Digging deep into the human mind: For her graduation project at BTK University, Christina Heurig gives us a glimpse into the psychological, darkly romantic and mysterious world of E.T.A. Hoffmann. Fictional files invite the viewer into the mind of the protagonist from Hoffmann’s story, “The Sandman,” while dealing with ancient and modern scientific approaches to the human perceptions of reality.
At the Berlin Campus, there was always something going on: e.g., semester abroad, internships and departmental projects. What experience had the greatest impact on you?
A combination of many experiences! Self-discovery is particularly essential in the creative field, since it’s visible in one’s professional work. Through our various courses, some outside our field, I was able to try out and experiment with what was really right for me. This experimental phase extended itself across two very distinctly different internships: Postproduction 2D/3D at PX1 and Scenography assistance at Studio Babelsberg/HFF Potsdam. The first taught me commercial perfection in print, retouching, final drafting and customer management in the branding industry. The other brought my skills in story telling and industrial art practices (design and set building) in production design up to a completely new level!
Both sets of skills are now essential for me. Without the context of my studies, the experiences would have been less worthwhile, since I was able to take what I learned and reflect on it once more in the theory modules and bring all of these disciplines together in my BA thesis.
The students chose a slogan: “Create your story. Inspire the world.” What experiences did you have during your studies that supported you in forging your own career path? What inspired you to take this direction?
If I’m honest, it was less the experiences within my studies and more everything that took place around them: life itself! Joy, sorrow, travel, museums, culture, Berlin, getting to know new people—and yet more crises! For a long time, I expected that university would tell me, step by step, how I should develop myself. But what the UE gives you is this: a basic foundation of technological and expert knowledge, theory, support, connections—a huge treasure trove you can use to create.
But you yourself need to know who you are and what your real dreams are. What your passion is! And you need really good friends and the unshakeable trust that everything will turn out well, regardless of how tough it is now. Only then can you develop a strong intuition for which people can help you move forward or where you have to go to follow this exact path further. Sometimes it seems like an errant path, which nonetheless turns out to be exactly the right one!
Your Bachelor project is dedicated to the story, “The Sandman,” by E.T.A. Hoffman, a romantic who anticipated the fantasy genre. What made you enthusiastic about working on this topic? What about this project makes you particularly proud?
The “Sandman” tells the story of a boy who perceives a nightly visitor as a grotesque figure and imagines frightening images. He later falls in love with a mechanical doll and “drowns” in images from his imagination. Hoffmann tells this in such a way that the main plot line is unclear, that which the protagonist is really experiencing. Persecution complexes, spiritualism, madness, fantasy, the subconscious—these are still current themes today, regardless of how modern and digital we are.
My interactive books of experiences are the protagonist’s fictional diaries, which the reader decodes for him or herself.
I’ve also visually opened up the basis upon which perception and reality are built. Transparencies, book pages, stacks of pages, collecting, collaging, revealing and concealing. The contents become haptic puzzle pieces the reader uses to create the world of the protagonist him or herself.
This project is also parallel to a visual research project on the idea of reality around 1850. Scholarship has always been a manmade tool in order to understand “reality.” It was tremendously exciting and was much better than working on a simple re-telling. I discovered hundred-year-old scholarly documents in the public domain, which dealt with (and illustrated) psychology, spiritualism or even precise scientific scholarship. These offered a view—obscure from the standpoint of the present day—into the perception of reality at the time! These occult bombshells fuel the fantasy to a remarkable extent!
It was exciting the way a story, through its staging, could contain so many media: along with photography on transparencies for the book (silhouettes), stamps, fictive documents and notes, cardboard book covers, an film of images (https://vimeo.com/240470679) and the protagonist’s complete, staged workspace (http://www.sköne-öke.de/ausstellung/) for exhibitions took shape! And its keeps on growing!
Describe your studies in three terms
Toolkit, Help with Decisions, Foundation in Theory
Which three things in your studies are you most grateful for?
1. Close contact with instructors, who honed my “artistic voice.” (Thank you, James Higginson, Cyrus Khazaeli and Daniel Bastian!)
2. Learning to “study”: No one at the University of Applied Sciences Europe could tell me how I should develop myself. You had to find that out for yourself! Throughout, I was encouraged to find my own way.
3. Once I knew what I needed as terms of additional skills, I could make use the opportunities and experiences available at the University of Applied Sciences Europe.
“Kyosei depicts the disastrous happenings around Fukushima. I was in Tokyo on those days. The moods that came with the earthquake, the tsunami and the nuclear catastrophe, I transformed them into a medial panorama.
