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


Residency | EcoArtLab mLAB HELVETAS Ballenberg:

update on:
«Dialogue as a means to understanding and empathy»

The residency, organized by EcoArtLab and mLAB in collaboration with HELVETAS and Ballenberg, is in full motion.

With "Dialogue as a means to understanding and empathy", Alisha Dutt Islam, Nora Gailer and Christa Hermann want to explore intergenerational dialog as a tool for empathy, change and resistance. To this end, they conduct conversations during their field trips to Lake Toma, Obersaxen and the Ganges Delta. The residents therefore bring together two geographical points that are affected differently by climate change:
The Swiss Alps, Europe's freshwater reservoir, whose rivers reach the North Sea, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea - threatened by melting glaciers and drought. And the Sundarbans in the Ganges Delta, the largest mangrove forests in the world - threatened by recurring cyclones and flooding. In this way, the residents weave a fascinating web of generational knwoledge and places from the perspectives of the beginning and the end of a river.

In August, this web will be slowly embedded into the themed trail "on the move across the world" at the Ballenberg Open-Air Museum using soil as an entity of common ground. The installation will take shape at the dwelling of Matten before becoming part of the exhibition as from September 7. Stay tuned for further Updates! 

Immages: Terravibe

Fachveranstaltung | Berner Fachhochschule & Kornhausforum:

«Wie wird die Schweiz klimaneutral?»

Yvonne Schmidt, Leiterin des EcoArtLabs wurde von der Kooperationsveranstaltung zwischen der Berner Fachhochschule und dem Kornhausforum eingeladen, um über klimaorientierte Kollaborationen zwischen den Künsten und der Gesellschaft zu sprechen.

Die Klimadebatte hat in der Schweiz durch die gesetzliche Verankerung des «Netto-Null-Ziels 2050» an Dynamik gewonnen. Wie aber will die Schweiz zu diesem Ziel gelangen? Wer kann welchen Beitrag leisten, wer trifft die massgeblichen Entscheidungen, wer setzt die notwendigen Prioritäten?

Die Fachveranstaltung befragt den Leiter des Direktionsbereichs Klima des Bundesamts für Umwelt, der in der Bundesverwaltung für die Gestaltung und Umsetzung der Klimapolitik verantwortlich ist, und bringen ihn mit einer Nationalrätin und einer Klima-Aktivistin ins Gespräch. Zudem erhalten wir Einblick in Forschungsprojekte, die neue Wege zu klimaneutralem Bauen aufzeigen und danach fragen, wie klimaorientierte Kollaborationen zwischen den Künsten und der Gesellschaft aussehen.

Reto Burkard (Vizedirektor und Leiter Direktionsbereich Klima, Bundesamt für Umwelt)
Nadine Masshardt (Nationalrätin SP, Stiftungsratspräsidentin Schweizerische Energie-Stiftung)
Alexandra Gavilano (Umweltwissenschaftlerin und Umweltgerechtigkeitsaktivistin)
Manuel Fischer (Leiter Themenfeld Nachhaltige Entwicklung, Berner Fachhochschule)
Gianna Molinari (Schriftstellerin und Dozentin Literarisches Schreiben, Berner Fachhochschule)
Yvonne Schmidt (Leiterin EcoArtLab, Berner Fachhochschule)
Heiko Thömen (Dozent für Holzwerkstofftechnologie, Berner Fachhochschule)

Corina Caduff (Vizerektorin Forschung BFH)
Nicolas Kerksieck (Direktor Kornhausforum)

19. September 2024
18.00 – 19:30 Uhr


Kornhausplatz 18; 3011 Bern

Infos zur Zugänglichkeit: HIER

Toolbox | Y Institute HKB:

«Relational Encounters II: Migration - Climate - In/Justice»

Based on the cooperation between the EcoArtLab, the Open-Air Museum Ballenberg, Helvetas and the mLAB of the Institute of Geography at the University of Bern, another toolbox took place at the Y Institute of the HKB from April 15-19.

The toolbox offered students the opportunity to critically examine the topic of "Migration - Climate - In/Justice".
The focus was on the process of transdisciplinary exchange between HKB students and students from the Institute of Geography at the University of Bern.

Following inputs from Yvonne Schmidt (EcoArtLab), Johanna Paschen (EcoArtLab), Christina Aebischer (Helvetas) and exciting insights into the ongoing Residency "Dialogue as a means to understanding and empathy" by Alisha Dutt Islam and Nora Gailer, as well as a field research as part of an excursion to the Ballenberg for the opening of this year's themed trail "on the move across the world", students were able to develop their own project ideas.

Thus, in this short time, a sound video performance on ‘Slow Violence’; a mediation project on the topics of migration/home/identity; an illustration based on mushrooms/mycelium, which takes up both communication and the complexity of the topics; a critical examination of greenwashing and a game with borders was created and were presented and discussed at the end of the toolbox.

Concept Toolbox: Yvonne Schmidt & Anna Van der Ploeg (Helvetas)
Guided Tour through the themed trail: Nadja Buser (Co-Kuratorin, Helvetas), Barla Pelican (Helvetas) & Anna Van der Ploeg

Pictures: Thubten Shontshang; Mirko Winkel; Yvonne Schmidt

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 



Climate Change,
Migration, In/Justice

The EcoArtLab at Bern Academy of the Arts – in close partnership with the mLAB at the University of Bern – invites for 2024 applications for a residency that addresses the nexus of climate change, environmental change, in/justice, and migration.

The residency takes place in partnership with the development organization Helvetas, which is developing a theme trail with exhibition stations together with the Open-Air Museum Ballenberg in 2024. The results of the residency will be incorporated into the theme trail.

We are looking for an existing or new interdisciplinary team of two people from the fields of art, science and/or activism. The stipend is CHF 12,000 plus production budget. However, since only travel expenses within Switzerland can be covered, residence in Switzerland is recommended.


Application deadline: November 26, 2023

Klimawandel, Migration,

Das EcoArtLab der Hochschule der Künste Bern schreibt in Zusammenarbeit mit dem mLAB der Universität Bern schreibt für 2024 eine Residency aus, die sich mit dem Zusammenhang von Klimawandel, Umweltveränderungen, Un/Gerechtigkeit und Migration beschäftigt.

Die Residency findet in Partnerschaft mit der Entwicklungsorganisation Helvetas statt, die zusammen mit dem Freilichtmuseum Ballenberg im Jahr 2024 einen Themenweg mit Ausstellungsstationen entwickelt. Die Ergebnisse der Residency werden in den Themenweg einfliessen.

Wir suchen ein bestehendes oder neues interdisziplinäres Team aus zwei Personen aus den Bereichen Kunst, Wissenschaft und/oder Aktivismus. Das Honorar beträgt CHF 12.000 plus Produktionsgeld. Da jedoch nur Reisekosten innerhalb der Schweiz übernommen werden können, wird ein Wohnsitz in der Schweiz empfohlen.


Bewerbungsschluss: 26. November 2023

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