The Circle
Identity proposal (v1)

2021 03 12


The Circle is a fluid collective of artists, makers, inventors, and designers established to facilitate interdisciplinary exchange.

We provide affordable studio space; a safe space for personal practice and access to community, tools, and new ideas.

As a collective, we develop projects like exhibitions or short film festivals, blurring the boundaries of age, genre and gender. Through this, we give visibility to people and their work in physical and digital spaces, while fostering a creative community in Aachen.

On our website we continuously share our work and process. This is our open studio, where you can see what’s going on.

To apply, fill in the form below.

We give priority to artists, designers, and students from the Aachen region that are unable to find an interdisciplinary exchange at institutions and academies.

The Abolition of Species
(D. Dath, 2007)

‘Look , there, that mass of bubbles, do you recognize it? It’s a mould fungus.’

‘Looks like a slime,’ said the dragonfly.

She was sceptical. What was this supposed to prove? Her friend gnashed her teeth, settled on a dry patch on the rock and said, ‘That’s what it is. A very special kind of slime, though. The old name was Dictyostelium discoideum. Very interesting life cycle, just watch.’ (...)

‘Mankind,’ continued the dragonfly’s best friend, ‘only discovered what you see here quite late, at the end of their dominance. They never truly understood it. Now–look here, at the close-up: this is the vegetative phase of the life cycle. Single cells. A random collection of unconnected units.’

‘They look like, I don’t know ...swarming amoebae?’

‘In a way, yes. Mankind called them Myxamoebae. They live on bacteria. As long as there’s any around, as long as that food source is available, the cells grow and reproduce. But now, have a look – we take away their microbes.’

‘Ah–hmm. Oh–ho! What’s all this then? They ...the single cells are budging together, tottering towards one another. They’re jostling ...clumping. Kneading one another.’

‘Yes. Odd, isn’t it? They are taking another form. Like a living tissue. Mankind called that Pseudoplasmodium.’

‘It moves by itself! I can’t that a new organism? Distinct?’

‘Hard to say, dearie. Single cells organizing together ...what should I call the result? If I observe, pretty soon I can see that it’s looking for food, clearly independently. A tiny little slug. It’s attracted by light and reacts to temperature differentials, to moisture...’
‘Hunts for food. Like we do.’

‘Quite right. Here, let’s speed up the process. Look, a new food source. It’s feeding. And next...’

‘Another metamorphosis! What is that now, a plant? It’s got a stem, a stalk, then a fruit up there...’

‘Spore capsule. And once the spores are dispersed, the whole cycle restarts. We can see, scattered about the place...’

‘More Myxamoebae. Fresh single cells.’

‘Right. Do you understand?’

On Group Form

Any effort in collective action necessarily brings with it the question of Group Identity. What is the role and relevance of the individual within the group? Is the group defined by its members, or do its members define themselves by association with the group? Is it the same answer for all members, or does each member have their own take? Assuming a complex and dynamic mesh of relationships within, what coherent entity can be represented to the outside, and how? This is the fundamental question of Group Form. In order to produce an agreeable answer to this question, let’s first establish some shared terminology.

Etymologically, the latin root of 'identity' is 'idem', which signifies 'same'. In the context of an individual, it refers to self-similarity (or sameness) over time, as in: the things about a person, which can be recognised consistently. We may imagine a shape that changes its outline over time, but maintains an immutable core area, or ‘gestalt’.

Examining Group Identity, the notion of consistency over time gets compounded by the question of what is 'same' – or shared – between the diverse members of the group. We could picture this as a central area of overlap, in a venn diagram with several individual circles.

This overlap can be one of shared questions, interests, values or intentions, it can be the shared wish for mutual reinforcement or augmentation (opportunism), or it can be about more literal dimensions of sameness, like ethnicity, gender, cultural or ideological orientation, to name a few. As the overall composition of the group, as well as the gestalt of its individual participants, changes over time, the area of overlap naturally oscillates to a certain extent. However, for any sense of Group Identity to prevail, a core area must also remain intact.

Following this thought, Group Fluidity (the rate of change within a group) can be understood as a counterpart to Group Identity (the degree of sameness within a group). If we operationalise this idea, we get a 'rule of fluidity': the more members there are, and the more fluid they are individually, the smaller and more generic the core area of overlap will be over time.

Understanding these specific relationships of individual, group, fluidity and identity is a requirement towards any adequate aesthetic and symbolic representation (or Visual Identity) of the group as a whole – which we could call Group Form.

When some Metabolists (a Japanese architectural avantgarde from the 60ies) first used the term 'Group Form', they were conceptualising their ideal of a 'grown city', with its various historical layers, contrasting styles, diverse material textures, and the various patterns of life that would emerge from it, as an ad-hoc assemblage. They meant this as an internal critique, in deliberate juxtaposition to the Bauhaus-based idea of the 'planned city' with its 'total aesthetics', which some Metabolists had adopted and advanced towards the 'Megastructure'. In the minds of Fumihiko Maki and Masato Otaka, the imposition of a singular framework onto life, leads to unnatural homogeneity and stagnation (if not fascism, when taken to an extreme). In contrast, the reality of the contemporary city was observed to be "amazingly heterogenous" and rapidly self-transforming.

"In Group Form, each element has an organic interdependence; incompleteness, the bugbear of of modern masterplans, does not preclude a coherent overall image. Maki writes: 'Cities, towns and villages throughout the world do not lack in rich collections of collective form. Most of them have, however, simply evolved: they have not been designed."

Project Japan: Metabolism Talks (Obrist/Koolhaas, 2011)

Conceptual Propositions

So how can we apply these thoughts on Group Form towards a Visual Identity for the Circle? For now, two main aspects feel important to us:

(1) Liquid States

Since the relationships of individual, group, fluidity and identity are generally in continuous development, and especially in the early stage that the Circle finds itself currently in, it feels adequate to not aim for resolving them in a singular and monumental form. Instead we aim for a responsive visual mechanism, that can capture and communicate the state of these evolving dynamic relationships, as an ad-hoc assemblage, at any given moment now and in the foreseeable future.

(2) Highlight Heterogeneity

'The Circle', as a visual shape and mental model, is one of the most homogenising forms available to our collective awareness. Since the group-subject, about which we want to communicate in an ideally clear and comprehensive way, is in reality a quite complex assemblage, messy-by-nature and containing multitudes, the impulse to radically simplify is understandable, but probably inappropriate. The extreme reductionism of a circular shape by itself is in many ways the opposite of Group Form. Rather than allowing for multitudes to be present (as components that shape a whole), it discards them, in favor of one shape that simply represents the idea of unity, or one-ness (ref. "e pluribus unum" / out of many, one). Since we're learning that the group in its current state is still at a very early stage of finding/defining what its unifying features and ideas would even be, the circular shape is actually hollow, containing nothing. For this reason, we feel the Visual Mechanism that we're looking for now should accomodate for the representation and highlight of the individuals that constitute the group. For it is the members that bring the energy and ideas to the group, and it is the member's exchange, from which all meaning and relevance of the Circle emerges (not the other way around).

Beyond this Circle-specific argument, representation of diversity within groups is also a general political position we'd see as obviously appropriate to our time and would recommend to embrace, ideally on a programmatic level.