On March 11 2011, the intense earthquake shook Japan which cause amongst other effects the accident with the reactor in Fukushima. To me, that was a disturbing experience and greatly influenced my perception of Tokyo as a city. The title of the movie, Kyosei, means coexistence and points to the contradiction of continuing a normal life whilst suffering the fear of radiation. The scenes portray Tokyo as a city that is on the one hand dynamic and always well-lit at night but on the other hand shaken by an atomic disaster. Fearful people lose themselves in the anonymous metropolitan crowd in Tokyo, that is being more and more strongly abstracted during the course of the animation.”
“As origin of natural forces and as site of the atomic happenings, nature is given a special importance. Koysei/Coexistence is pictured as a panorama and enables the beholder to embrace a world of imagery as his surroundings. Conversations with the guest show that the panorama installations are a visual experience with strong emotional involvement for the beholder.”
How did you come up with the idea to realize a panorama for your graduation work and what experiences could you make?
My interest in media spaces sparked during my sixth semester. I came up with my first small panorama in a group of four during a seminar with Daniel Wangen. Each of us had differing competences and in the end we created something that none of us could have achieved on their own. The group work and the fact that your are building your own isolated space for a movie have appealed to me from the very beginning. Also, the effect of the panorama was surprising. The movie, that I formerly knew only on screen, could suddenly be experienced in a room. The beholder is involved in a different way. I do not think that a panorama makes you fall for the illusion of being in a different placem, but I can create a narrative atmosphere that the beholder reacts to.
The experience that I gathered with this prototype lead me to the idea for my graduation project and also gave me the confidence to master the task. This time the panorama had to be bigger and portray a topic that had to do with myself. In my work I again had an awesome team - for the construction of the room, the technical installation and the sound, but the conception, the planning of the realization and the execution were in my very own hands. And even though I knew what to do down to the smallest detail, in the end I was still startled by the complexity and dimension of the work. The room with a diameter of five meters and the projections reaching two meters were more impressionable than I had imagined. The feedback I received from visitors, no matter where it was staged, reassured me that I had succeeded in creating an atmosphere that was emotionally touching. To me those were valuable experiences and empowering reactions that encouraged me to continue my work in the way of design.
What came after your studies?
At first I interned at the agency Tamschick Media+Space to gain deeper insight into the everyday work. There I could participate in the creation of spacial concepts for museums and fairs. Simultaneously I had the opportunity to enrich a Berlin theatre ensemble’s scenery with my own videos. Again, team work was a very present topic for me. In theatre everyone is very much into their own discipline and has to make an effort to get involved with others. At the moment I am in the midst of a production of a veneer project that will be viewed within the context of a classical concert in Luxembourg. It is my first time working with Daniel and it is exciting to witness a former lecturer function in the professional world.
It sounds like media spaces will engage you for quite some time. Do you have any plans for the future?
The space seems to have become my common thread. In the fall I am beginning my Master studies. Because of my portfolio I received a scholarship for the study program Narrative Environments at the University of the Arts London - Central Saint Martins. The students come from very different branches, e.g. architecture or graphic design. I was told that someone with a background in motion design is rarely seen. I’m excited!
“My time as a student at University of Applied Sciences Europe had many facets, surely not all professors enjoyed my attitude. I have always taken a lot of photographs outside of the university in order to gain practical experience and build a network of potential employers. I did my internship earlier than usual because I wanted to find out if photography was what I actually wanted to do for the rest of my life. There were many parts of the curriculum that fascinated me immensely: Media theory, history of design or even philosophy were some of the courses that have fundamentally contributed to my life path. It is essential to know that you are the one in charge. No one will do your work for you, you have to want it for yourself and then go out to fight for it. No pain no gain!”
“At University of Applied Sciences Europe the atmosphere is very personal and everything takes place under one roof. I got along really well with all professors and fellow students. During this time I learned to stop overthinking and trust my intuition.”
“The personal dialogue with the professors manifested on a very friendly level. I also found someone with whom I felt connected, who could understand me. That way I could solve problems that I had more easily in a short conversation, instead of trying around by myself for ages. There were three different concepts that I discussed with Prof. Katrin Thomas. After that I just knew what I wanted to do. If one does not perceive lecturers solely as teachers and dares to discuss personal ideas and concepts, they can be understood as mentors, so to say. As the study groups at University of Applied Sciences Europe tend to be really small (ten to 15 people), there is plenty of opportunity to get in touch and share with the professors.”
“When you focus only on photography and editing, being self-employed really pays. Surely a gallery and a good rep, as in my case, will be very helpful. And surely that kind of luxury can take its time until beyond the end of your studies. Without hard work and initiative, you cannot live the dream of working and sustaining yourself as a photographer. There are just too many of them in Berlin, to stand your own ground is a big undertaking. After a certain time everyone granted me the freedom that I needed and all of the professors were very supportive of my projects. University of Applied Sciences Europe was a deeply important time in my life and I would choose again and again to study at this university!”
