Oliver Grau

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Grau in transmediale 2010.

Oliver Grau (born 24 October 1965) is a German art historian and media theoretician with a focus on image science, modernity and media art as well as culture of the 19th century and Italian art of the Renaissance. Grau is among the most quotes scholars of the field: His monography "Virtual Art", published in several languages, became, with more than 800 published citations the most cited art history book since the year 2000 (Source H-Index).


Oliver Grau is Professor of Image Science and Head of the Department for Image Science at the Danube University Krems.

His books include:

  • Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion (MIT Press/Leonardo Books, 2003)
  • Mediale Emotionen (Fischer, 2005)
  • MediaArtHistories (MIT Press/Leonardo Books, 2007).
  • Imagery in the 21st Century. Cambridge, MA: MIT-Press 2011.

He has conducted international invited lecture tours,[1] received numerous awards,[2] and produced international publications in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Serbian, Macedonian, Slovenian, Korean, Chinese. His main research is in the history of media art, immersion (virtual reality), and emotions, as well as the history, idea and culture of telepresence and artificial life.

Immersion research[edit]

Grau's book Virtual Art, which received more than 70 reviews,[3] offered for the first time a historic comparison in image-viewer theory of immersion as well as a systematic analysis of the triad of artist, work and viewer on conditions of digital art. The research is linked to the novel model of an evolutionary history of illusionistic which results on the one hand from a relative dependence on new sensual potentials of suggestion and on the other hand from the variable strength of alienation of the viewer (media competence)(Grau 2000).

Using an interdisciplinary approach Grau also analysed methods which elicit or heighten the impression of immersion in digital image spaces for the viewer. He found that this is primarily induced by interaction; reaction of the images in real-time to the viewer’s movements (Grau 1999–2007), the utilisation of evolutionary image processes — for example, genetic algorithms — (Grau 1997 and 2001), haptic feedback, the natural design of the interface (Grau 2002), the impression of telematic presence (Grau 2000), and particularly the dimensions and design of the image display, which must fill the viewer’s field of vision completely and extend up to 360° both horizontally and vertically (Grau 2001 and 2003). These studies sought to transcend customary single media approaches in research on perceptual illusions and to introduce concepts such as polysensuality, suggestive potential, image space, disposition of the individual observer, and evolution of the visual media as well as to expand the theoretical work on distance by Ernst Cassirer and Erwin Panofsky, amongst others. In addition Grau undertook studies of innovative linkages of architecture and immersive moving images (Grau 2003,etc.), as well as of immersion in the history of film (Grau 2006 and 2007). The majority of these publications resulted from two research projects of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG — German Research Foundation): Art History and Media Theories of Virtual Reality, 1998–2002, and Immersive Art, 2002–2005.

Emotion research[edit]

Several research projects conducted at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the German Academyof Sciences Leopoldina and two summer academies supported by the Volkswagen Foundation gave rise to an interdisciplinary study on the history of managing feelings through images and sound (Grau 2005). Building on the work of Antonio Damasio, Joseph LeDoux, and Wolf Singer, and using the examples of Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheimer Altarpiece, Leni Riefenstahl’s film Triumph of the Will, and the computer game “America’s Army”, it was demonstrated how emotional experiences with images can forge a sense of community; in this way a contribution was made to research on a problematic key concept of image science.

Media Art Histories and Image Science[edit]

Since 2002 Grau has initiated interdisciplinary meetings and world conferences of scholars working on media art and its history (cf. Grau 2007); the first conference on the history of media art was held in Banff, Canada, in 2005. Further conferences were organised in Berlin (2007), Melbourne (2009), Liverpool (2011), Riga (2013) the series continues with a conference in Montreal in 2015. His volume "Imagery in the 21st Century", MIT-Press 2011 expanded the context of Image Science.

