The Entanglement between Gesture, Media, and Politics

Gesture, Media,
and Politics
Workshop I / Braunschweig

Im/Perceptible Gesture

Workshop I / Braunschweig

From April 24 to 28, 2017, the project participants met for the first workshop in Braunschweig. During several days of intensive collaboration, we presented our materials and methods, as well as preliminary research results, identified common interests on the basis of selected case studies and tested various methods to acquaint ourselves with them analytically.

Impressions of the workshop, Braunschweig
Photo: Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin |

The working session gave rise to budding collaboration. We discussed and tested forms of interdisciplinary cooperation. In doing so, we identified three key areas in which to investigate the relationship between gesture, its perceptibility and its representation. It became clear that:

1. the description, and thus verbalization, of gestures is a particularly relevant field for us.

2. we will focus on various forms of techno-medial representation, particularly in video and recognition processes.

3. with regards to gesture analysis, the moment in which a gesture is experienced is essential. Accordingly, gestures have a double existence: they are bound to something akin to an “inner” space of experience, as well as an “outer” space of perception and representation (seen from the viewpoint of the gesticulator).

For two days, we worked with Elke Utermöhlen and Martin Slawig of blackholefactory on the subject of the “im/perceptible gesture”. Building on Eugenio Barba’s theatrical-anthropological approach, we inquired into the transition from everyday gestures to their symbolic forms – as handed down in different theatrical forms.

Video still during the workshop

We subjected the relationship of the formalized gesture and its individual execution to critical consideration. The theoretical discussion was accompanied by practical experiments: Laurie Young used her artistic method of “giffing” to break down typical gestures of media use into granular movement steps. In the group session, we performed these steps as a distributed sequence of movements and described our individual experience with the respective sequence.

The use of Kinect’s depth-finding camera shifts the question of the formalization of gestures, insofar as they are represented as a temporal succession of point clouds, but they can also be accessed for mathematical operations in the form of matrix sequences. As regards im/perceptible gestures, we have begun to relate motion sequences to the specific spatial data and formations that they generate via digital measurement and signal processing. These representations enable us to analyze spatial and temporal details as well as to compare them to other forms of presentation. The focus on chains of translation and operation suggests another tool, Leap Motion.

Photo: Tobias Schulze,
Photo: Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin |

We will continue to study hand gestures and body gestures in relation to their technological transformations, both practically and thematically. Leroi-Gourhan’s model of the co-evolution of technique(s) and symbolic forms served as the basis for our initial theoretical discussions, as did Tomassello’s communication model.

We were once again faced with the issue of communication, control and gesture: how are gestures translated into words? How are descriptions of gestures and instructions on how to act implemented? What role do rhythm, emphasis and atmosphere play? This debate spills over into the topic of political gesture, dealing with the point of transition from individual to intersubjective constellations and addressing the relationship between experience, expression and communication.

The rhythm of movement in public space, minimal gestures of interaction and highly symbolic gestures in various protest movements are important phenomena within the scope of this topic. Timo Herbst’s filmed material and an experimental presentation at the ICG Dome of the Institute for Computer Graphics at the TU Braunschweig raise the question of how public spaces are generated, particularly via (minimal) gestural interaction, and how can they be observed and represented.

Photo: Tobias Schulze,

On the one hand, the relationship between movement, the media and the public should be questioned using differentiated concepts of the political sphere. On the other hand, it should be contextualized in a media-historical perspective. From the perspective of the political, it is always a matter of perspective and the possibility of expression, but also external ascription and self-exclusion (see, inter alia, Didier Eribon: Return to Reims. 2016). In the process of historical contextualization, it becomes clear which forms of representation and discursive spaces become stabilized and how. In addition, it is possible to discursively differentiate how phantasmagoric excesses and symbolic capital are transformed with the introduction and stabilization of technologies.

In closing, we presented our approaches, case studies and discussions to the public at the HBK Braunschweig in the form of an “open studio”, in which our consolidated interests and the case studies and constellations to be investigated became discernable.

Photo: Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin |
Photo: Torsten Schmitt Fotografie | Berlin |

The Project

The Entanglement between Gesture, Media, and Politics is a research project investigating the interdependencies that exist between bodily movements or gestures, and ubiquitous, globally networked technologies.

To display and displaying oneself gains greater significance within the context of the unrestricted and instantaneous global exchange of video material as well as in an everyday world increasingly defined by sensors and computers. Thus the meaning of presence and publicness changes, evolves and new forms appear.


The Publication

Throwing Gestures examines the recent intensification of interest in gesture and the entanglement between gesture, media, and politics.

The gestures discussed pass from body to body and between states of medial representation. Protest movements, the respective aesthetics specific to those movements, the perpetuation of socio-economic crises over many decades, the plight of gig workers in precarious employment and mechanisms for the quantification of work and leisure are some of the issues addressed.



Workshop I / Braunschweig

From April 24 to 28, 2017, the project participants met for the first workshop in Braunschweig. During several days of intensive collaboration, we presented our materials and methods, as well as preliminary research results, identified common interests on the basis of selected case studies and tested various methods to acquaint ourselves with them analytically.

Workshop II / Hallein

The international art and design festival “Schmiede Hallein” was the setting for the second workshop of the research project “The Entanglement between Gesture, Media, and Politics”, held from September 20 to 30, 2017. In one section of the extensive grounds of the former salt refinery, the project team created a space for experiments involving physical gestures, technology and spatial installations.

Workshop III / Berlin-Köpenick

The third workshop took place at Lake Studios, Berlin Köpenick from May 15–19. Our task was to work intensively on installations, lecture performances and choreographies. Eventually, we concentrated on consolidations and aesthetic shapings after having explored and experimented on our focus topics and case scenarios in previous working phases.

Workshop IV / Berlin-Kreuzberg

From September 4 to 10, 2018 we met for the fourth and last workshop at the Art Quarter Bethanien (Kunstquartier Bethanien). We worked intensively on our collective and individual installations for the exhibition in December.

Symposium: Throwing Gestures

By Christian Schwinghammer / Daniel Stoecker, research college SENSING: On the Knowledge of Sensitive Media, Brandenburgisches Zentrum für Medienwissenschaften (ZeM), Potsdam

Kunstquartier Bethanien, Studio 1, Mariannenplatz 2, 10997 Berlin. Symposium December 8th, 10 am–7 pm.

Exhibition: Throwing Gestures

Review of exhibition „Throwing Gestures“ in Studio 1, Kunstquartier Bethanien, Mariannenplatz 2, 10997 Berlin. Vernissage 7 Dec 2018, open 9–16 Dec 2018


Book presentation “Throwing Gestures”

On May 19, 2022, the book presentation of “Throwing Gestures. Protest, Economy and the Imperceptible” took place at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. Marie Artaker, Gerald Bast (rector), Florian Bettel, Ernst Strouhal and Konrad Strutz spoke.

Final publication: Throwing Gestures

The final publication, „Throwing Gestures,“ was published by Verlag für moderne Kunst in September 2021. Editors are Florian Bettel, Irina Kaldrack and Konrad Strutz.


Durchgeführt an der Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig; gefördert durch die Volkswagen-Stiftung im Rahmen des Programms Arts & Science in Motion; unterstützt von der Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien.