Principal investigator and co-applicants

Ondřej Váša (principal investigator) is an assistant professor at the Faculty of Humanities of Charles University in Prague (Department of Theory of Art and Artworks). He has long focused on the interdisciplinary intertwining of philosophy, science, technology and art. In the past, Ondřej Váša used the interdisciplinary approach in analyzing various art–historical subjects (the subjectless landscapes of Hercules Seghers, the idea of objecthood in American minimalism, Hegher’s misreading of Lomazzo, geological context of Václav Rabas’ landscapes…). Based on his thorough studies of Aby Warburg’s archive material in Warburg Institute in London, he published several essays on the natural–scientific and technological influences on Aby Warburg’s and Jacob Burckhard’s methodology. The book on the subjects of the rise and fall in Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas (based on the dissertation on the same topic) is currently in print. Following his work on Warburg, Váša has published several philosophically oriented studies and books interpreting the anxious background of contemporary astronomic imagery, the transhumanist consequences of aviatic metaphors or the unforeseen consequences of the employment of specific philosophical ideas in contemporary architecture. Besides his academic work, Ondřej Váša regularly publishes contemporary art reviews and popularizing articles on or in the culture magazine UNI.

Václav Janoščík (co-applicant) is an assistant professor at the Academy of Fine Arts (AVU) and lecturer at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague (UMPRUM). He gives lectures in contemporary art & media theory and is also a renowned curator. In his research, he focuses on political ecology, philosophy of technology and media, democratization of contemporary art and thought, and gaming. In relation to the project, he edited and co-edited numerous collective monographs on problems of contemporary thought, ranging from new materialism, speculative realism, through acceleration, future studies, to contemporary art and media theory (Objekt [Object], 2015; Reinventing Horizons, 2016; Mysl v terénu: Realismus v 21. století [Mind in Terrain: Realism in the 21st century], 2018; Návrat do budoucnosti [Back to the Future], 2019; Speculative Ruinology: Interpretation as a Mode of Survival, 2020). He authored the books Nonsleeping (2018), providing an affective account of social acceleration or abstraction, and Straining the Contemporary, Detective Search for A Shared World (2020), trying to reinterpret and “weaponize” pop-culture. The other two books from the “pop-philosophical” trilogy, concerned with dystopian narration in connection with (post)capitalism, and superhero or (post)club culture in connection to agency and happiness, are about to be published in 2021. He has curated numerous exhibitions in Prague, Moscow, Brussels, Reykjavik, Berlin or Düsseldorf, always focusing on social and political ramifications of art. Václav Janoščík is essential to the team not only for his curating experience, enabling us to organize a comprehensive group exhibition organically connected to the project; he is also the team’s contemporary art theorist and an expert in the newest trends in art-related philosophy.

Tomáš Kobes (co-applicant) is an assistant professor at the University of West Bohemia and an occasional lecturer at Palacký University Olomouc, Comenius University in Bratislava and Oslo Metropolitan University. In relation to the project, he was a member of the research team focusing on the building of religious memory with special emphasis on materiality and non-human agency (2014–2016). Based on his fieldwork, he has published three monographs and several peer reviewed articles. His main areas of interest are: kinship and social relations, development, social exclusion, the role of material objects in building social relationships, identity, generally: critical discourse analysis, actor–network theory and ontological turn in social anthropology. Tomáš Kobes is the team’s (social) anthropologist, thus an expert in a discipline that is essential for analyzing the social-related origins and aspects of the phenomenon of the “inhuman focal images”. He is also an expert in the Latourian theory, the employment of which is another necessary component of the project.

Team members

Martin Charvát is an assistant professor and head of the Centre for Media Culture Studies at Metropolitan University in Prague. He specializes in art theory, contemporary TV production, semiotics, philosophy of media and analysis of techno-imagination. He has published more than thirty articles in various peer-reviewed journals (International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, Mediální studia, Filozofia, Česká literatura, Svět literatury etc.) and collective monographs, co-edited and co-authored six monographs on media theory and media history and published five monographs in contemporary philosophy and media theory. In relation to the project, let us mention especially the books True Detective: World Where Nothing is Solved (True Detective: Svět, ve kterém se nic nevyřeší, 2019), About New Media, Modularity and Simulation (O nových médiích, modularitě a simulaci, 2017), Cyberphotography: Unlucid Medium and Technological Realism (Kyberfotografie: Neprůzračné médium a technologický realismus, 2019, with M. Fišerová), or Gilles Deleuze on Literature: Between Art, Animality and Politics (Gilles Deleuze o literatuře: Mezi uměním, animalitou a politikou, 2018; with M. Fišerová and G. Lambert). Martin Charvát is the team’s media theorist, which, naturally, is a discipline indispensable for the project, due to the character of contemporary art and its contemporary media context. Since Martin Charvát specializes in contemporary art & art theory as well, the range of his interdisciplinary expert knowledge will be an invaluable contribution to the project as well.

