The three applicants submitted a daring research proposal on the dead to the German Research Foundation (DFG) and must now defend it before a review board. But the real protagonist of this intellectual walk along the ultimate border is scientific language itself. On the threshold of the un/thinkable and un/sayable, it must defend its autonomy and its omniscient speech acts.
THE MILIEU OF THE DEAD. THE PROPOSAL is a video documentation of a series of performative installations by the same name. It shows scientific thinking on the edge of speculation and administration. Video 1:06:12 (with subtitles)
Philosophising about death is omnipresent on all channels, and there’s even more talk about dying, the extending of life into death, the prolongation of life into death is considered one of the great technological promises of the future. Yet, the dead themselves remain absent, at least in “Western” societies. How do the humanities behave, once they enter the threshold of the un/thinkable and un/sayable? How can academia (in this case cultural studies, philosophy and art history) navigate at the borders of knowledge and non-knowledge without entering into the fields of belief or esotericism?
An unusual proposal was submitted to the German Research Foundation (DFG). It employed academic means to strategically and empirically survey an area of non-knowledge: “THE MILIEU OF THE DEAD”. The scientific risk and the possibilities of escalation buried in this in otherworldly topic were enormous. But this was not the only special feature of this proposal.
Genesis of the film project
The text of the proposal was publicly debated and recorded during a show of the MAB. Five performances of “The Milieu of the Dead: The Proposal” took place in 2017 at silent green, Berlin and as part of MAB’s show “The Immobilized. The ocean as a transit space between life and death” at Theater der Welt, Hamburg. A total of 900 visitors visited the events. The film premiere took place on the 2nd of September 2017 at silent green, Berlin.
Not dying or death, but the dead themselves are being researched here. In addition, the (living) applicants set themselves the task of conducting research from the perspective of the dead. In the face of the dead, every academic would probably confidently admit that he*she does not know, will never know. But the language of science does not agree. It wants to mark its territories with exactness and detail – quite a challenge when it comes to the not yet measured realm of the dead. The language of science itself is the protagonist in this theatre of persuasion (Donna Haraway). It must defend its autonomy and omniscient speech acts at the threshold of the un/thinkable and un/sayable.
The film documentation shows academic thinking as it fits into the organizational requirements of science and provides illuminating insights into the source code of the humanities and the science industry. The Milieu of the Dead shows academic science on the dissecting table in the genre of a tragicomedy, or even a scientific romance.
The Mileu of the dead is a real research project and at the same time a science theatre. Its excellent academic ensemble includes: The philosopher and expert in theories of death, Prof. Petra Gehring (Darmstadt); a specialist in materials beyond vitalism and thanatism, the literary and art scholar Dr. Philipp Ekardt (Basel); and the cultural scientist and researcher of parahuman processes, Prof. Karin Harrasser (Linz). They publicly presented their joint DFG research proposal. It was defended before and evaluated by a commission of experts consisting of the cultural and literary scholar Prof. em. Hartmut Böhme (Hamburg), the media philosopher Prof. Christiane Voss (Weimar) and the Protestant theologian Prof. Philipp Stoellger (Heidelberg).
Concept: Petra Gehring, Karin Harrasser, Hannah Hurtzig
Applicants: Philipp Ekardt, Petra Gehring, Karin Harrasser
Evaluators: Hartmut Böhme, Philipp Stoellger, Christiane Voss
Research: Marian Kaiser
Direction: Hannah Hurtzig
Cut: Jörg Volkmer
Sound: Lukas Grundmann
Subtitles: Carrie C. Roseland
Graphic: Pierre Becker / Ta-Trung
Text editing: Alexander Martos
Architecture: Arena Florian Stirnemann
Produktion: Arena Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss
Dramaturgy: Marian Kaiser
Production: Eva Lämmerzahl
Project coordination: Laura Weber
Technical management: Andreas Harder
Video: Dokumentation Mathias Merx, Phillip Hohenwarter
Photos: David von Becker
Berlin: from funds of the Hauptstadtkulturfonds
Hamburg: from funds of the Elbe Culture Fund as part of Theater der Welt 2017