The Art of »WimmelResearch«

In October 2015, Robert Bosch GmbH opened a new chapter in company history when it inaugurated its new Center for Research and Advance Engineering in Renningen. It will function as a node in a global network of research and development where technical and scientific disciplines cross paths, investigating new technologies and designing innovative manufacturing processes. Part of the research campus is the experimental space Platform 12, serving researchers as a creative playing field, a place for reflection, a setting where people can work untrammelled by corporate structures.

This space was conceived by the artistic duo Wimmelforschung – Maren Geers, former fellow in Performing Arts at Akademie Schloss Solitude, and the stage designer Thomas Drescher – together with Birgit Thoben, Senior Innovation Manager at Robert Bosch GmbH with lead responsibility at Bosch for implementing Platform 12. One hallmark of this platform is the presence of »agents,« so far artists from Akademie Schloss Solitude who intervene in company structures and organization as external observers and triggers. The fourth call for the new WimmelResearch fellowship will be open until March 30, 2017, also inviting artists from different disciplines, who haven’t been former fellows of the Akademie, to operate as agents on Platform 12.

In the following interview, Maren Geers, Thomas Drescher and Birgit Thoben together with Sophie-Charlotte Thieroff, coordinator of the art, science & business program at Akademie Schloss Solitude, discuss working together and the difficult encounter between art, business and industry.

I firmly believe that Bosch needs to build a new ecosystem for the future. To me that also means that we can’t do this on our own. We need friends, we need allies to work on these systems with us, to bring along facets of their own that we cannot contribute ourselves.

– Birgit Thoben

Sophie-Charlotte Thieroff: Tell us about the origins of Platform 12 and how the collaboration between Robert Bosch GmbH and Wimmelforschung came about.

Maren Geers: In 2013, Thomas and I came to Bosch with our art project Wimmelforschung in the context of the Art Coaching project that was being organized here at Akademie Schloss Solitude and the coaching provided by Giovanni Cornetti, head of the Engineering Air System department at Bosch. Giovanni introduced us to Daniel Oeschger, who at that time was writing a dissertation at Bosch about designing innovation-oriented workplace environments for industrial research. We accompanied him for three days, which included an innovation workshop.

Birgit Thoben: I started my job as innovation manager for Bosch in 2014, and I had already been exploring innovation as a theme. In the framework of my new responsibilities as innovation manager, a space for innovation was set aside on the research campus at Renningen, which they wanted me to design. A think tank at Schillerhöhe already existed, which was supposed to be relocated and integrated into the overall concept. In addition, a space should be set aside reserved exclusively for innovation workshops. Over a longer period of time innovation workshops were held, including with the Fraunhofer IAO, which specializes in business structures and processes. So specific demands for the space had already been formulated that were supposed to generate innovations. The question now was how these diverse demands were to be implemented in the design. With that in mind, I compiled all the findings to hone the requirement profile a little. When I was setting up the workshop on creative realization, Daniel Oeschger said: ›You absolutely must use Maren Geers and Thomas Drescher as external consultants!‹ As Daniel had written his doctoral thesis on designing innovation-oriented workplace environments, I agreed. So then we invited Maren and Thomas along. They were our »fresh eye,« in the positive sense – unexpectedly different. I deliberately held the workshop in Renningen so people could get a sense of what was already there and what we still were lacking. The point was not to duplicate our original approach. The space was still under the influence of the earlier architecture, the ceiling elements had already been fitted and there were communication booths. Then Thomas and Maren turned up with their crazy ideas, which really shocked some of our employees in the workshop – to the extent that I was asked several times: We aren’t really going to do that, are we?

TD: I can’t even remember what ideas those were.

BT: Oh yes, you wanted to make a counter out of jelly. Sometimes I felt I had reached my limits. Because I didn’t possess the imagination to respond to what Thomas or Maren were describing, nor did I understand their language.

MG (laughs): It wasn’t always easy for us either.

TD: Nevertheless, that workshop was the first really serious point of connection for us. I thought it was very good that the architect Dirk Steinberg was there from the outset, because over time he became a kind of ally, as we speak a similar language. I am really relieved, and I think Bosch is too, that the original, very lounge-heavy concept was discarded and the thing was thought through again. After all, this wasn’t about creating just any old space. But when we started out, we couldn’t predict that.

