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

Abstract dissertation, title: Easternfuturist Memory. Morphologies of Transformation in Postsocialist Video Art

This research is concerned with the contextualization and analysis of video art historiographies from the 2010s that deal with a period known as postsocialist transformation. The focus is on the so-called Generation T(ransformation) – artists born between 1975 and 1985 –, and the question of how they relate to postsocialist transformation, i.e. to the accelerated change, the transitions and ruptures after 1989/91 and their impact on the present. The study discusses this artistic commemoration of the end of the Cold War as an example of Easternfuturist memory, with reference to relevant sources, media, strategies, and geographies.

Written in and from a context of visual culture studies and feminist studies, this research is committed to writing with art; some of the selected video works by mostly female and/or queer artists and collectives are given in-depth close readings and analyzed in the context of art studies for the first time. Lithuanian artist group ŽemAt demonstrates the advancing deconstruction of the cultural memory of perestroika and Lithuania’s recent history; Lene Markusen, Almagul Menlibayeva and Gery Georgieva center aspects of doing gender during the transformation and its paradoxes in their artistic video works. Anna Zett interacts with layers of environmental-activist film and sound documents from the Robert Havemann Society’s Archiv für DDR-Oppositionsgeschichte [Archive of Opposition in the GDR] and analyzes the material signature of the GDR regime from a posthuman perspective. Cooltūristės, CORO Collective and Hito Steyerl explore the disappearance and blurring of remnants of socialism in public space; they stand for a movement from indexical to digital memory, for a shift from the index to the digit. The selection of artists reflects the fact that the topography of Eastern Europe has undergone dramatic changes since 1990 due to the widespread migration to Western European countries.

Over the course of the study, the so-called Easternfuturist memory is discussed as a generationally-specific phenomenon; as a European practice of remembering that is less focused on the past than on the future and takes a decolonizing approach to its subject matter. The particular “mnemopoetic constellation” of Generation T is comprised of three components, which this research elaborates in its reading of the artistic approaches to this unfinished history: one’s own memories, “borrowed memories” of the turbulent late 1980s and 1990s, and Generation T’s migration biographies-in-the-making against the backdrop of Central and Eastern European countries’ increasing globalization.

It is worth pointing out that remembering the effects of the transformation is often subject to a decision that is not imposed, but rather, in the case of Generation T, optional and freely taken. This future-oriented form of memory focuses on the blurring of traces, on decenterings and amalgamations, on speculations and (self-)alienations, through which postsocialist transformation narrates itself as a highly complex and challenging cultural process.

Main supervisor: Prof. (apl.) Dr. Ulf Wuggenig, Leuphana University Lüneburg
Second supervisor: Prof. Dr. Hanne Loreck, Hamburg University of Fine Arts
Third supervisor: Prof. Dr. Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes, University of Amsterdam

Status: Doctoral thesis completed, defended at Leuphana University Lüneburg on June 11, 2021 (summa cum laude)

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.