In her master’s thesis, Céline Altkorn tackles a highly emotional topic: she makes conspiracy theories visible. The excellence scholarship holder in the Master Visual Communication aims to stimulate dialogue and reflection.
Lea Ingber: Your master’s thesis deals with conspiracy theories. Why are you interested in this topic?
Céline Altkorn: I find it very exciting to make something intangible and partly incomprehensible visible. The focus is on the conspiracy as a phenomenon in itself, not on the spokesmen, people involved or single theories. My main question is: How does the conspiracy affect the imagination so that it captivates people in such a way?
Conspiracy theories are complex, abstractly convoluted. How can they be represented visually?
I work on two levels. On the explanatory level, I create infographics that depict how the conspiracy operates and influences people’s imaginations. The other level is textile: I embroider the infographics on fabric.
Conspiracy theories and fabric?
It appealed to me to find a medium that at first glance does not seem plausible. In my search for a visual realization, I was guided by metaphors. What happens behind the curtain? How is a story knitted further? How do reality and fiction interweave? The theme of fabric came up again and again. This interdisciplinary approach, the breaking down of boundaries, inspires me a lot.
What do you want to provoke with your work?
The subject is generally very present in the media. But I didn’t want to condemn anyone. I wanted to encourage reflection on both sides. On the one hand, among the people who believe in the conspiracy. But on the other hand also with those who do not believe in it or are very condemning. I want to contribute to the understanding of how much this phenomenon can affect a person. My goal is to communicate at eye level.
Has your view of conspiracy theories changed through your work?
For my work, I immersed myself in a conspiracy community about aliens. I was surprised how much people are convinced of (for me) far-fetched ideas. For my work it was very fruitful, for myself partly shocking, how easily one gets into speculation spirals. It made me realize once again how much we need to reflect on and question the content we absorb in our everyday lives and consume on social media in particular.