Variantology has been conceived as an international research project with the aim of developing a critical appraisal of the established concepts of “media”. The concept of a medium is thus opened up to approaches and disciplines that up to now have remained outside the contemporary discourse on media, such as theology, various musicology, aspects of natural sciences, fine arts or classical philology. Furthermore it is opened up to cultures of knowledge that have long been excluded from the western discourse, like the oriental and Arabic-Islamic culture. Variantology also attempts to explore how reciprocally these disciplines then become open to thinking in categories and terms of media and communication. Consequently, the network of research that constitutes the Variantology project involves scholars based in academic institutions as well as artists, musicians and authors.
To come to a different understanding of media, a central part of research is the development of a network of scientists, artists and scholars who are engaged with the "deep time relations“ between arts, sciences, and technologies. The term "deep time relations“ refers to the notion of being a plurality of traversals through the genealogy of what we call media today. The underlying theoretical center is Michel Foucault’s concept of genealogy, which he developed from Friedrich Nietzsche’s thinking about morality as a historical- and social-generated construction. Foucault's approach in this connection was to comprehend history as a constitution of knowledge, of discourses, of objectification and so on, detached from an idea of historical subjects and previously unquestioned categories of western (Eurocentric) culture and power.
Workshops and Publications
An integral part of the project is the annual international workshop. The first three Variantology workshops were held at Academy of Media Arts Cologne, the fourth one at UdK in Berlin, and the 5th at Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III in Naples, Italy.
- 2011: Zielinski, Siegfried and Eckhard Fürlus (Editors). Variantology 5 – Neapolitan Affairs. On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies (Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Koenig). ISBN 978-3-86560-887-1
- 2010: Zielinski, Siegfried and Eckhard Fürlus (Editors). Variantology 4 – On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies in the Arabic-Islamic World and Beyond (Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Koenig). ISBN 978-3-86560-732-4
- 2008: Zielinski, Siegfried and Eckhard Fürlus (Editors). Variantology 3 – On Deep Time Relations Of Arts, Sciences and Technologies in China and Elsewhere (Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung König). ISBN 3-86560-366-1
- 2006: Zielinski, Siegfried and David Link (Editors). Variantology 2 – On Deep Time Relations Of Arts, Sciences and Technologies (Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung König). ISBN 3-86560-050-6.
- 2005: Zielinski, Siegfried and Silvia M. Wagnermaier (Editors). Variantology – On Deep Time Relations Of Arts, Sciences and Technologies (Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung König). ISBN 3-88375-914-7
- "Deep Time" is a term coined in palaeontological studies, especially by Stephen Jay Gould and John McPhee.
- Foucault, Michel. "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History.” in: Paul Rabinow (Editor). The Foucault Reader. Vintage. 1984. ISBN 0-394-71340-0
- Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals. Oxford University Press. 2009. ISBN 0-19-953708-9