctoral Research Group highlights and questions the (political) power of representation, the specific role of visuality and the impact of both on current and historical knowledge production.

The participating disciplines (art history, sociology of art, media science, philosophy, literature studies and rhetoric) have a common framework in their definition of the term representation. They therefore explore visual, auditory, textual and social phenomena.

Another focus of the Doctoral Research Group is the study of cultures of criticism. Representation is understood as the point of crystallization of various forms of criticism, which can only be compared and discussed in the context of representation.

The cooperation with the Institute of Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media (ICAM) and the DFG-funded Institute for Advanced Study on Media Cultures of Computer Simulation (MECS) focuses on media-based and technical conditions of representation.

The Doctoral Research Group benefits particularly from its cooperation with the Leuphana "Kunstraum", which has carried out projects with internationally acclaimed artists for 25 years.

Areas of Research

  • Modern and contemporary art
  • Film, photography, urban art, fashion
  • Art theory and aesthetics
  • Players, institutions and discourse in the arts
  • Images of science
  • Cultures of criticism
  • Theory of representation
  • Rhetoric of the arts and media

Doctoral Degree

The respective faculty confers the doctoral degree Dr. phil.


  • Prof. Dr. Beate Söntgen

Doctoral Candidates and their Topics

Elena Berroth

Working title: Table scenes in French paintings of the late 19th and early 20th century. 


Main supervisor: Prof. Dr. Bea­te Sönt­gen

Andreas Degner

Working title: Between the classic artistic ideal and avant garde theory: the role of Wilhelm Hausenstein in art criticism in the early twentieth century

Main supervisor: Jun.-Prof. Stephanie Marchal
Second Supervisor: Prof. Beate Söntgen

Ulrike Gerhardt

Easternfuturist Memory: Morphologies of the Transformation in Postsocialist Video Art


This research project addresses contemporary art and its reflection of the post-socialist transformation after 1989 and 1991 respectively, aiming to analyse video art in reference to art and cultural theory. This thesis examines a selection of contemporary artworks of a pan-European generation, which experienced the downfall of socialism or the end of the Cold War primarily during childhood. It also carves out theoretical figures, models, and references that unsettle the present narrative of art history mostly characterized by two voices divided into "East" and "West". A special feature of this endeavour lies in the idea of encountering the new approaches of a performative, horizontal, and gender-critical historiography and theory formation through this transitory generation’s conceptual works, even before its artistic paradigms enter into the present post-socialist discourse.

In the context of visual culture studies, this PhD project focuses on "writing with art" (Marsha Meskimmon), noting that reception theory considers artistic works to always be in a state of becoming. In writing this thesis, it is often the first time that select artworks are the subject of discussion and contextualisation using theoretical filters such as the activation of language, the body, and indexical traces leading back to these "interrupted histories" (Zdenka Badovinac). In which ways do artists deploy words, embodiments, and indices as experimental materials and retro-utopian tools? How does the cultural memory of the post-socialist transformation come to light within contemporary video works?

Main Supervisor: Apl. Prof. Dr. phil. Ulf Wug­ge­nig
Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Han­ne Lor­eck
Third Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Melanie Franke

Elisabeth Heymer

Working title: The reception of the north in criticism and art at the turn of the 20th century: the example of Walter Leistikow 

Main Supervisor: Jun.-Prof. Dr. Stephanie Marchal

Mara-Johanna Kölmel

Working title: Ma­te­ri­al Mat­ters. Con­tem­pora­ry Sculp­tu­re: Bet­ween the Cor­po­re­al and the Di­gi­tal.


Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Bea­te Sönt­gen and Prof. Dr. Su­san­ne Leeb

Hannes Loichinger

Working title: The institution of institutional critique.


Main supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ulf Wuggenig

Katja Pufalt

Working title: Hi­ro­shi Su­gi­mo­tos Pho­to­ge­nic Drawings & La Boi­te-en-Bois.

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Bea­te Sönt­gen

Imanuel Schipper

Working title: Relational dramaturgy.


Main supervisor: Prof. (apl.) Dr. Ulf Wuggenig
Second supervisor: Prof. Dr. Timon Beyes

Silvia Simoncelli

Working title: Eco­no­mic stra­te­gies in the work of Ma­ria Eich­born.