 

People go into this space when they don’t know what they are looking for. It’s for the fuzzy front end of innovation. Where ideas can be created or people are searching for something new without yet knowing what it is or how it’s going to turn out.

– Birgit Thoben

SCT: Coming back to what the space is supposed to represent and what role it plays for the campus, what exactly is Platform 12?

BT: Physically speaking, Platform 12 is an area on the 12th floor of the main building on the Renningen campus, with furniture and objects that reflect a certain »Zeitgeist,« mainly from the 1920s to 1950s, but also exotic and invented objects. Then there is a library, and a few items of design furniture, as well as two talk terminals that function as workshop spaces. Emotionally speaking, people go into this space when they don’t know what they are looking for. It’s for the fuzzy front end of innovation. Where ideas can be created or people are searching for something new without yet knowing what it is or how it’s going to turn out.

The space gives new form to the chance to meet, exchange and discover synergies. To come across individuals or knowledge you wouldn’t otherwise have access to, possibly because you aren’t working on the same projects. Thanks to the inspiration and of course to the artistic elements that Maren and Thomas have worked in, which are provocative, you are constantly prompted to rethink things. Or to question things that you had been ignoring because of routine.

MG: The whole development of the spatial concept was a long process, and it was influenced by the friction that arose out of working together. In terms of the spatial philosophy, the main feature is that it tries to jettison those typical Bosch structures and systems to some degree and establish more freedom, so people learn much more to tackle things which are not laid out in front of them in a straight, calculable line.

BT: The space is a real break. It’s the only place where people are allowed to write on the walls and windows. You can use different materials, visualize things. And your ideas don’t have to lead to a concrete goal, at least not at that point in the process. Nobody monitors anything, you can come and go when you want, you can meet people, and because of the location of the floor – 12th level – you have a very powerful view into the distance.

Here you encounter your own limits, but at the same time you get the chance to deal with them, rise above them, grow beyond yourself.

– Thomas Drescher

MG: Another essential feature of the space is that it’s been set up like a convertible element, so that the staff themselves can alter and develop the space gradually over time, as a result of which something completely different could emerge. We would like it if, for example, this space had changed beyond recognition after two years. Our design and the concept are intended to stimulate and open up freedoms, not to establish new rules by imposing a dominant model.

TD: In its totality the space is an invention. And this invention does one thing above all else: It brings out the person inside. Individuals become visible in this space. That, I think, is very important, because the structure and organization at Bosch conceal the individuals. At this moment, the space lets people become visible in the sense of anxiety, curiosity, conviction.

SCT: Why did this project appeal to you as Wimmelforschung? What was it about designing Platform 12 that caught your interest as artists?

MG: We founded Wimmelforschung in 2013, before we started working with Bosch. Our motive was a desire as theatre workers to play a much more direct role in society, especially in areas where aspects of our future are being shaped and decided in such big ways. We acted out what we later found at Bosch by fictional means and on different levels. We just didn’t know how to go about approaching a company.

TD: After many years working in theatre, a project like this is bound to pose a very different challenge. At Bosch we found ourselves entering a complete void. The structures there didn’t allow the two of us to get straight down to business. First we had to work our way towards it step by step together with Birgit. The decisive thing, above all, was that everything we did there had immediate consequences. Through our work we were making effective changes to the everyday lives of researchers. That direct impact, in my opinion, is also what makes this seriously different from theatre.

MG: I also think that, although they often approach things from opposite angles, business and art can learn a lot from each other. There is great potential there for our future, as we will have to confront completely new problems, and I believe we will only be a match for those problems if our society, with its values, goals, systems and structures, undergoes a total transformation.

Although they often approach things from opposite angles, business and art can learn a lot from each other. This is about moving towards a knowledge society where we rethink things together.

– Maren Geers

BT: I firmly believe that Bosch needs to build a new ecosystem for the future. To me that also means that we can’t do this on our own. We need friends, we need allies to work on these systems with us, to bring along facets of their own that we cannot contribute ourselves. The Renningen location is very new. It was only opened a short while ago in October last year. For the first time, all our researchers are now in one location, whereas they used to be scattered around the Stuttgart region. A lot of them have only met for the first time since coming here to Renningen. Platform 12 offers a completely new framework for that exchange, because here we have an opportunity to model and create something together, without the rule which says employees have to reserve a space first or ask someone for permission. And thanks to the art we are getting impetus and ideas. We have realized through our discussions with the artists that an artist tackles the same thing in a completely different manner. They complement us in definite ways and broaden our horizons. We will have to wait and see how this influence translates into facts. How that will be reflected concretely in the product isn’t something we can grasp at the moment. What we notice is that something is changing. But how it will change and how it will manifest itself later, that is totally open for the time being.

TD: In my opinion, Bosch actually has enough ideas. The people who work there are very creative. For my part, I would say that the problem is not so much that not enough ideas are being generated, but rather that these ideas and the workflow each employee has to follow don’t always fit, and so the hurdles people have to surmount are often so high that the ideas never get implemented.

SCT: The furniture for Platform 12 is very particular. It’s old. Why did you design the space the way you did, and what ideas are behind it? Can the furniture be described as working utensils, or is it a kind of social sculpture?

TD: At the first workshop about developing the space, which was mentioned before, people expressed a number of ideas and needs. Especially in view of the fact that research is an extremely digital activity. Maren and I take the view, on the other hand, that haptic knowledge comes before digital knowledge, and so it was important to us that people in the space can work haptically too. Our approach is that we need to grasp the world and handle it. And I can only do that by touching things, not if I just swipe them digitally left and right somehow on my tablet PC. To us this sensual perception is key, which is why the furniture is on the »rough« side.

BT: You notice how special the space is from the start, as soon as you enter it, for example with Maren’s door handle. All over the campus we only have metal doorknobs. When you touch them, they are all the same shape. They are cold, metallic handles. Maren wound leather steering-wheel tape around this door handle. And when you touched it, suddenly it was a softer feel, and you could practically sense the heat reflection on your own skin. A lot of people were startled by the difference. Then they stepped across the threshold, as though they were overcoming an obstacle even though there was nothing on the floor. It was just a flat surface. But people really could tell that they were consciously stepping into the space. I think that’s Maren’s talent, integrating subtle elements which you are not consciously aware of but which are niggle or unsettle you. Another example is the Undiscovered Planet which – I hope I’m not being unfair to you – doesn’t really make any sense the way it looks. It doesn’t explain the world. We just see something new in it because it’s open. The planet looks very aesthetic, it hovers in the space, it bemuses us, but what is so special about it is that a lot of people stand next to it – colleagues who don’t know each other, but who wonder about the point of the object.

The planet gives them an anchor for a conversation. So suddenly, because they have a reason, they start talking to each other, and by grabbing this Undiscovered Planet as an anchor, they move onto a different topic of conversation.

– Birgit Thoben

TD: It’s only because the Undiscovered Planet is devoid of meaning and unexplored that people can discover it and charge it with meaning.

BT: Yes, there is a similar phenomenon at play with the Intergalactic Couch Doctor. Maren made a film about him. You lie down on the couch and forget everything. Your thoughts are free, you create nothingness in your head. And sometimes you do actually see someone lying there under the purple lamp staring at the ceiling. Of course, you also get employees who ask what the point of it is. I was asked, for example: ›Mrs. Thoben, do we have UV radiation here now? We had better watch out!‹ And I replied: ›No, those are just tubes with colored film.‹ I didn’t solve the mystery of the lamp, which has a touch of the solarium, although it isn’t one. Intense debates raged around this Couch Doctor, around UV radiation, around saving energy, energy efficiency, optimum light yield, absolutely every technical horizon. In the excitement I was finally asked: ›So what is it all for?‹ – Then I said: ›It’s to make you talk to each other, communicate. It’s there to provoke.‹ Then the conversation went dead, as if they had been caught red-handed. Sooner or later they all had to laugh, and the serious moment passed, they carried on talking, and we had achieved exactly what we wanted.

