Vincent Gössler, Merz Akademie

Documentary Palaces

While the visualization of (scientific) data and information has become a well-elaborated part of any graphic and media designer’s repertoire, the design of a comprehensible documentation and representation of a whole field of knowledge often is the result of individual and complex standalone solutions. That is why a semester course at the Merz Akademie hosted by Prof Joost Bottema, Prof Mario Doulis, and Jörg Frohnmayer was focusing on this aspect. As in the project Re-Shaping Nature, the art students worked once again with data from the Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour and the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior. This time, Dr Blair Costelloe shared her knowledge and research data on the Herd Hover Project.

Blair Costelloe speaks about the Herd Hover Project.

Goal and Approach of the Project

The goal was to develop artistic approaches for the design of knowledge spaces within the field of animal behaviour science. Besides the visualization of the related scientific data and documents, the course leaders and students curated the arrangement of the content, revealing the „big picture“ and/or a unique substory-line. The title ‘Documentary Palaces’ refers to the terms "documentary theatre" (using pre-existing material as source material for stories about real events) and "memory palace" (a strategy of memory enhancement using visualizations of familiar spatial environments in order to enhance the recall of information) which serve as design base for this project.

Visit of the Imaging Hangar at the University of Konstanz.

“I have really enjoyed the collaboration with the Merz Akademie and have been impressed by the creativity and professionalism of the students", Blair Costelloe says. "It has been very gratifying to share my work with this group and see my project anew through their eyes. Our meetings have sparked fascinating discussions on diverse topics including the ethics of developing novel data collection methods, the emotional experiences of animals, and what we can and cannot learn about our own species from observing animal behavior. I am happy that my research has been able to inspire such interesting projects, and hope that the projects in turn inspire others to explore the overlap between science and art.”

The project started with a kick-off visit at the CASCB in Konstanz and the MPI AB in Möggingen in April 2022. In May, initial project outlines were discussed on a return visit to the Merz Akademie in Stuttgart. The result will be exhibited on 6 July in Stuttgart, Merz Akademie.

Involved People

Course leader: Prof Joost Bottema, Prof Mario Doulis and Jörg Frohnmayer, Merz Akademie
Researcher: Dr Blair Costelloe, MPI AB/CASCB
Students from Merz Akademie: Aleyna Arslan, Tim Fritzsche, Vincent Gössler, Isabel Carolin Kohlhagen, Luis Lavadinho, Normantas Matonis, Niclas Rüdiger, Marie Weilacher, Luis Weiler
Organisation and communication: Bhargav Solanki, Dr Elisabeth Böker, CASCB