Thorsten Bauer

Thorsten Bauer is an an award winning Creative Director, Media-Artist, Entrepreneur and Curator, working in the field of spatial media installations since 2001. As the the co-founder of Urbanscreen GmbH Co Kg, he is considered one of the pioneers of projection mapping. He is the curator of the Elbphilharmonie Media Wall and acts as a juror in numerous light - and media art festivals.

With his latest project, Augmented-Architecture, he deals with the development of sustainable digital urban culture. The design of media facades in combination with a strong programatic concept is, besides his artistic work, the main focus of the last years.
Thorsten was born in 1975, studied Musicology and Sociology in Hamburg and performed as a musician and video artist. He has been working on media concepts for the public sphere since 2004 when he established Urbanscreen.
Besides his design and media architecture work, Thorsten dedicates a large part of his time to discussing and exchanging ideas with specialists in the field of new media on an international scale. This he achieves through lectures and presentations at symposia around the world as well as through teaching activities – workshops and master classes – and through publications. This has enabled him to continually develop his interest in the theoretical debate in this field over the last few years, and expand his know-how when it comes to effective but responsible digtal place-making.


Social Dimensions of Design

We are heading for a future marked by permanent change and fast-paced innovation. The scale of this and the speed at which it will happen is not fully recognised – and most likely extremely underestimated – by those of us alive today.

The most limited resource when it comes to digital change is man’s ability to adapt to the shifts that occur over time. It is not technological, economic or ecological resources that determine change, but our individual ability – and the ability of society as a whole – to remain flexible. The cultural integration of our rapidly changing living environment will become the major challenge all societies on earth will be faced with.

We need to acknowledge that we as designers make a substantial contribution towards providing contentious contexts that are rendered available and accessible for society as a whole through our design work. In this context, German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk reveals his remarkable point of view in his essay entitled “On the Birth of Design from the Spirit of Ritual”. He describes design as a bridge that frees us from the feeling of helplessness we sense when dealing with complex advanced technologies, and that has its origins in the ethnological expression of ritual:

“Assuming that the Flood falls from the sky with thunder and lightning on your roof of leaves, if you can survive the storm at all you can survive it better if you chant a song for the weather god. It is not important to be able to make the weather yourself, but it is important to know a technique for keeping fit in bad weather… Only someone who knows what to do when there is nothing to be done knows enough efficient and continuing games of life to prevent him/herself collapsing in panic or freezing into immobility”

And in another part of the essay:

“For design, seen from an ecological perspective of competence, is nothing but the competent liquidation of incompetence. It secures the individual’s competence limits by providing the subject with processes and gestures for navigating as an expert in the ocean of his/her incompetence” (quote).

This interpretation of the design task initially frees us from the claim that we can immediately change anything about the shortcomings of our world through our design work. That said, it places yet another kind of responsibility on us. As designers, we are the ones who can save people from sinking into a feeling of helpless or overwhelmed and facilitate the way they lead their lives. We are the ones who can build the bridge that enables the individual to free him/herself from feelings of anxiety and insecurity, and grants him/her the means to gain the necessary overview, providing him/her with support when navigating his/her way in the ocean of life.

Against the backdrop of a constantly changing world, this responsibility will be of central importance. Even if we do not provide any direct answers, it is still our job to build the bridges in order to help people overcome being socially paralysed by shock that is driven by fear and mental overload. Design therefore plays a central role when it is a case of macrosocial values and political orientation. When people find themselves in a desperate situation that leave them powerless to respond or act, they will inevitably develop radical tendencies. Such developments have been recorded in literature through the ages, and thanks to historical evidence there is a general consensus where such trends in radicalisation can lead.

But to refer to Sloterdijk again: as creative minds, we are the medicine men who invent the narrative through which the coherence of the world can be restored. The gap through which helplessness, panic and mental overload penetrate our lives, has been closed from time immemorial by rituals. In this sense, we act as creators of rituals and design circle dances that enable us to correlate with a hyper-dynamic world. Even if we cannot really change anything in the crazy world we live in, let us at least compose a song about it in the hope that the people in the world will sing along with us.