MG: For us too, it was important for the objects and furniture to have an identity and a history, to convey the idea of multiple layers. That way the things exude more atmosphere and vitality, at the same time presenting different points of contact, not just being pretty and superficial. So there are various opportunities and levels for touching base. You could compare it with the wrinkles and scars on a person, the tell-tale signs that someone has led a full life, which arouse curiosity. But we deliberately incorporated a few misleading systems and structures. Like the Black Box Shelf Rack, which is basically for tidying up and stowing things away. However, at the same time it has so many drawers that we can never find what we are looking for. That negates the very order that the shelf rack was originally intended to create. Or the Black Board, where ideas that are jotted down can be taken apart and rearranged like a jigsaw puzzle into something else, so the logic the idea was based on and built around is broken up, questioned and put to another use.

TD: It’s one thing for people to have ideas, but of course at some point they have to get them out of their heads again. That’s why we tried to give Colleague A the chance to go up to a desk and retrace what Colleague B was doing there, because he left his ideas lying around and you can kind of pick up the clues. This is always about ways of making things visible.

SCT: Did developing the Platform come up against limits of its own?

BT: Naturally you have to comply with all the safety requirements, like testing the equipment or limiting the number of people who can use the room, as this is not a space for a big meeting but a working space. It has been designated as a special zone, which means there are also special solutions. All in all 80 people were involved in the implementation, and they all stretched themselves to the limit, making things possible that as a rule would never be possible.

SCT: Another feature is having an »agent« present, brought in thanks to the partnership with Akademie Schloss Solitude to act as an outside impetus. Why was it important for you to have artists present on Platform 12?

BT: Every employee can take ownership of the space in his or her own way. Platform 12 leads an independent life. I have started saying it is an organism all of its own. The space can’t really be controlled, it’s an experiment. All of us who work here are caught up in our own templates and we would have no cause ever to renounce those templates if we didn’t have an external trigger. It’s only when someone comes in and disrupts the flow that we put aside our own behavior patterns. In terms of appearance, I’d say that the artists aren’t very different from the Bosch employees, but in terms of habitus – what they do and how they go about it – they very clearly are!

TD: I think having an artistic personality present is the most fundamental and significant feature of the whole project. It’s the only way to generate the friction, the differentness, that ultimately flags up what this is all about – opportunities. I think this is where the learning curve is for Bosch, for the people there. They need to develop a sensitivity, an alertness to this.

MG: A person from outside is per se unpredictable, firstly as a human being and secondly as a stranger to the discipline. As artists are reflective personalities, they are perfect for the role of agent. But to expand the wriggle room for opportunity, you first need openness and respectful encounter. When one person tries to understand another person’s work, it can lead to unexpected dovetailing and networking between them or within the work process. That can open up opportunities nobody bargained with.

Having an artistic personality present is the most fundamental and significant feature of the whole project. It’s the only way to generate the friction, the differentness, that ultimately flags up what this is all about – opportunities.

– Thomas Drescher

SCT: That would differentiate this from other projects and artist-in-residence programs.

MG: Yes, I think that is the decisive difference. In those schemes, artists respond to ideas and themes the company is working on. That is not what we are doing. In this case, Bosch is not engaging in the classical sponsorship of artists, this is not an artist-in-residence programme. The artist isn’t given a specific job to do. For us it is important that they react to what they observe – to the people, the structures and internal systems. What is being supported here is thinking in new ways, thinking together, observing and also provoking. It is about a thought process that must broaden and change. The person lives and works in this space, interacts with the employees. How he or she goes about the work is left to them, as is the timing, and the resources they use. Surprise is the decisive factor.

BT: Yes, an opening up of the thought process, a willingness to generate even more openness. We are a technology group. We have a lot of employees with a technical background. What the artistic work can flag up is that there are other facets and realms which we influence through our technology but which we don’t necessarily perceive. Even if it’s only a provocation, it can stimulate our thinking.

