Farewell to Karin Ohlenschläger
Karin Ohlenschläger (1959-2022) was an art critic and curator who worked on media art, science and contemporary art since 1985. Our paths crossed for the first time in 2003, where, as part of Karin’s exhibition “Banquet. Metabolism and Communication” at the ZKM | Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe. In the exhibition, the biological concept of metabolism was applied to ecological, economic, social and cultural systems. The result was an incredibly diverse and impressive exhibition that looked at technological change from this perspective. The exhibition then toured to Barcelona to the Palau de la Virreina and to MediaLab Madrid at the Conde Duque Cultural Center, of which Karin was co-director and co-founder (2002-2006).
She dedicated a lifetime to the intersections between art and science with passion and curatorial competence. The encounter in the context of this exhibition was the beginning of a friendship and a recurring professional collaboration. In 2007 we realized the first exhibition on the thematic complex of art and ecology, which was so important to her. Entitled “Ecomedia. Ecological Strategies in Art Today”, an exhibition was created that, starting from the understanding of ecology and sustainability as a communication system, presented progressive ideas and utopian visions of the future of a better coexistence of man and nature. The exhibition also toured to Basel to Plug.in – Forum for new media. Eleven years later, we wanted to take another look at this central theme together and realized the exhibition “Eco-Visionaries”, which was shown at HEK (House of Electronic Arts) in 2018. Also, the exhibition “Earthbound. In Dialogue with Nature,” which will open at HEK on September 2, 2022, is in the tradition of this engagement.
I remember the intense and exciting discussions I had with Karin in the context of these projects, the passion with which she approached topics, developed relevant questions, and strongly advocated for an understanding of media art and its potential for society. Exploring the dialogue between art, science, technology and society and making it accessible to a wide audience was a great concern for her. Through Karin, I got to know the Spanish media art scene and I am happy that we were also able to cooperate with LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial in Gijon, Spain, as part of “Eco-Visionaries”, of which she was the artistic director from 2016-2021.
I learned a lot from her and remember her as a kind-hearted, curious, open-minded, and joyful person full of energy and enthusiasm. Intense in the most positive sense is the word that comes to mind when I think of Karin. In her impressive farewell letter, it became clear one last time how life-affirming, strong and far-sighted Karin was. She did not want to see anyone sad because of her. I thank Karin for the wonderful moments and encounters we could experience and share and the inspiration and friend she was for me. “Networks are structures inherent to life,” she wrote in a text. Professionally and privately, Karin has built impactful and lasting networks and it is my great pleasure and honor to be a part of them. To counter the temporality of life with something lasting is the claim of art. In her farewell letter, Karin writes that her life was meant to serve. She fulfilled this wish with her impressive life and curatorial-scientific oeuvre and thus enabled us to keep her in wonderful memory.
Sabine Himmelsbach, director HEK (House of Electronic Arts)