"this is what a chameleon looks like"* illusion - imagination - immersion

A network meeting of the International Research Training Group "Interart Studies" (FU Berlin), the Research Group „Bild – Körper – Medium. Eine anthropologische Perspektive“ (HfG Karlsruhe) and the Centre for Cultural Studies (Goldsmiths College/ University of London).


Date & place
January 31st - February 2nd 2008
FU Berlin, Institut für Theaterwissenschaft, Grunewaldstr. 35, 12165 Berlin


this is what a chameleon looks like – if we were to overdo it, we would see it like this -
but since one ought not to overdo, we see it like this.

* Tomas Schmit, 1986


Do chameleons require an imagination of green to become green?
Do chameleons actually change their colour or do they merely dupe our perception?
Does the chameleon possess a critical conception of green?

The chameleon belonging to the fauna of Fluxus-artist Tomas Schmit, who used it since the 1960s in word games and puzzle pictures in a quest for a dynamic model of perception, serves as a the metaphorical starting point for a quest that is now prevailing again in art and cultural studies.

The colloquium „illusion – imagination – immersion“ invites PhD-Students, Post-Docs and Professors from the Centre for Cultural Studies (Goldsmiths College / University of London), the research training groups „Bild – Körper – Medium. Eine anthropologische Perspektive“ (New Media School / Karlsruhe) and „InterArt“ (Freie Universität / Berlin) to reflect on how issues of perception influence their theoretical and / or empirical work.

Illusion allows us to partake in game-play (“in-lusio”); while cognitively permeable games are likely to be named aesthetic illusions, we speak of cognitively non-transparent games as „objective illusions“. In the arts as well as in everyday culture the borders between aesthetic and objective illusions are blurring. When the aesthetic frame morphs into a door letting us walk into another world, physiologists and psychologists as well as communication scientists allude to immersion.

Immersion transfers the percipient into media or aesthetic realities and suspends her or his (bodily, emotional, cognitively critical) distance at least temporarily. Not only the well-known works of New Media and Media Art, but also the arts of theatre, music, film and literature have developed immersive practices. By interactivity they exceed the transparent immersion in a movie theatre, on the TV-couch, the theatre or the stereophonic music hall.

What happens if the fiction contaminates us? If viral marketing, video games, films or theatre plays dare us to interaction? During the imagination of (aesthetic) reality, it is not only the performative capacity of our perception apparatus, which are in use, but also our emotionality, our locomotive system and our psychological competence. The perceiver plays an active role in structuring and framing the referred reality. But is the archive we are invoking our imagination with not also paralyzing us? Does the imperative to act make us passive? Can imaginations capture us in a subjective and visual mode of experience? What is a shared, social imagination?

Disregarding the representative functions of art and culture, this colloquium will be focussing on the (psychological, somatic, affective, cognitive) acts of perception. Presentations from the fields of art, media, communication, social and cultural studies are welcome.

At our initial meeting in Berlin we want to explore the problem of perception in art studies and cultural studies by means of the concepts of immersion, illusion and imagination, with a view to opening up alternative approaches to cultural and artistic productions.




Thursday, 31st of January
Institut für Theaterwissenschaft, Seminarraum III


2:00: Group Meeting

2:30 - 2:45: Welcome and Introduction to “that´s what a chameleon looks like”

2:45 - 3:00: Welcome: Prof. Dr. Erika Fischer-Lichte (Director “InterArt Studies”, FU Berlin)


3:00 - 4:30 Perception/Spectacle

Jeff Kinkle: The emaciated spectator

Jörg Scheller: Ars vincit omnia. On the immersive aesthetics of consumer societies with respect to the romantic “Gesamtkunstwerk”

Christian Tedjasukmana: Queer Life after the “Crushed Rebellion” – AIDS and Cinematic Mourning Work in Todd Haynes´ Safe


- Coffee Break -


5:00 – 6:30 Performance/Sociality/Politics

Nicolas Salazar: Evo’s chompa and other Andean protocols

Nanako Nakajima: Demystifying the traditional Japanese: Using media as a political tool

Andy Christodoulou: Standing out, suddenly: crises of misrecognition


6:30 - 7:30
Prof. Dr. John Hutnyk (CCS Goldsmiths College, London) Pantomime Terror


8:00: Reception

Friday, 1st of February
Institut für Theaterwissenschaft, Hörsaal


10:00 - 11:30 Image/Film I

Alexander Schwinghammer: Appearance and Disappearance: Inquiring Coverage

Jeff Heydon: Perception Sludge: The amorphous surveilled in contemporary western media reality

Mirjam Wittman: What's the point of the 'punctum'? Towards an affective perspective of photography


- Coffee Break -


12:00 - 1:00 Image/Film II

Dr. Bettina Papenburg: Strategies of uncertainty. The relevance of imagination, immersion and innervation for evoking haptic experience in film perception

Rania Gaafar: »Expanded Cinema«: Carnal Illusions inside the White Cube. New Aesthetic Approaches in Video Art


- Lunch Break -


2:30 - 3:30 Masquerade/Camouflage/Politics I

Daisy Tam: The great pretender: masquerading fast food

Jen Spiegel: The Choreographic Nexus: Ecology and the Political Art of Movement


- Coffee Break -


4:00 - 5:00 Masquerade/Camouflage/Politics II

Andrew J. Ardizzoia: Charles Ives` gendered language

Tom Bunyard: Debord, dialectics and history


Key Note: Prof. Dr. Michael Taussig (Columbia University, NY), “I swear I saw that”


8:00: Dinner in Restaurant “Alter Krug”


Saturday, 2nd of February
Institut für Theaterwissenschaft, Hörsaal


10:00 - 11:30 Sound/Acoustic Space/Music

Stefanie Kiwi Menrath: Can you hear me, body? The pop music persona as body of sound

Carla Müller-Schulzke: Acoustic communities? Sound Practices in Asian British Music

Sonia Matos: Embodied Media & Landscape Design


- Coffee Break -


12:00 - 1:30 Immersion in technology/interactivity/digitality

Julie Woletz: Immersion in virtual environments

Yuk Hui: A phenomenological inquiry of a digital thing

Brigitte Kaltenbacher: Steps towards a notion of affective usability - a snapshot


- Lunch Break -


3:00 - 4:00 Perception/Imagination

Madoka Takashiro: Nico Nico Douga. The emergence of the audience´s imagination

Stefanie Manthey: Alas, less deceived. Thomas Schütte and the paradoxical dynamics of perception


- Coffee Break -


4:30 - 5:30 Cultures/Spheres/Spaces

Asko Lehmuskallio: A reflection on the concept ‘culture’ in studying mass-mediated pictures

Rico Reyes: The illusion of inclusion: Little Manila and its regeneration


- Coffee Break -


Closing Discussion



Download of the programme as pfd.