4A Lab Seminar

Carlotta Castellani: Art meets Biology: Raoul Heinrich Francé and El Lissitzky

El Lissitzky, The Constructor (Self-Portrait), 1924, 107 x 118 mm, Gelatin silver print. London, Victoria and Albert Museum

We would like to inform our guests that this event has been canceled.


Looking for a new sense of integrated totality through a non-anthropocentric approach, between 1922 and 1925 the artist El Lissitzky (1890–1941) built his biocentric epistemology as a bridge between the laws ruling nature, human perception and functionalism. After moving from Russia to Europe in 1921, Lissitzky published several articles that reflect his quest for integration between nature, art and technology. During his stay at the hospital La Carità near Locarno in March 1924, the artist read Francé's books Die Pflanze als Erfinder and Bios: die Gesetze der Welt, while he was working on the articles Element und Erfindung ('ABC. Beiträge zum Bauen') and Nasci ('Merz'). Starting from Malevic's ideas expressed in New Systems in Art (1919), El Lissitzky developed his biocentric approach in accordance to the theory popularized by the botanist: In his earlier writings, Lissitzky refers to 'plant' and to the 'organic world' as metaphors, whereas later the study of biology leads him to an epistemological turn. The talk will cast a new light on Lissitzky's work as 'Laboratoriumsarbeit'.


Carlotta Castellani received her Ph.D. in Art History, Literature and Cultural Studies in a joint program of the Universities of Florence and Paris IV Sorbonne (2016) with a dissertation on The myth of the artist and of the work in Balzac's "Le chef d'œuvre inconnu". She is currently working on a book edited with Max Seidel on the subject. At the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, she was Wissenschaftliche Assistentin of Max Seidel (2009–2017). During her doctoral studies, she was awarded a fellowship from the Fondazione Leone Ambron Castiglioni (2014), she worked at the Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio in Florence (2016) and, since 2014, she has been responsible for the historical archive of the German artist residency Villa Romana. In 2019 she was awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Center for Italian Modern Art in New York, in a joint program with the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.


This event will be documented photographically and/or recorded on video. Please let us know if you do not agree with the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz using images in which you might be recognizable for event documentation and public relation purposes (e.g. social media).

24 March 2020, 5:00pm

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz

Villa Gontard
Stauffenbergstraße 41
10785 Berlin


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