Hamburg: Artists and climate researchers launch joint project


Through June, six young students from the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg (HFBK) will share in the day-to-day research work at Universität Hamburg’s Cluster of Excellence for climate research. The goal of this unusual collaboration is to discover and promote new perspectives on both climate research and the arts. At the end of the project, the results will be presented in an exhibition at the HFBK.

The artists with Friedrich von Borries (HFBK, left) and Simone Rödder (CliSAP, right).

The idea was born in exchanges between Friedrich von Borries, a Professor of Design Theory at the HFBK, and members of the research group “Understanding Science in Interaction” (USI) in Hamburg. The USI is itself part of the Cluster of Excellence CliSAP and is intended to explore how researchers from different disciplines analyze our climate and climate change. This approach is taken one step further in the current project with the addition of the arts. “It’s all about giving each other new ideas and inspirations, and about taking a critical look at those aspects of our fields we assume to be self-explanatory,” explains USI Project Director Simone Rödder.

For five months, each of the participating artists will accompany a CliSAP working group and share in its daily routine. Universität Hamburg is home to four of these research groups, another is at the Max-Planck Institute for Meteorology, and the last is at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht’s Institute of Coastal Research. During their time with the groups, the artists will attend seminars, give presentations and work on their own artistic projects.

Hagen Schümann for example wants to make storms more visible: The image generator he invented transforms data gathered by the research group “Coordination of Storm Themes” into visual output, turning temperatures, speeds and pressure gradients into works of art.His fellow artist Philip Prinz is a different story altogether: He wants to put himself on the canvas and takes trips on board the “Ludwig Prandtl,” a research ship from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, as an opportunity to paint. When the wind rises on the high seas and the waves toss the ship about, it’s barely even possible to hold your brush steady – and that’s exactly what Prinz is looking for. “I want to do something that works in enclosed spaces but can’t work outdoors,” the artist explains. In contrast, Laura Reichwald’s project is somewhat more abstract. Focusing on the concept of beauty in science, she will accompany the Theoretical Meteorology working group, exploring questions such as why mathematicians consider some solutions and proofs to be elegant or beautiful and others not to be.

Professor von Borries of the HFBK is convinced that the climate researchers profit just as much as the art students: “Artists conduct research of their own: not scientific, but artistic. When different approaches are brought together, it can provide a spark for both sides – artists and scientists – to rethink and refine their own methods and practices.” How exactly the time with the scientists will shape the artists’ work, and which new impressions and ideas the scientists will take away from their interactions with the artists, will first become apparent at the end of the project, when the synthesis of art and Hamburg-based climate research will be presented in an exhibition at the HFBK.

Visiting Artist Researchers


Markus Dressel, Outreach CliSAP/CEN
CEN - Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability Hamburg
Tel.: 040 42838 4237

Dr. Simone Rödder, Understanding Science in Interaction (USI)
CEN - Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability Hamburg

Prof. Friedrich von Borries
University of Fine Arts Hamburg