The EcoArtLab is a transdisciplinary think-and-do-tank at the Bern Academy of the Arts (HKB), a department of the Bern University of Applied Sciences, which aims to initiate collaborations between artistic researchers, scientists, and the public. 2023-2027, the EcoArtLab, in cooperation with the mLAB at the Institute of Geography of the University of Bern, is conducting the research project 'EcoArtLab: Relational Encounters between the Arts and Climate Research'. The SNSF funded research project investigates how the intersection of artistic research, geography, and critical sustainability research can lead to new encounters and approaches that reflect on climate justice.

Relational Encounters between the Arts and Climate Research

Fridays for Future, climate crisis, net zero – the debate about climate change and ecological sustainability has moved to the center of society. The question is what options for action exist and what conditions must be in place for a societal transformation toward greater sustainability to be possible.  Climate researchers seek exchange with artists or adapt artistic processes in the course of a creative (re-)turn (Hawkins 2020, Marsten & deLeeuw 2013, Crang 2010), while artistic practice is turning to ecological themes. However, it is debated to what extent the arts can actually generate sustainable ecological effects by fueling a thematic debate without questioning structures and logics of production in the sense of a critical practice. More and more initiatives and funding bodies are also trying to bring artists together with climate researchers. 
Little is known about what new processes of knowledge generation are produced by these experimental arrangements. This practice-based research project at the Institute for Practices and Theories of the Arts at the Bern Academy of the Arts HKB investigates in cooperation with the mLAB at the Institute of Geography of the University of Bern how the interplay of expertise from artistic research, geography and critical sustainability research can be made fruitful for the climate debate. The main focus is on climate art projects that involve collaborative approaches between artists and scientists. What methodologies can be developed in the transdisciplinary collaborations to make climate change tangible as a hyperobject (Morton 2013) and to drive cultural change? The project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).
The synthesis of the three subprojects results in an overview of the current trend of climate art, which makes it possible to develop criteria for the evaluation of such works as well as to give impulses for innovative forms of transdisciplinary collaboration in dialogue with practitioners – researchers, artists and institutions.

Subproject 1:

The Future Institution: Institutional Frameworks of Climate-Art Collaborations

analyzes the institutional frameworks of climate art projects in Switzerland (cultural institutions, funding agencies, universities) and asks to what extent this creates favorable conditions for artistic production (Brüggmann 2020).

Dr. Yvonne Schmidt

Subproject 2:

Methods of Knowledge Generation in Transdisciplinary Collaborations

investigates which strategies and methodological approaches emerge in the collaborations in interaction between ecologization of artistic practices and a creative (re-)turn in human geography (Hawkins 2020).

Johanna Paschen, PhD candidate
Subproject 3:

The Imagined Audience: Whom Climate-Art Projects Reach

focuses on the target groups addressed by these climate art projects in order to develop and implement an artistic mediation concept within the framework of an artistic-scientific doctorate. Theoretically, the concept of the ‘imagined audience’ or the ‘imagined layperson’ (Guggenheim et al. 2004) is used. Who are the projects designed for and who do they actually reach?

Riikka Tauriainen, PhD candidate

Riikka Tauriainen, Ecotone Encounters, 2022, Filmstill


Panel disussion & workshop, March 2024:

«The Future of Art and Science Collaborations»

In March 2024, the EcoArtLab in collaboration with the mLAB (Institute of Geography, University of Bern) organized a panel discussion in which representatives of various Swiss funding institutions and the diverse audience discussed how exactly the future funding of collaboration in art and science and civil society can look like.

Collaborations between the arts, the sciences, and society are becoming more and more common. Artists and designers are collaborating with scientists, and science is looking for ways to integrate artistic practices. These approaches foster new ways of producing knowledge by engaging with diverse communities, in contrast to traditional science communication. Yet our understanding of their impact is limited.

Mirko Winkel, artistic collaborator of the EcoArtLab and mLAB coordinator invited Katharina Schneider-Roos, an innovation & society specialist form Pro Helvetia, Julia Schneerson, the Agora Program Manager of Swiss national Science Foundation and Katia Weibel, the deputy director of Stiftung Mercator Schweiz and Yvonne Schmidt, head of the EcoArtLab moderated the talk.

They discussed what funding schemes are needed for future collaboration between art, research and social engagement; what characterizes successful projects; what art can achieve in this context; or how researchers and artists can work together on an equal level. On a second day, artists, scientists and representatives of funding institutions were invited to a workshop to exchange knowledge and experiences and to create an open space for discussion, reflection and a better understanding of each other's perspectives. The goal was to discuss the productive, frustrating, and unusual experiences of different art-science collaborations. Under the guidance of cultural activist Martin Schick, they developed alternative ideas for collaboration, challanged them, and then formulated questions to take forward.

Pictures: Lukas Batschelet | Thubten Shontshang | Riikka Tauriainen

ProHelvetia Synergies 2024:

The project «Plankton ecosystems» led by Riikka Tauriainen, PhD researcher at the EcoArtLab, was announced as one of 11 selected Projects for ProHelvetia – Synergies 2024.

«Plankton ecosystems»

– Shaping the narrative of climate change with art and community science practices

Plankton Ecosystems is a participatory art-science programme focusing on community science technologies, collaborative art formats and experiential learning about marine ecology, plankton diversity and ocean literacy in collaboration with the European Research Institute (Turin) and Kunsthaus Pasquart (Biel). The programme is driven by a need to understand and mediate human impact on the marine ecosystem. It asks how the oceans are affected by human-induced shifts such as climate change.

By applying an artistic research-based approach, the programme will explore the intersections between art, science, and technology. It will ask how technology can enable encounters with plankton ecosystems, acting as an intermediary that enhances engagements between humans and the microscopic world of plankton. By building on a critical engagement with artistic research, Plankton Ecosystems will address the democratisation of knowledge production, considering science as a social practice, exploring justice and care, and how the accessibility of technology intersects with these considerations.

The programme will feature a study group and series of public events at the Kunsthaus Centre d’art Pasquart in Biel as well as presentations in various scientific and artistic contexts.

—> kickoff study group: May 4
—> public think tank: June 26, 19.00, Kunsthaus Centre d’art Pasquart

Picture: Riikka Tauriainen

Insights into Residency 2024:

«Den Samen der Veränderung säen»

Nora Gailer and Alisha Dutt Islam gave interesting insights into the their plans within the EcoArtLab Residency «Climate Change, Migration, In/Justice».

Read the full Article in German: HERE

Geographiewerkstatt 2024 Conference 2024:

«Co-creating knowledge in transdisciplinary art and climate science collaborations»

Three weeks ago Johanna was presenting about ‘Co-creating knowledge in transdisciplinary art and climate science collaborations: Exploring epistemic justice in applied methods and procedures’ at the Geographiewerkstatt 2024 Conference in Innsbruck, Austria. Connecting with many other early career researchers, listening about method approaches, and discussing AI in research, while having an amazing view onto the snowy mountains surrounding sunny Innsbruck was an altogether enriching experience.

The research project ‘EcoArtLab. Relational Encounters between the Arts and Climate Research’ is a project of the Institute Practices and Theories in the Arts (IPTK) at the Bern Academy of the Arts (HKB) in cooperation with the mLAB of the University of Bern, founded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). Fotos Research & Team by Riikka Tauriainen