TD: To put it in a nutshell again: What essentially distinguishes this from an artist-in-residence or a scheme to sponsor artists is that in this project the focus is not on the nature of the art work. The outcome of this collaboration is not that the artist delivers a piece of work at the end of it which might bear some thematic relevance to the company. The work is the shared process.

SCT: Another point we have already touched upon are concepts like failure, chance and error tolerance, all of which are part and parcel of artistic practice.

BT: Through the artist we make this error tolerance more visible. We need error tolerance, for ourselves as well. On Platform 12 there is no expectation that a mature idea must or should be visualized. Of course, for Bosch employees in the early stage there is still the explanation »He/she is an artist,« but the agents are directly there with us in the setting and on the campus, in the company. I hope that at some point a spark will cross over and our employees will have the courage to say: ›Yes, I am free to do that too.‹

SCT: To make Platform 12 visible within the research campus, Wimmelforschung carried out two action weeks, not least asking other people to join you on a quest for nothingness and lack of orientation and an exercise in freedom of thought. What was behind that choice of language, which is so untypical of an industrial company, and how did the staff react to your action weeks?

MG: At the end of that phase when Platform 12 was created, we reflected back on our work and concluded that this was exactly what it had been about: permitting emptiness and lack of orientation, valuing meaninglessness and apparently »wasting« time. I believe that is the greatest fear that can grip employees in a company like that. Through the two action weeks, we wanted to convey the full philosophy behind Platform 12, and hence our work, and anchor it in the company. That’s why we called the second communication week »Nothingness, emptiness, lack of orientation and the white«. The first week was called »Freedom in thought.« For both communication weeks we devised a variety of events and surprises and carried them out within the company. One of the best actions consisted in going out there with a group of employees, including Mr. Kirschner from Management, to look for »Nothing« in the company Bosch. It is was funny, even for us it was suddenly extremely difficult to be consistent about not to give any meaningful answers to questions throughout the action. We approached a lot of employees and asked them to help us locate places where there was nothing, emptiness and lack of orientation. It was very interesting. Some employees told us amazing stories. But there were others where you could tell they were breaking out in a sweat about what to answer. They were totally bewildered about what we were looking for and vehemently denied that there was any nothingness, emptiness or lack of orientation anywhere in Bosch. We were always highly delighted if we came across a rare example of »nothing,« something meaningless. It’s precisely because of the emptiness, and only if there is such a »free space,« whether it’s real or in someone’s head, that the filling can begin and new thoughts and ideas are born.

Permitting emptiness and lack of orientation, valuing meaninglessness and apparently »wasting« time. I believe that is the greatest fear that can grip employees in a company.

– Maren Geers

SCT: Would you say that the employees changed as a result of these artistic actions, that they are working differently? Or is it too early to ask?

BT: Much too early. Our employees are gradually starting to work in the area. They are taking ownership of the space, placing the stand in a certain position, writing on the boards, taking paper, starting to shape things. The ones who aren’t ready for that yet come and observe the space first, are curious, express astonishment. Right now we are going through a phase where the employees who are already using the space to work in are complaining about the spectators. Platform 12 itself consists of the ‘Base’ with approx. 450 m², the setting that has been modelled artistically, the ‘Think Tank’ and two ‘Talk Terminals’ with a total of 950 m2. But we have 1,400 core workers here and there is no way they can all work in the space at the same time. So we need to develop a kind of coming and going, which is exactly what it should be. Some are still stuck in a mindset that says »If I go up to the platform, that isn’t work« – which is completely wrong. It is work, it is recognized as work by Bosch, and it is what the management wanted. One question often asked is whether Platform 12 can be used for leisure activities. That is not the intention. This is work time spent on design. Work is still frequently associated with the whole classical picture: I sit at my desk, generate things at my computer. That basic principle, the way things were 20, 30 years ago, no longer applies in Renningen, or in many other places. These days work demands very flexible forms, everyone has a smartphone, we have Wi-Fi everywhere, there are laptops people can use, you can work anywhere on the campus, and that includes Platform 12. We have to get away from that historical, classical way of thinking, but a lot of people still find that difficult.

What I value very much is that we as employees are given a space to reflect and the freedom to retreat from being driven, from the rapid pace, from the market requirements, into another world, to step back and to reflect again.