Jakub Chavalka is an assistant professor at the Faculty of Humanities of Charles University in Prague (Department of Philosophy), where he is Head of the Department of Philosophical Anthropology Specialization. He specializes in 19th century philosophy with a focus on Friedrich Nietzsche. Out of the numerous articles and monographs he has authored or edited, let us emphasize the book The History and Self-Creation. Jacob Burckhardt as Nietzsche’s Model Reader (Dějiny a sebetvorba. Jacob Burckhardt jako Nietzschův modelový čtenář, 2019), the essay Intuition and Imagination in Kant (Intuice a obrazotvornost u Kanta, in: Intuition and Imagination in Philosophy and Science/Intuícia a imaginácia vo filozofii a vede, 2019) and the special English issue of The Philosophical Journal (Filosofický časopis) “The Spectres of Selfhood. Individualism in Czechoslovak Philosophy 1918–1948”, which he edited (to be published in 2021). Jakub Chavalka is the team’s philosopher, who is essential for the project for providing a complex philosophical exposition of the origins (and thus also of the survival) of cruelty as one of the key elements in the development of specifically (post)modern subjectivity. Such exposition is necessary for understanding the genealogy of the “inhuman focal images”. Last but not least, Jakub Chavalka will balance the prevalent contemporary focus of the team with the “classical” philosophical background, indispensable for understanding the roots of the contemporary phenomenon in the proper perspective.

Jakub Marek is an assistant professor and the department chair of the Department of Philosophy at the Faculty of Humanities of Charles University in Prague and a member of various academic societies, advisory boards and commissions (Hong Kierkegaard Library International Advisory Board, The Søren Kierkegaard Society, American Comparative Literature Association, Charles University Research in Ethics Commission, vice-chair of the Charles University Grant Agency Supervisory Board, Program Coordinator of the Flagship 1 activities of the university alliance 4EU+). In his research, he focuses on philosophical anthropology, modern continental philosophy and moral philosophy. Jakub Marek has authored two books and published over thirty publications with a focus on Søren Kierkegaard (e.g. in Kierkegaard Research: Sources, Reception and Resources or Kierkegaard and Issues in Contemporary Ethics). Related to the project is especially his book Leporello: On Mortality, Work and the Unnaturalness of Man (Leporello: Smrtelnost, práce a nepřirozenost člověka, 2016), a philosophical–anthropological interpretation of the idea of unnaturalness of man in the European cultural tradition. Jakub Marek is the team’s philosophical anthropologist. He is essential for the project for both his current complex research on contemporary conditio humana in the context of post-history and the commodification of anxiety, which is another key aspect of the “focal images” in question, and for his interdisciplinary approach grounded in philosophical anthropology that allows him to interpret pop-cultural phenomena without losing their humanist roots and consequences from sight.

Martin Švantner is an assistant professor at the Faculty of Humanities of the Charles University in Prague (Department of Electronic Culture and Semiotics) and a lecturer at the West Bohemian University in Pilsen (Department of Sociology). He was also a visiting lecturer at the Metropolitan University of Oslo, at the University of Bologna and at Centro Internazionale di Studi Umanistici „Umberto Eco“. His general interest is focused on semiotics, cognitive semiotics, social semiotics, history of semiotics, history of rhetoric, social philosophy, theory of argumentation and critical theory. He is a member of The International Association for Semiotic Studies, Semiotic Society of America and Central European Pragmatist Forum. He is also a member of the scientific committee of The International Association for Cognitive Semiotics and a member of the editorial board of The American Journal of Semiotics. He published about thirty publications in these fields (Semiotica; The American Journal of Semiotics; European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy; Filozofia etc.). One of his latest publications is a co-edited volume on Peirce’s theory of sign (How to Make our Signs Clear, Leiden: Brill, 2018) and a chapter is being prepared for a compendium to semiotics (ed. by J. Pelkey, Bloomsbury 2022). Martin Švantner is the team’s semiotician. As a distinguished expert in this field, he will be essential for analyzing the operational strategies and manipulations of the “focal images” that are discernible only in the semiotic perspective.