Tools for image science[edit]

Grau conceived new scientific tools for image science and directed the project "Immersive Art" of the German Research Foundation (DFG) developing the first international Archive for Digital Art (ADA, since 1999), which is being continued at the Danube University Krems as an open source project. ADA is the first online archive that, since 2000, has regularly streamed video documentations. Since 2005 Grau also manages the database of the Graphic Art Collection of Göttweig Abbey, the largest private graphic collection in Austria, which contains over 30,000 works, from Albrecht Dürer to Gustav Klimt, and is accessible online since 2007.

Grau has conceived new scientific tools for the humanities/digital humanities, he managed the project "Immersive Art" of The German Research Foundation (DFG) whose team started developing in 1998 the first international archive for digital art[4] written on an open source platform at the Danube-University Krems and has since been followed up by a number of spin-off projects. Since 2000 the DVA was the first online archive to regularly stream video documentations. Since 2005 Grau is head of the database of Goettweigs Graphic Collection, Austria's largest private graphic collection that contains 30,000 works, ranging from Albrecht Dürer to Gustav Klimt.


For image science Grau has developed international curricula: the MA programme MediaArtHistory, the academic experts programmes Digital Collections Management and Exhibition Design, Visual Competence certified Program, and the MA programmes Image Science and Crossmedia. In addition, the Danube Telelectures has introduced a new interactive format for lectures and debates which is streamed internationally.

Grau developed new international curricula for image sciences: MediaArtHistories MA, academic expert programmes in Digital Collection Management and Exhibit Design, Visual Competencies and the masters course in Image Science.[5] Moreover with the Danube Telelectures a new interactive format of lectures and debates came into being that is streamed worldwide.

After his studies in Hamburg, Siena and Berlin and his doctoral work, Grau lectured at the Humboldt University Berlin, was a guest researcher in several research labs in Japan and USA and following his post doctoral lecture qualification (habilitation) in 2003, he worked as professor at different international universities. He has acted as adviser for international professional journals and different associations. Grau manages different conferences.[6] Since 2002 Grau tried to bring together the research on media art and its history which is dispersed over many fields and therefore was founding director of Refresh! First International Conference on the History of Media Art, Science and Technology, Banff 2005 (2007 Berlin, 2009 Melbourne, 2011 Liverpool, 2013 Riga, 2015 Montreal)). O. Grau: MediaArtHistories, MIT-Press 2007 and the online text archive mediaarthistory.org result from the world conference series.

Awards and distinctions[edit]

Awards among other things: 2001 voted into Young Academy of the Berlin-Brandenburgischen Scientific Academy and the Leopoldina; 2002 InterNations/Goethe Institute; 2003 Book of the Month, Scientific American; 2003 Research Scholarship from the German-Italian Center Villa Vigoni; 2004 Media Award of the Humboldt University Society.