– Birgit Thoben

SCT: And how do you see it at Wimmelforschung? How did the action weeks go down? What experience have you gained?

MG: We realized that there was a big need to talk. Once the employees could dock onto discussions without feeling they were being monitored, some very important topics were aired. For that, it was good to create an area for common exchange, even if it didn’t of course necessarily lead to solutions for everyone. But as a result of that, for example, a group came together who want to meet regularly in future to exchange views on ethical aspects of their work, which I think is great. The simple fact that these discussions were triggered inside the company is the most important thing for us, because the room has started coming to life. And the negative criticism about Platform 12 is very important too, because if it hadn’t taken place or been possible, we would have failed in our mission.

TD: I think that the encounters between people are particularly important. I don’t think it’s just about relating to art. It’s far more about the shifts in thinking, in perception, and also in articulation that emerge. And if people express negative views, that might also be because they have sensed their limits. The way I see it, that is actually very positive, because it’s when you step across those limits that a new form of freedom begins. We see signs that not everyone is ready to test their limits, let alone step across them. But here everyone has the freedom to decide for themselves how far he or she wants to go. It’s a process. Each of us needs some time to develop, to rise above ourselves, so it’s definitely too early for an assessment right now.

SCT: What challenges would you say the project has been facing since it went operational?

MG: One important challenge is to ensure that the Platform philosophy is properly understood and communicated. With a workforce of 1,400, that is simply a tough call. There is a danger that the space could turn into something else because of the way it is used. So we have to make sure that the space and the philosophy evolve consistently in the right direction.

TD: The space in itself is of course primarily a built architecture, it isn’t a philosophy. It might be able to symbolize the philosophy. As a challenge, the first important thing is to keep working out what the right direction might be, because I think we often don’t know that. The second challenge lies in offering an opportunity for dialogue – regardless of the architecture, or the arrangement of this space – a dialogue about thinking that touches upon the world, one’s own convictions, meaning and meaninglessness, and basically being human, and in this specific case being human at Bosch. Of course the space can’t achieve that on its own. People who have been socialized over many years, who have adjusted in their own particular way, who have become independent subjects, you don’t change these people overnight. And you certainly don’t change them just by making a space available. It’s an ongoing effort. Which means constant setbacks, revisiting, failures. And it’s out of those failures, those mistakes, that we learn from.

People who have been socialized over many years, who have adjusted in their own particular way, who have become independent subjects, you don’t change these people overnight. It’s an ongoing effort. Which means constant setbacks, revisiting, failures. And it’s out of those failures, those mistakes, that we learn.

– Thomas Drescher

MG: If we want people to stretch themselves with the help of Platform 12, I reckon the platform needs to stretch itself too. The place should also stick to its guns by changing and developing, in a quite different dimension that all of us here can’t currently predict, but a crucial one that I am sure will need input from the outside again. That the entire concept can also rise above itself.

BT: What I value very much is that we as employees are given a space to reflect and the freedom to retreat from being driven, from the rapid pace, from the market requirements, into another world, to step back and to reflect again. Even if it’s only for half-an-hour, two hours. It’s very special, and this space has made it possible. In the office or on the campus, where the conditions never vary, that is very difficult.

SCT: As Wimmelforschung, what has this project taught you for your own practice?

TD: We certainly have grown. Personally, for example, I have grown in the sense of knowing that you must not give up too soon, that it is extremely important to have Maren as a partner you can rely on. It was also crucial that we got to know Birgit. In my opinion it’s very important and valuable for Bosch that they have someone who has those sensors to the outside world. And of course, that we have come up with a quite concrete option for designing this space with a view to thinking the future, where the interaction is directly readable. I don’t have to think into the future, I can do it in the here and now by engaging with the fact that I cannot anticipate a thing but I can shape a framework for it. This project is not about art as such, but about something novel that is born out of exchange, thinking together, and that is hard to express in words. At the moment I can only describe it by calling it to research in the swarm [wimmelnd zu forschen]. [1]

