Siegfried Zielinski

Siegfried Zielinski, Michel Foucault Chair and Professor of Media Theory at The European Graduate School / EGS.


Siegfried Zielinski is the Michel Foucault Chair at The European Graduate School / EGS, where he teaches as a professor of mediology and technoculture. He is also the chair of media theory, with a focus on archaeology and variantology of media at the Berlin University of Arts, honorary professor for art and media at the Budapest University of Arts, and is curator at the Karlsruhe Center for Art and Media (ZKM).

Zielinski studied theatre arts, German literature, linguistics, semiotics, sociology, philosophy, and political studies in Marburg and Berlin, at both the Free University and the Technical University. The major focus of his studies centered on the field of advanced technical media (radio, film, video, computers) under Friedrich Knilli, whose department had developed out of the Institute of Language in the Technical Age. In the early 1970s, Zielinski published his first essays on media studies and media critique. While still a student in Berlin, he set up and supervised an experimental video studio.

In 1979, Zielinski made the 16mm-film Responses to Holocaust in Western Germany, which was shown all over the USA in universities and Jewish communities. In the same year, he graduated with a thesis on Veit Harlan, the film director of Jud Suess, which was published as his first monograph in 1981. Together with Knilli he developed and established the first study course in media consulting at the Technical University, Berlin, in the early 1980s. Zielinski's doctoral dissertation in 1984 was On the History of the Video Recorder; his habilitation in 1989 qualified him to teach media and communication studies at the university level.

In the same year, Zielinski received his first appointment as a professor in audiovisual studies at the University of Salzburg in Austria, where he set up a department for teaching, research, and production of Audiovisions, also the title of his first book translated into English. In Salzburg he also produced a series of twenty short films on the Archaeology of Audiovisuality (1992). During this period, he co-designed and co-directed the program European Summer Academy for Art, Film and Media at the Academy of Arts in Berlin.

In 1993, Zielinski was appointed a professor of communication and media theory at the Academy of Media Arts, Cologne, in 1994, he became its founding director and developed the Academy to one of the leading institutions in media art education. In mid-2001, he returned to teaching and research, focusing particularly on the archaeology and variantology of arts and media. Since 2006, he was teaching at the Berlin University of Arts, where he still supervises doctorate students.

From Feb 2016 to March 2018 he was rector of the Karlsruhe University of Arts & Design.

Zielinski has published numerous books and around 200 essays, primarily in the areas of history and theory of media and the arts. In 2011 he completed the five-volume book series on Variantology – Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences, and Technologies. Since 2013 he is working on a Genealogy of Media Thinking and Media Acting. So far three volumes have been published in German, 2014, 2015 and 2017. Amongst his more recent monographs in English are Deep Time of the Media, which was published by MIT Press, 2006 (also published in Chinese, Portuguese, Polish, Spanish, and Russian), [… after the Media] — News from the Slowly Outfading 20th Century (University of Minnesota Press, 2013) and Allah’s Automata, a ground-breaking research catalogue, edited with Peter Weibel (2015).

Zielinski has lectured and given seminars in many countries all over the world, and his texts have been translated into many different languages. Within the framework of his activities at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, he curated large exhibitions, initiated and directed the annual festival Digitale (1995–1999, in close cooperation with Nils Roeller), initiated and co-edited the Academy’s year-book Jahrbuch für Künste und Apparate LAB, and, in close collaboration with Silvia Wagnermaier, established the Vilém Flusser Archive and its own publications series. In 2015/16 this part of his work had been concluded with the exhibition Without Ground - Vilém Flusser and the Arts, presented at the ZKM Karlsruhe, the Berlin Academy of Arts, in Den Haag, and in Prague, accompanied by the operational encyclopedia Flusseriana, ed. with P. Weibel and Daniel Irrgang for University of Minnesota Press.

Recently Zielinski has focused on his curatorial work again and developed two large format exhibitions: Dia_Logos - Ramon Llull and the Ars Combinatoria (2015-2019) with Amador Vega, and Art in Motion - 100 Master Pieces with and through Media. An Operative Canon (2018-2020), both with Peter Weibel for the ZKM Karlsruhe and museums in Europe and China.

Zielinski is a member of the European Film Academy (EFA), the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Arts, the Northrhine-Westfalian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the Magic Lantern Society of Great Britain, among others.