• Brain City Ambassador Prof. Dr. Ariane Jeßulat

    Prof. Dr. Ariane Jeßulat, Berlin University of the Arts

Brain City Ambassador Prof. Dr. Ariane Jeßulat is First Vice President of the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK Berlin). As a musicologist and music theorist and artist, she combines experiences from two parallel careers.

Music, philosophy and social sciences flow together in Ariane Jeßulat's research.  “20 years ago I started working on whether traces of memory and mnemonic reconstruction can be found in music. Today I deal with polyphony as an interface between art and society." The musicologist and music theorist is particularly interested in understanding the arts as autonomous, but not as a separate world. An approach that was not taken for granted for a long time. "I find it extremely exciting that human and social action becomes visible in the arts, allowing insights into the interconnections of social and aesthetic issues," says Ariane Jeßulat. "At the same time, I see my research as an opportunity to keep past artistic practice and our current engagement with it alive and in a critical exchange with the present."

Aside from her scientific career, the Brain City Ambassador works as an experimental musician and performer. This parallel career opened up two originally very different approaches to her research: "As a scientist, I have pursued my interests for a long time without it ever coming into contact with my own artistic practice as a performer in the ensemble for experimental music and experimental music theatre. It was only after I had pursued two parallel careers for 25 years that I realised that key issues belong together.”

Born and raised in Berlin, it was a matter of course for Ariane Jeßulat to study in Berlin: at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK Berlin) and the Freie Universität Berlin (FU Berlin). In 2000, she completed a doctorate at the UdK Berlin and in 2011, she habilitated at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU Berlin). "After graduating, I worked relatively long and intensively at the UdK Berlin and the HU Berlin. But it was also a privilege to be a professor in Würzburg for eleven years, where the opportunities for collaboration between the Würzburg University of Music and the Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg were fantastic." In the end, however, Ariane Jeßulat missed the cultural scene in Berlin and the opportunities it offered her in contemporary music. In 2015 she thus returned to the UdK Berlin as a professor of music theory; where she has also been Vice President of the university since 2020.

Brain City Berlin offers Ariane Jeßulat many advantages as a scientist as well as an artist: “Berlin enables research in innovative areas that have not yet become canon due to their novelty and willingness to take risks. In fact, it is the city's intrinsic demand to be innovative makes it necessary to keep rethinking this term. The willingness and acceptance to follow unfamiliar paths that do not always immediately scream of certain clichés of 'excellence' is very pronounced in Berlin - from the independent scene to the tradition-conscious institutions."

Berlin has an incomparably well-connected scientific and artistic infrastructure. The thresholds between the city, the respective scenes and the different institutions are low.

Ariane Jeßulat continues to work closely with the FU Berlin and the HU Berlin. For example, through the Collaborative Research Centre 1512 "Intervening Arts" of the German Research Foundation (DFG), which combines art-related disciplines with philosophy, history, sociology and cultural anthropology. It also has scientific links with the Technische Universität Berlin through the Charlottenburg Campus and the Climate Change Center Berlin Brandenburg. And she is still active as an artist: As a member of the ensemble of the experimental music theatre "Die Maulwerker" - and as the leader of an improvisation ensemble for polyphonic vocal improvisation in the Renaissance style. "Collaborating with Berlin venues always offers great opportunities because of the joy of experimentation as well as the great respect shown to artists here. The UdK Berlin itself, with its numerous networks towards a wide variety of cultural institutions, is an excellent place to carry out interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary projects.”

Ariane Jeßulat answers the question regarding a tip for young scientists very carefully: “Each generation of researchers has its very own conditions. Right now, war, inflation, pandemic and the global situation are shaping the situation. We are facing problems and challenges that are not comparable to those of the late 20th century. What can be seen however, is that issues such as fairness, cooperation and good work are more visible today than they were back then." Her advice to young scientists is therefore to actively implement these topics also for their own working conditions and towards themselves. "Self-exploitation or trying to make one's needs invisible is most likely a dead end."

Berlin's infrastructures, however, allowed comparatively uncomplicated study and project planning that went beyond the individual institutions - starting at bachelor's and master's level. "My experience of successfully bringing together research content that initially looked disparate, both institutionally and disciplinarily, was thoroughly positive in Berlin," says Ariane Jeßulat. And she adds another plus point for the city: "The likelihood of ideas being heard is very high in Berlin!" (vdo)

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