Creative Technologies – studying at the interface of art and technology

Image © Fantasynth/Faulty Agatha

What happens when computer science is brought together with art? Technology with creativity? How can software be implemented, understood and perceived in an artistically valuable way? It is precisely these limits that are being explored by the students of the Creative Technologies Master’s programme at the Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF. They have been investigating new cinematic interactions that combine technical tools with an artistic approach since 2016. The focus there is on completely free experimentation. At the same time, the students are able to benefit from their course collaborating with other departments such as Sound, Cinematography, Animation, Editing, Directing, Acting, Film Music or Set Design at the Film University, the only film school with university status in Germany. This results in projects that go far beyond the genre of film. Plants are made to speak, poetry becomes “tangible”, virtual reality for pets is considered as a possibility, or machine learning algorithms are developed.

The mixed-reality projection “Exploration” by Marcel Brückner, for example, turns the normal perception of space upside down and incorporates the audience as well as the actors into the action through site-specific projections. Such filmic presentations like those of the Creative Tech student have left the cinema screen far behind. New types of narrative forms emerge that focus on interaction and experience, all the while making creative use of technology in new contexts. Technical background knowledge is indispensable to be able to do this. The first year of the master’s, in particular, features seminars and lectures on Computer Graphics, Audio, Creative Coding or Applied Mathematics. “However, we don’t just aim at teaching the technical and filmmaking skills, but also address intellectual depth and reflection,” says Prof. Dr. Lena Gieseke. She comes originally from the field of computer science and, in her role as Professor of Visual Media Technologies, oversees the brand new course together with Prof. Dr. Angela Brennecke. It is important for her that the teaching is accompanied by a foundation in humanities. Philosophical essays are as much a part of this as current scientific papers or political debates are. The ideas encountered are indispensable for the creative work. The lecture programme is made up of three components: the technically formal basics, the academic aspect acknowledging and reflecting on the latest research findings, and artistic exploration. The second year of the master’s degree sees the practical focus coming into play. The applications constructed by the students have different focuses: everything can be found here from digital media art such as interactive façade projections through web projects, individual machine constructions, and platforms for cognitive learning to technical narration and data visualisation. For example, how can you tell the story of data? How do you make it easily understandable? “How one manages to achieve a unique artistic style is a real balancing act,” Gieseke says. She is thrilled when something is created that goes beyond pragmatic programming and connects people.

“We train interdisciplinarians.” The course is aimed at lateral thinkers. The students later also follow careers later on outside of the film industry – in those fields where human skills, “thinking in contexts” and moving between disciplines are in demand alongside IT and media literacy. Most of the applicants already have a strong technical background and the urge to apply their knowledge creatively and artistically. Although a large proportion of them come from the field of media informatics, media designers, architects and cognitive scientists are also among those applying.
“There isn’t that one specific student we are looking for.”

The special expertise taught at the Film University, i.e. to tell stories, is combined in the Creative Technologies course with the goal of imparting knowledge, experimenting and embarking on the artistic exploration of possible applications of technologies that go far beyond the medium of film.

By Christine Lentz

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