Eco Art Lab.

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. When it comes to communicating environmental knowledge, 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). At the same time, artistic practice is turning to ecological themes. At the same time, it is debated to what extent the arts can actually generate sustainable ecological effects by fueling a thematic debate without, however, 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 University of the Arts (BFH) in cooperation with the mLAB at the Institute of Geography at the University of Bern investigates how the interplay of expertise from artistic research, geography and critical sustainability research and climatology can be made fruitful for the climate debate. It connects current discourses of Artistic Research, Ecological Arts and critical sustainability research in Geography, which have so far only been considered in isolation. What methodological approaches can be developed in the transdisciplinary collaborations to make climate change tangible as a hyperobject (Morton 2013) and to drive cultural change? The aim of the planned project is to first conduct a systematic investigation of the diverse approaches, institutional framings, and target groups of climate art projects in Switzerland. By climate art projects we mean collaborations between artists and scientists dealing with climate change and ecological sustainability. The results will be tested, researched and further developed in the EcoArtLab as an artistic-scientific experiment in collaboration with the actors. 

Three subprojects take different perspectives:

SP 1 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)

SP 2 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). (NN1 PhD student in geography, Supervision: Prof. Dr. Susan Thieme)

Within the framework of an artistic-scientific doctorate, SP 3 focuses on the target groups addressed by these climate art projects in order to develop and implement an artistic mediation concept. 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? (NN2 PhD student*in art education).

In the synthesis of the three TPs, an overview of the current trend of climate art emerges, 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. 


Project Team:

Dr. Yvonne Schmidt, Head/Principal Investigator, HKB

Mirko Winkel, MA, artistic-scientific assistant, University of Bern

N.N., PhD student* Geography

N.N., PhD student in art education, SINTA Studies in the Arts

N.N., Research Assistant

Project Advisory Board:

Prof. Dr. Susanne Thieme, Head of Unit Critical Sustainability Research, Institute of Geography, University of Bern

Prof. Dr. Juliet Fall, Professor at the Département de Géographie et Environnement, Université de Genève

Jacqueline Baum, artist, art educator

Prof. Dr. Priska Gisler, Head of the IPTK, Bern University of the Arts

Prof. Dr. Peter J. Schneemann, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art History, University of Bern

Dr. Barnaby Drabble, curator, editor of the Journal for Artistic Research (JAR).

Funding: Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)

Project duration: 1.2.2023-31.1.2027

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