Research in Contemporary Art and Cultural Production

Research in the focus area is carried out along three pillars:

The common point of reference for these pillars is the examination of artistic, cultural and media practices that – based on people’s everyday experiences and worlds – refer to, process and reflect on social issues. Of particular importance are co-design and participation as well as the opening of experimental spaces in which new forms of knowledge production can emerge in the interaction of art, science and society. Interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and process-oriented work in teams is also central.

An open understanding of culture has proven to be a productive starting point for our work, which, in the sense of cultural studies, avoids the distinction between high culture and subculture and sees culture as a negotiable process – and therefore as open in principle. Based on this understanding, the focus area poses the fundamental question of the possibilities and challenges of demanding social participation and helping to shape processes of change by means of cultural production and artistic strategies. This question directs critical attention toward constellations of inclusion/exclusion, intersectionality and social inequalities. In this way, we focus on practices that strive for the creation of democratic public spheres and other, new spaces of possibility with a focus on civil society participation.

Analogously to this, the privileged status of science over other forms of knowledge production also needs to be reexamined and a renegotiation of different forms of knowledge production and mediation needs to be initiated. This raises a number of methodological and conceptual questions: How can artistic and cultural productions, “citizens” and research projects enter into productive dialogue? Which conventional divisions, value systems and role attributions need to be set in motion? And how can different forms of knowledge and knowledge production interact and cross-fertilize one another?

In the WANDELN artistic research laboratory, the focus area team works together across disciplines on the connection between theory and practice with an orientation towards social life-worlds. In an ongoing process, the laboratory is designed as a space for developing ideas and experimenting with new forms of knowledge production, which is reflected upon and further developed in collaboration with students and non-university cooperation partners. The goal is also to generate forms of knowledge and types of transfers that can have an impact beyond the universities.

The project “Cultural Participation in Salzburg” (2017-2021, funded by the province of Salzburg) explored the foundations, opportunities, challenges and strategies for cultural participation in the city and province of Salzburg as well as general developments in the field. What does it mean to participate in culture and society? How can broad participation be realized? What does artistic, cultural and civic participation look like in the city and province of Salzburg? What possibilities are there for opening up new spaces of thought and experience through cultural participation? Based on these questions, central topics – such as contemporary art, regional cultural work, digital spaces, diversity, etc. – were examined in the context of cultural participation. A series of interviews with experts from the arts and culture provided important points of reference.

In the project “Spaces of Cultural Democracy” (funded by the province of Salzburg), experimental mediation spaces are being developed using the example of climate change and sustainability. In cooperation with various people from civil society, education, art, culture and science, we ask how we want to shape the future under the current auspices of climate change and what is needed for this in terms of sustainable development. In doing so, we explore the question of how active participation, co-design and cultural participation in the sense of a cultural democracy are possible through the production of experimental mediation spaces.

Sonja Prlić is also working on the project “schnitt # stellen”, which is dedicated to interdisciplinary research at the Mozarteum MediaLab on the synergy potentials of the media and cultural life-worlds of students at an urban secondary school and in the field of contemporary media art.