Welcome Words for the ‚Willms Neuhaus Award 2020’ Publication by Dr. Agnes Neuhaus-Theil

The WILLMS NEUHAUS STIFTUNG – Zufall und Gestaltung (Chance and Creation) was established in 2013 within the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (Donors‘ association for the promotion of humanities and sciences in Germany). Its aim is to draw attention to and foster research into chance and its potential creative power, and to encourage artists and scientists to make contributions to this comprehensive topic.
We all need security, which results from calculability and makes prediction possible. However, absolute security is impossible, so it is necessary to familiarize oneself with what is inexorable. That fact that uncertainty is an important generator of creativity is also relevant. In a certain way, chance can become the raw material for creative thinking, creation, and innovation.
Humans also need insecurity for their own development. Artists and scientists from the natural sciences and humanities are increasingly open to embracing the terms of uncertainty and insecurity in their research, and they are gaining experience in this area. The Willms Neuhaus Stiftung pays special attention to this interdisciplinary, interactive field of study.
In 2015, the first Willms Neuhaus Prize went to the Berlin dancer and choreographer Riki von Falken for her life’s work.

It is now a great pleasure to award the Willms Neuhaus Prize 2020 to the artist, sculptor, and architect Jenny Brockmann, and to acknowledge her achievements, beyond the endowment of 5,000 euros, with this publication. The artist prioritizes epistemological and communicative aspects in her discursive works. In this way, her practice is aligned with the aims of the foundation.
The film Informed Desire, conceived by Brockmann in 2019, in collaboration with researchers from various scientific disciplines, was screened during the award ceremony at Kunsthaus Dahlem in Berlin. The 110-minute film convincingly documents interdisciplinary discourse as an experiment, departing from Brockmann’s sculpture Seat#12.

The laudation by Heike Catherina Mertens, art historian and managing director of Villa Aurora and Thomas Mann House in Berlin and Los Angeles, refers to the discursive exhibition Irreversible Moment (2016) at the Ernst Schering Foundation and deepens the prizewinner’s experimental and research-based methodology.
In her contribution to this publication, Jenny Graser, art historian and curator for contemporary art at the Kupferstichkabinett of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, focuses on Brockmann’s drawings as an artistic method of gaining insight.

Birgit Möckel, art historian and author, comments on the question of artistic research and explains comparability and distinctiveness in relation to a scientific research process.
The statements on uncertainty by scholars of various disciplines from the University of Rostock and the University College Cork, Ireland, who participated in the seminar and film that were transcribed and made available for this publication are Felix Ekardt, lawyer, philosopher, and sociologist; Gert Hofmann, literary scholar; Martina Kumlehn, theologian; Corinna Lüthje, media scholar; Ursula van Rienen, mathematician; Sylvia Speller, physicist; and Karsten Wolf, computer scientist.

“Chance and creation” describe a space of learning that the prizewinner Jenny Brockmann, master of communication and interdisciplinary thinking, has expanded in a special and complex way. She makes significant contributions to new paths of interdisciplinary and interactive research. The differences between research in the humanities, the natural sciences, or the arts become bridges and lose their distinctive parts.

On behalf of the Willms Neuhaus Stiftung, I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the publication of this book. All of the contributions, even from the most diverse sciences, add to the further tracing of Brockmann’s comprehensive ideas and artistic projects. 

Agnes Neuhaus-Theil
Willms Neuhaus Stiftung – Zufall und Gestaltung
Berlin, May 2020