School of machines, making & make–believe

How can we use immersive speculative prototyping to construct alternative visions for emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence in times of political uncertainty and shifting climates?

  • / 31. July - 25. August 2017

  • / four weeks, full-time in Berlin, Germany

  • / 10-15 participants accepted

  • / Based in ACUD MACHT NEU


Course Description

This course will use live-action role playing (LARPing) techniques, transforming them into prototyping tools for artists and designers that are as performative as they are productive, catering to a wide range of interests.

We will learn how to conceive and actualize future scenarios through a looped process of simulation and speculative prototyping, turning them into valuable tools that will allow us to investigate, experiment, and develop provocative ideas for engaging complex social, ecological, technological and ethical issues.

Participants will learn how to conceive and actualize future scenarios, while gaining an understanding of fabrication processes in order to create objects to enhance the believability of our created world.

Key parts of the curriculum will be an introduction to live-action methods such as progressive LARPing by an experienced game-writer, an introduction to speculative design methods, a field-trip to a simulation site, lectures by researchers, rapid fabrication techniques and weekly readings.

Together, this will allow us to conceptualize, and prototype alternatives in a live-action setting with the ultimate goal of produce and document a range of concrete design proposals, both technological and not. The final result will be a series of gestures in a joint scenario which at the end of the workshop will be shared and discussed in an exhibition and immersive experience.


  • Early fee until 1. July*
    €1250 (artists/students/freelancers)
    €1450 (professionals)

  • Regular Fee*
    €1350 (artists/students/freelancers)
    €1550 (professionals)

  • *Includes materials, use of space and professional mentorship

After taking this course, you'll walk away with skills in

- Essential futures studies principles, learning to identify signals, extrapolate arcs, and to develop inspiring and provocative artifacts.
- Ability to craft situations, script characters and practice improv as a valuable tool to evaluate complex socio-technological hypothetical worlds through life-sized environments and prototypes.
- Interdisciplinary and collaborative engagements
- Practicing improv as a valuable tool for embodied brainstorming
- Crafting Situations
- Scripting Characters
- Introduction to essential futures studies tools
- Strategies for rapid product prototyping
- Digital fabrication intensive
- Show production
- Documentation and Presentation
- Critical Analysis

Course Outline

Week 1:
- Interdisciplinary and collaborative engagements
- Practicing improv as a tool for embodied brainstorming
- Crafting Situations
- Scripting Characters

Week 2:
- Introduction to Speculative Design
- Introduction Futures Studies Tools

Week 3:
- Strategies for Rapid product prototyping
- Design Fiction through live-action role play as a design tool
- Product development through re-appropriation techniques

Week 4:
- Show production
- Documentation and Presentation
- Exhibition

Who is this program for?

- Designers
- Artists
- People working in Public Service
- Architects
- Urban Planners
- Systems Engineers
- Game Designers
- Writers

Highlights from instructors previous work

Situated Sampling Sets Situated Sampling Sets is a highly site-specific series of works by Chris Woebken and Sascha Pohflepp which show the results of unique computer simulations. Within the depicted scene, an assembly of objects at first appears random, yet each item relates to a practice of measuring, surveying, documenting.

Elsewheres Elsewheres is the attempt to create a lens into alternate universes in which computer simulation becomes a medium for creating a site-specific, procedural installation that is changing over the course of the exhibition. Work is by Sascha Pohflepp and Chris Woebken.

The House in the Sky The House in the Sky is an installation of anaglyph stereoscopic projections by Sascha Pohflepp and Chris Woebken that re-create the mid-century Los Angeles home of think-tank strategists Alfred and Roberta Wohlstetter. There—at the height of the Cold War—possible futures were presumably discussed along with the end of the world. Modeled on photographs of the residence taken by Julius Shulman and Leonard McCombe, the videos re-stage these interdisciplinary meetings, aiming to investigate relationships between architecture and critical inquiry, technological acceleration, and our place within history.

The Society for Speculative Rocketry, Chris Woebken & Sascha Pohflepp, 2014 - Eyebeam, NYC

Alternative Unknowns, Extrapolation Factory, 2015 - Apexart, NYC (in partnership with NYC Emergency Management Department)



  • Chris Woebken /

    Chris Woebken is an artist, curator and educator living and working in New York. Chris holds an MA in Design Interactions from the Royal College of Art in London and has been a visiting scholar at NYU’s Environmental Health Clinic.

    Chris’s work was awarded the Core77 Design Award in 2013’s Speculative Design category and in 2015 got nominated for the Design Museum’s Designs of the Year award. Recent residencies include the Walker Art Center, Pioneer Works, Eyebeam and the Headlands Center for the Arts. Notable exhibitions include 'Future Fictions' at Z33 in Hasselt, 'Talk to me' and 'Design and the Elastic Mind' at MoMA and 'The Prehistory of the Image' at STUK Kunstencentrum Leuven.

    Chris is co-founder of The Extrapolation Factory, a studio developing experimental methods for collaboratively prototyping, experiencing and impacting future scenarios. The studio runs design futures-oriented workshops around the world, including events in Russia, Belgium, the UK, Mexico, and Canada, as well as numerous events throughout the US.

  • Sascha Pohflepp /

    Sascha Pohflepp is an artist and researcher based between Berlin and southern California where he teaches and studies at UC San Diego. Notable exhibitions include Talk To Me at MoMA New York, Hyperlinks at the Art Institute of Chicago, Micro Impact at the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum Rotterdam, Pre-History of the Image at STUK Kunstencentrum Leuven, Åzone Futures Market at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York and The House in the Sky at Pioneer Works, Brooklyn.

    Scholarships and residencies include an EPSRC grant in 2011, residencies in the NSF-funded Synthetic Aesthetics project, at Art Center College Pasadena in 2010, an honorary residency at Eyebeam, New York City in 2014 and a fellowship at Rotterdam's Het Nieuwe Instituut. His essay on living machines forms part of the volume Synthetic Aesthetics, published on MIT Press in 2013. Since 2016 he has been part of the Center for Academic Research & Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA). Sascha's work has earned two Honorary Mentions from the VIDA Art and Artificial Life Awards and in June 2015 was shortlisted for the Berlin Art Prize.

  • Program Guest Speaker

  • Susan Ploetz /

    Susan Ploetz (USA/DE) is an artist/performer, somatics practitioner and larp designer. Her works combine text, movement, song+music, appropriation, story, visuals, objects, technology, choreography, somatics, dramaturgy and thaumaturgy that lie somewhere between intervention, collage, theater, game, and guided group experience.

    Susan has presented her work at such venues as Sophiensalle, ABC Art Fair, Portland Time Based Arts festival, Performa, and dOCUMENTA 13. Her performance and somatic practice led her the Nordic Larp Scene. She attended the prestigious Larpwriter Summer School and her larps have or will be run at the Minsk Larp festival, Vilnius Larp festival, and Minibar project space in Stockholm.