PhD Project: Familiar Interiors

Christopher Kulendran Thomas in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann,  New Eelam,  (2016-ongoing) exhibition view at 9. Berlin Biennale Berlin 2016 Courtesy New Galerie, Paris, Foto: Laura Fiorio

Christopher Kulendran Thomas in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann, New Eelam, (2016-ongoing) exhibition view at 9. Berlin Biennale Berlin 2016
Courtesy New Galerie, Paris, Foto: Laura Fiorio

PhD Project: Familiar interiors. Branding strategies in displays of post-digital artworks of the 21st century

My research project originates in the observation that displays of contemporary art recreate interiors, that are familiar to us such as fair booths, concept stores, cafés and hotel lobbies. These spatial settings are used to present and sell a certain product, brand or service and are therefore designed specifically to serve this aim. In my research, I will analyse why post-digital art production after web 2.0 and the commercialization of the internet has developed an affirmative relationship to economic structures of branding and visual merchandising. The display of these artworks by artists such as Cory Arcangel, Debora Delmar, Simon Denny, DIS, Timur Si-Qin and Christopher Kulendran Thomas is characterized by a corporate identity of the interior by the use of Logos, Slogans and stock photography that emulate a specific marketing rhetoric. Architectural elements that are used in fair construction are utilized for the set up and present lifestyle trends and products of the fashion, fitness and health industry are adopted and incorporated. In arthistorical discourse, these artworks have been critiqued for their closeness to commercialized, neoliberal marketing strategies and were accused of shallowness and denial of predesessors of such practices in art history. I will argue, that a profound analysis of these artworks will unfold the potential explicitly inherent in the mimetic form of the display that negotiates the future conditions of life in digital societies.

Based on these observations, the project aims to undertake a comparative, phenomenological and receptional aestetic analysis of the examples with the aim to develop a typology of contemporary display practices. Latest reseach on the topic of the interior in contemporary art will build a fundamental basis for my own analysis. Moreover, I will apply the concept of anagrammatic space (Peter Schneemann) to these contemporary displays to align them with artists that focused on the creation of familiar interiors since the 1980ies such as Gillaume Bijel, Elmgreen & Dragset and Gregor Schneider. To investigate the apparent use of concepts from advertising, theories such as the third place (Ray Oldenburg) from marketing and the extended self (Russel Belk) and affordance (J.J. Gibson) from consumer- and perceptual psychology will be applied to an analysis of these displays. The philosophical concept of the aesthetic economy (Gernot Böhme) and the sociological theory of societal singularity (Andreas Reckwitz) will locate my research in the broader context of global hypercapitalism of the 21st century.

The project represents the first scholarly analysis of contemporary displays in the post-digital context of the 21st century and thus hopes to contribute to an understanding of recent phenomena of contemporary art that have rarely been the subject of art historical analysis. 

The PhD is conducted at the University of Bern under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Peter J. Schneemann. I am currently a doctoral student at the Graduate School of the Walter Benjamin Kolleg

Research Output:

October 7, 2019
"Beyond Decoration. Die Wirkmacht der Topfpflanze im Kunst-Display der Postdigitalität", Essay in the online publication Postdigital Landscapes, Zeitschrift Kunst Medien Bildung, ed. Kristin Klein and Willy Noll, 2019.

December 1, 2018
"Post Digital Display. Brandscaping as artistic strategy", Symposium Art and Branding in Hypercapitalism, in the context of the exhibition New Nordic Luxury by SANKE at Reflector Gallery, PROGR_Center for Cultural Production, Bern.

June 7, 2018
"Post-digital Display. Eine Untersuchung von virtuellen und physischen Ausstellungssituationen zeitgenössischer Kunst mit Affordanzen zum Konsum", Nachwuchsforschungstag Grimme Forschungskolleg in the context of the conference Because Internet, Institute for art and art theory, University of Cologne. 

June 5, 2018
"Visual Merchandising als Displaystrategie in der Kunstproduktion der Postdigitalität", Swiss Doctoral Summer School for Art History, Institute of Art History, University of Zurich organized by Prof. Dr. Marius Rimmele und Dr. Luis M. Calvo Salgado

June 23,  2017
"Objects that look good online – der installation shot als Substitut des Kunstwerks“, Workshop Fotografie als Auslöser at ZeM, Brandenburgisches Zentrum für Medienwissenschaft, Potsdam