„At University of Applied Sciences Europe I have always appreciated the open dialogue between professors and students, being able to converse freely and on an equal footing. Thereby I always perceived my lecturers as professional guides who could also offer assistance in first actual projects outside of school.“
„Even though I really enjoyed the interdisciplinary courses and tried to make the most out of it, my bachelor thesis was definitely my favorite as I was able to focus on this particular project. Thanks to the theoretical background, the idea for my practical project could ripen day by day, which led to „Methodo“ becoming quite a good one actually. Also, I could further deepen my focus on UI/UX design with this project and also pair it with my passion for bran dings.“
“I particularly like the interdisciplinary work and small seminar groups, because the learning atmosphere was then more comfortable and we could try out lots of things before focusing on one single topic.”
“My favorite project? My bachelor’s thesis! I had produced an illustrated book of select poems by Gottfried Benn, which enabled me to combine my favorite disciplines, Illustration and Editorial Design. From the concept phase to final production, I took care of all the steps personally and am still really satisfied with the result. The climax of my studies!”
"The study program at University of Applied Sciences Europe is a good starting point to discover your passion and capabilities. Since the program offers you several branches of studies and multiple courses, they help you spot your preferences and find your way with ease. I was amazed by the broad range of technical equipment University of Applied Sciences Europe offers you to borrow. This is a big facilitation in your creative workflow and makes students' lives a lot easier in several ways! The cooperation with the profs is amicable and easy-going. They are technically and practically really competent. As always in life, it is up to yourself, to pick up as much knowledge as you can get in this limited time and get the most out of the study program. Once you are working in the industry with clients, you remember how awesome it was, to develop your own creative ideas, without having someone looking over your shoulder all the time…"
"I totally came to 3D through the University of Applied Sciences Europe. Before the study program, I hardly opened a 3D software. Some of my first bigger 3D projects were "Drillbot" and "The Limit" where I developed my passion for 3D/VFX, fluid dynamics as well as particle physics."
"My first personal success was my bachelor's thesis "CYCLE" which was staff-picked at Vimeo, shortlisted at "One Minute" Film Festival (Switzerland, 2012) and featured in a couple of blogs such as Behance' "Motion Graphics Served".
"2012 I got the chance to work at the great studio "SEHSUCHT Berlin", where I participated in several big projects and could strengthen my 3D skills. It was a great experience, to bring the knowledge I picked up at University of Applied Sciences Europe to the next level and take it into a professional context and pipeline.
The most successful project (in terms of awards) I had the pleasure to work on at SEHSUCHT Berlin, was the show package for the MTV European Music Awards 2012."
Awards: ADC (2013, 2x Bronze in "Designpackage" and in "Motion Graphics/3d"), ITFS (2013, Gold in "Advertising") BASS (2013, Gold in "Programme Branding Design")
Shortlisted: Cannes Lions (2013, in "Design")
"The following two years I was working at the studio SEHSUCHT where I could benefit from the profound technical knowledge and the practical skills I acquired during my studies at University of Applied Sciences Europe. With my passion for 3D simulation and physics I built up over time, as I mentioned earlier, I could establish myself as "the guy for the fluids and particles" at the studio and ended up doing what I liked most! I was involved in following award-winning projects working in the 3D department in general."
"Lately I took the next step and started my freelancing career. It is exciting to develop ideas and concepts on some projects on my own and being more responsible – it reminds me a bit of the time I studied at University of Applied Sciences Europe."
Cindy Fuhlendorf studies Communication Design at University of Applied Sciences Europe Hamburg. During her internship at Jung von Matt, she breathed agency air and worked for Otto and OBI among others. Her personal highlight: The realization of a 1&1 TV commercial that was broadcast on television in November 2016.
What University of Applied Sciences Europe experience (Faculty of Art & Design) has particularly shaped you?
I enjoyed many courses but two really stood out. The first was “Corporate Identity” with Ilona Klück. In it I realized for the first time that when you’ve come up with a good idea, all the complications and everything else become easy. You quickly notice that an idea isn’t good, when its development is difficult and dull. In this course I realized that I am really interested in CI. Even before my studies, I was interested in packaging design. This interest has been more than confirmed by the packaging design course I’m taking at the moment. Developing concepts and realizing them myself are unbelievable fun for me.
What do you find exciting in your studies? What are you particularly proud of?