MG: We have also learnt to express our work in words. The power to communicate how we work, how we can achieve what we want. It was a process that gave us an ability to get better and better at articulating the value of our work. To give a modelled, visual shape to all our observations and reflections over the last year. Another important experience for me was that on alien territory you have to take much smaller steps. Little things are enough to trigger something. To start with I thought in much bigger terms. On the one hand, I think it’s a shame that one has to proceed with such caution, but on the other it makes it much easier to get things moving. It has been a constant juggling act between boldness, provocation and sensitivity. And we have learned a lot about the company, the structures, systems, rules and ordering categories that dominate and can unfortunately also pose a handicap to the staff. And how our own future is being shaped and influenced by all that. But through this project I have also learnt to appreciate the value of art much more deeply, to see what art can achieve.

SCT: What visions and opportunities does the future hold for the Platform 12 project?

BT: I would like Platform 12 not to remain Platform 12. My wish would be to establish Platform 12 as a kind of mother satellite, which could dock onto other »daughter« stations at other locations of Bosch. We already have other creative spaces in the business areas, which can dock onto the Platform for an exchange. At the moment we are working to latch our international Research Technology Centers onto the Platform so that the space in this tower in Swabia isn’t on its own, so we connect with the world, so that we can look out at the world and the world can look in at us. In addition, we plan to develop similar spaces in modified forms at the Research Technology Centers, and for them to network at some point. When or in what framework that will happen hasn’t been decided yet. Perhaps at some point we will have a Platform 7, a Platform 8, 6 and 3.

TD: What fascinates us is the idea of a worldwide, agent-based network of artists in companies. I am sure that encounters between different disciplines and ways of thinking can create knowledge of immeasurable value. It’s at these interfaces where I see extremely big potential for shaping our world.

MG: And for the notion of Wimmelforschung to take root. To see it used to signify a way of working and thinking. For the concept to be taken seriously as the basis for a subjective understanding of the world, a way of achieving a certain attitude to the world.

BT: What we do need long term in this context, with regard to the network, with regard to the things in the space, the way people react to them, is to construct an ecosystem to bind the whole thing, all these spaces, together, and the agent networks too. A system that creates an exchange of things in the spaces and generates changes; that leads to an exchange between different nationalities through these spaces, so they can influence each other. If there was a network, if we found a way, first within the Bosch Group and then perhaps outside the Group, of networking things together, making friends, allies to work with, including the things you learn, experience, see, exchange in there, that could become something really big.

I am sure that encounters between different disciplines and ways of thinking can create knowledge of immeasurable value. It’s at these interfaces where I see extremely big potential for shaping our world.

– Thomas Drescher

 

SCT: Of course, Akademie Schloss Solitude thrives on these exchanges and this networking idea. What other kinds of partner could you imagine contributing to the project?

MG: I dream a little about involving very different partners, like a home for elderly people. To gain even more incongruous input. It would be great if it gets a little bit absurd. But the academy is indispensable with all its knowledge and experience.

SCT: Does the partner need to bring along some understanding about working between disciplines, the kind of thing we do daily with our program art, science & business, or is that transfer knowhow not really essential?

TD: I think the formulation is too specific. The idea about the home for the elderly has its justification, especially because it implies that incongruity and openness, that disruptive something that doesn’t per se belong. Of course, the thrust of your art, science & business programme is spot on, precisely because it does oscillate between the disciplines, but at this point in time I can’t say.

SCT: Would you say that art is the first step towards that openness?

TD: One thing art accomplishes is making the non-verbal, the things we can’t anticipate or explain, visible. But I think that regardless of the art, it is of course a matter of formulating the questions, which I find is incredibly hard.

BT: Formulate the right question. And what is the right question?

TD: If you bear in mind that questions are ultimately paradoxical, in the sense of questions and answers, then it’s difficult to imagine questions without answers, but that is precisely the art. Meeting up with people who question, and you can find them anywhere, not only in art.

 

The German version of the interview can be accessed here.

 

  1. Jump Up Wimmelforschung comes from »swarm,« Wimmel + »research,« Forschung. We might also call it »magic-eye« research, because a magic-eye image – where an object or figure is concealed in a teeming tissue – is known in German as a Wimmelbild.