Published databases[edit]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Oliver Grau (Ed.): Imagery in the 21st Century. MIT-Press, Cambridge 2011. With contributions by James Elkins, Eduardo Kac, Peter Weibel, Lev Manovich, Olaf Breitbach, Martin Kemp, Sean Cubitt, Christa Sommerer, Marie Luise Angerer, Wendy Chun a.o.
  • Oliver Grau (Ed.): Истории на медиумската уметност (Media Art Histories, Macedonian Translation), Генекс, Кочани, 2009
  • Oliver Grau: Lembrem a Fantasmagoria! Política da Ilusão do Século XVIII e sua vida após a morte Multimídia, In: Diana Domingues: Arte, Ciência e Tecnologia (Media Art Histories, Portuguese Translation), São Paulo, Editora Unesp: 2009
  • Oliver Grau (Ed.): Virtuelna umetnost, (Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion, Serbian Translation), Beograd: Clio, 2008
  • Oliver Grau: Media art needs Histories and Archives (Korean Translation), In: The 5th Seoul international Media Art Biennale, conference proceedings, Seoul: 2008
  • Oliver Grau: Intermedijske etap navidezne resni`cnosti v 20. stoletju: Umetnost kot navdih evolucije medijev (Intermedia Stages of Virtual Reality in the Twentieth Century: Art as Inspiration of Evolving Media, Slovenian Translation), In: Mojca Zlokarnik: Likovne Besede, Ljubljana, Janus: 2008
  • Oliver Grau (Ed.): Media Art Histories, MIT Press/Leonardo Books, 2007.
  • Oliver Grau (Ed.): Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion, (Chinese Translation), Tsinghua University Press 2006
  • Oliver Grau (Ed. a.o.): Mediale Emotionen. Zur Lenkung von Gefühlen durch Bild und Sound Fischer, Frankfurt/Main 2005.
  • Oliver Grau: Arte Virtual. Da Ilusào à imersào (Virtual Art, Portuguese Translation), São Paulo, Editora Unesp: 2005
  • Oliver Grau: Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion, MIT Press/Leonardo Books, 2003.
  • Oliver Grau: The Database of Virtual Art: For an expanded concept of documentation, in: ICHIM, Ecole du Louvre, Ministere de la Culture et de la Communication, Proceedings, Paris 2003, S. 2-15.
  • Oliver Grau: Telepräsenz: Zu Genealogie und Epistemologie von Interaktion und Simulation, in: Peter Gendolla u.a. (Hg.): Formen interaktiver Medienkunst. Geschichte, Tendenzen, Utopien, Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp 2001, S. 39-63.
  • Oliver Grau: Zwischen Bildsuggestion und Distanzgewinn, in: Klaus Sachs-Hombach und Klaus Rehkamper (Ed.): Vom Realismus der Bilder: Interdisziplinare Forschungen zur Semantik bildlicher Darstellungsformen, Magdeburg: Scriptum-Verl. 2000, S. 213-227.
  • Oliver Grau: New Images from Life, in: Ryszard Kluszczińsky (Hg.): Art Inquiry. Recherches sur les Arts, Volume II (XI), Lodž 2000, S. 7-25.
  • Oliver Grau: Hingabe an das Nichts: Der Cyberspace zwischen Utopie, Ökonomie und Kunst in: Medien. Kunst.Passagen, Nr. 4, 1994, p. 17-30.

Boardmember of scientific journals and institutions[edit]

  • International Journal of Art and Technology, United Kingdom
  • EKFRASE: Nordisk Tidsskrift for Visuell Kultur, Norway
  • International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics, United Kingdom
  • IMAGES, Journal for Visual Studies in Southeast Europe
  • IJArt Journal, United Kingdom
  • JUNCTURES The Journal for Thematic Dialogue, New Zealand
  • Jordan Journal of the Arts
  • SECOND NATURE: International Journal of Creative Media, Australia
  • Interdisciplinary Research Center Humanities/Art/Technology, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland


  1. ^ Among others:
    • Denmark, Aarhus, University of Aarhus, 16.-17.09.2010, invited lecture
    • China, Hong Kong City University, School for Creative Media, Renewing Knowledge Structures For Digital
    • Humanities, 11.8.2010, Invited Lecture
    • Great Britain, London, EVA, British Computer Society, Covent Garden, 05.-07.07.2010, Keynote
    • Russia, Moskau, Museum Garage, Center for Contemporary Culture, , 23.05.2010, invited lecture
    • London: University of Westminster, Visual Culture Studies in Europe, 05.02.2010, Keynote
    • Colombia, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Escuela de Artes Plásticas, Bogota, Internationale Conference, INTERMEDIOS - SOCIEDAD Y TRANSPARENCIA, 09.-11.09.2009, Keynote
  2. ^ Awards among other things:
    • 2001 voted into Young Academy of the Berlin-Brandenburgischen Scientific
    • Academy and the Leopoldina
    • 2002 InterNations/Goethe Institute
    • 2003 Book of the Month, Scientific American
    • 2003 Research Scholarship from the German-Italian Center Villa Vigoni;
    • 2004 Media Award of the Humboldt University
  3. ^ http://www.donau-uni.ac.at/imperia/md/content/studium/kultur/zbw/rezensionen_virtual_art.pdf
  4. ^ Database of Virtual Art, Austria.
  5. ^ Department for Image Science: http://www.donau-uni.ac.at/de/department/bildwissenschaft/index.php
  6. ^ * First International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology: http://www.mediaarthistory.org/refresh/index.html

External links[edit]