I go to school to get inspiration, assignments, and support, the rest is studying on my own and “learning by doing”. I could just about use Photoshop Magic Wand tool before the first semester, and had very little idea about InDesign or Illustrator. After three years of studying, I got many compliments at “ADC Speed Recruiting” event on my Photoshop skills. I was really proud of that.
What was the most exciting thing during your internship and what are you particularly proud of in relation to the internship?
I enjoyed the relaxed and awesome atmosphere in the agency during my internship the most. All employees were open with each other and they were always willing to help. I found it really great that I was not treated as a stereotypical coffee-fetching intern. Everyone was taken seriously and was an equal part of the team. That motivated me. My personal highlight was the realization of my idea for a 1&1 commercial that was shown on TV last November. That was something every special and made me more confident in terms of my creativity. Even more so because I usually tend to underestimate myself.
Where will it lead? What is your dream? What would you like to achieve in the next 10 years.
After completing the degree I would very much like to join a large agency and gain as much experience as possible. After my internship at an ad agency, I’m also interested in joining a design agency. In 10 years, I see myself either at an awesome agency as a Creative Director or heading my own little agency, in Ibiza of course.
What experiences from your courses have helped you in your internship?
The courses have definitely helped me in that we worked on real or hypothetical briefs from time to time. Of course it didn’t happen exactly like that at the agency, but it did help me. I knew for the most part how to handle briefs. In addition, the Adobe Creative Cloud knowledge that I acquired through the projects at the University of Europe (then BTK), as I’ve already mentioned, helped me to meet the expectations of my Creative Director.
Describe your degree at University of Applied Sciences Europe in three words.
Responsibility. Flexibility. Creativity.
Carmen Lenhof studied Photography at University of Applied Sciences Europe Hamburg (formerly BTK) and completed her BA degree with her project “InsideOut”. She tells us in this interview what she has experienced in her degree and how she came to the topic of her bachelor’s final project:
At University of Applied Sciences Europe there’s always something going, for example semester abroad, internships, and student resorts. What experiences have strongly shaped you?
Defining experiences were for example project weeks. I was able to go to Finland on an aurora borealis workshop. That was a truly awesome experience! But also the “Visual Angels on Environmental Change” workshop, which took place in Finland as well, was extremely interesting. There has been a book published on that recently. However, the project week should not always be just a trip. Often photographers also attended alongside us and with whom we have realized different projects. The topics were all very exciting, but what I liked about the project weeks above all was that you get to grapple with and work on a topic intensively for a week, alone or in a team. And great projects were the results! The practical semester definitely counts as well. During it, I was able to see the theory in practice for the first time and gained an insight into the daily routine of a photographer. I learned a lot in this internship. Furthermore defining experiences for me were the preparations for the exhibitions and of course also the exhibitions themselves. I learned a lot about how to organize an exhibition and present my work the right way.
What experiences from your course have supported you to embark on your very personal career path?
I don’t see a very clearly defined career path yet. I would like to try a few more things. In my studies there were many things that were introduced to me and I would like to explore them further, for example the area of “film”.
What has inspired you in your bachelor’s final project topic?
I know people who suffer from mental health issues in my circles. I have always asked myself what is happening with those who are affected and what they go through. That led me to the topic for my bachelor’s final project.
How did you plan the development and realization of your project?
I had already worked on the topic of “mental health issues” in my 6th semester. It was a photographic work comprising 29 b/w images that I had created without any background information or inspiration. In my bachelor’s final project I have then concentrated on endogenous and affective psychosis and took up schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as examples. Different things inspired me to pictures: Texts by those who are affected, works by artists who were affected themselves, or music. But for the most part I’ve created them from my own imagination. On the pictures there are no mental health patients to be seen, but models. I didn’t want to give the illness a face. For me, it was much more about capturing the totality of the feeling and building a bridge of empathy for the viewers. Through the different approaches new perspectives also developed. Gradually and increasingly I have then found my own visual language.
What are you excited about your project and what are you particularly proud of?
Despite the topic that’s critical of the society, it was positively received and reflected upon. That shows me that I have found a way to communicate with people on such an important issue. That was also one of the goals of my project.
Tell us an example in your career when it was worth abandoning the well-trodden path / challenge yourself to go beyond the limit? What drove you / supported you?
As I’ve already mentioned, the preparations for the exhibitions as well as the exhibitions themselves were defining experiences, and the bachelor’s exhibition above all. As there were a few of us, everyone had to be responsible for many tasks. And the result was worth the sleepless nights and all the effort. Overall it was a very stressful time, but also very instructive.
Where are you heading? What’s your dream?
I certainly would like to do more photographic projects of my own. In addition, I would also like to try further different directions, and the subject area of film interests me the most.