Artist Residency Debate + live Q&A | Video by Crossmark | 54:49 mins

Artist Residency Debate key summary:

  • Artists should be included in the conversation around climate technologies.

  • Science needs art to more easily communicate facts and data to a broader public.

  • Art can trigger meaningful experiences that lead to cultural and social change.


The Artist Residency Debate (54:49 mins) is moderated by Nicholas Henchoz, the director of the EPFL+ECAL Lab and ongoing partner of the Summit, featuring:

03:03 – Danielle Siembieda, creative director at Leonardo/the International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology
11:20 – Kasia Molga, multidisciplinary artist

20:06 – Ralph Dum, founder of STARTS - Innovation at the nexus of Science Technology and the Arts

29:32 – Panel discussion

47:37 – Live Q&A

The panellists discussed how artist residencies can be a powerful way to connect art with science and innovation. Science is fundamental in advancing human knowledge, but in order for people to change values and perspectives towards complex issues such as climate change, art is needed as it can be “a missing link between different ways of thinking.” Scientific inquiry needs to consider the cultural landscape which drives our thoughts and behaviours. A question posed by Nicolas Henchoz was at the centre of the debate: “how to turn scientific results into something which is meaningful in our daily life?” 

Artists as well as indigenous populations should be included in the conversation around climate technologies and should be implementing these new innovative models in their work.

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Cover of magazine Leonardo, Volume 54, issue 3, June 2021.

On the cover: Mutator VR (© William Latham, 2018)

Leonardo/the International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology (Leonardo/ISAST) is a non-profit global think tank exploring critical themes at the intersection of art, sciences, and technology. Danielle Siembieda, its creative director, discussed how climate and environmental technologies are rapidly evolving all over the world, although there are only few artists and indigenous people being involved in those conversations. She mentioned one of her projects Art Inspector, which has a goal to transform the way the art community works by encouraging artists to reflect on materials and processes they use to create their works. She believes artists should be given access to new green technologies that are introduced to the market, providing opportunities to experiment with them and to implement new models. If the art world starts using green technologies and sustainable practices,

then this transformation will also happen in other parts of society. Therefore, she urges artists to take on the role of provocateurs and ‘trend makers’ when it comes to ecological innovations.

Science needs art to more easily communicate facts and data to a broader public, in order to positively influence common values and perspectives on an individual and social level.

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Kasia Molga, By the Code of Soil, 2018-2019

In her work, multidisciplinary artist Kasia Molga questions the impact of technology on the natural environment and its role in our relation to ‘non-human makers’. She also discusses her participation in the STARTS Residency Programme through which she worked with The GROW Observatory, a citizens’ observatory that has empowered people and whole communities to take action on soils and

climate across Europe. The project engaged thousands of growers and scientists with the objective of discovering how to better manage soil and grow food in a sustainable way. Kasia produced an artwork entitled By the Code of Soil, an application for personal computers which creates an artistic interpretation of soil moisture, temperature and light data from the cluster of GROW sensors. The audio and video quality depend on the conditions of the soil. This way, the artwork aims to make scientific data easier for people to understand while inviting us to consider nature and soil not as resources to be exploited, but as contributors to our own wellbeing as well as Earth's. Danielle expands on the relationship between art and science, by pointing out that a process of facilitation between these two worlds is needed, because there are many similarities and connections. Kasia agrees and states that in fact she doesn’t consider herself an artist, but a facilitator who enables other people from different disciplines to co-create a new narrative together with her.

Art can trigger experiences that lead to social and cultural change by producing narratives that can overcome the distance between what we know and what we do.

Ralph Dum is the instigator of STARTS, Innovation at the nexus of Science Technology and the Arts, which aims to develop research programmes focused on digital innovation and sustainability. Ralph explained how cultured landscapes (which refer to the way we live, work, travel, eat, etc.) need to find ways to reduce their ecological impact. The European Commission, where he is a senior expert, launched the Green Deal which also aims to introduce a new European Bauhaus movement. According to Ralph, the arts should adopt the newest technologies to produce more sustainable living spaces. In this sense, he continues, “the Bauhaus of the 21st century should be a social movement, but also ecological”. He believes that narratives around climate change produced by the arts can be a way to overcome the distance between scientific knowledge and our behaviour. By referring to a quote by philosopher John Dewey “art is not so much about the creation of objects, but about triggering experiences”, Ralph concludes that “art creates signals that trigger change in individual and social behaviour.”


EPFL+ECAL Lab at 2018 Verbier Art Summit. Photo by Alpimages

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The Art Inspector is a third party certification agent that examines the environmental impact of art processes and practice. The Art Inspector works with curators, artists, collectors, and others in order to pre-qualify artists who pass a standard of environmental stewardship. Read more here


Valentin Calame/EPFL+ECAL Lab, Holotypes I, II, III 

Our daily lives have never relied so much on the use of data through our countless software and applications. Read the perspectives of five designers/artists from EPFL+ECAL Lab who challenged our technological relationship with data through artistic expression.


GROW Observatory is the first continental-scale citizens’ observatory to monitor a key parameter for science, continuously over an extended period, and at an unmatched spatial density. GROW Observatory supports a movement of citizens generating, sharing and using information on growing and the land. Read more here

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Territorial Agency: Oceans in Transformation at Ocean Space, 2020, commissioned by TBA21–Academy. Photo by Enrico Fiorese

The 2021 Grand Prize of STARTS for Artistic Exploration is awarded to Oceans in Transformation commissioned by TBA21–Academy, which investigates the impact of human activity on the world ocean in the context of the Anthropocene. Read more here


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Danielle Siembieda

Danielle Siembieda is the Creative Director at Leonardo/The International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology (Leonardo/ISAST), a global creative think tank exploring critical themes at the intersection of art, sciences, and technology. Leonardo has been fearlessly pioneering since 1968. Siembieda is also an Alter-Eco Artist she creates works at the intersection of technology and the environment. She currently is an artist in residence at the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Insitute. Her experience bridges the gap between arts research, curation, and practice. 

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Kasia Molga

Kasia Molga is a design fusionist, master of none and a serial beginner, questioning the impact of technology on the natural environment and its role in our relation and perception to “non-human makers”. She moves across disciplines to communicate complex ideas through tangible multisensory hybrid installations. She exhibited worldwide, most notably: Centre Pompidou, Tate Modern, V&A Museum, Ars Electronica, Meta.Morf (NO), Translife Media Arts Triennial (Beijing, China), MIS (Sao Paulo, BR), Dutch Design Week (NL); and is a recipient of many international awards, grants, nominations and accolades, among many others: Wellcome Trust Award, Ars Electronica 2012 Honorary, Creative Industries NL, European N.I.C.E Award, RESHAPE 2017 Honourable Mention, LES RESPIRATIONS 2016 Special Prize for Human Sensor. Her work was featured in international press such as Huffington Post, The Guardian, Wired, Dutch Technology Review and BBC. In addition to that Kasia is also a licensed Scuba Diver, avid aerial photographer and spent her childhood sailing on the merchant navy vessels.


Nicolas Henchoz

Nicolas Henchoz established and leads the EPFL+ECAL Lab, the design research centre of the EPFL (the Swiss federal institute of technology, Lausanne) in cooperation with ECAL (University of Art and Design, Lausanne). The Lab bases its activities along three axes: giving new meaning to emerging technologies, fuelling innovation by widening scopes of designers and artists’ work, understanding perception and acceptance of citizens. Nicolas proposes this new vision on the role of art and design with his book Design for Innovative Technologies: From Disruption to Acceptance. He has curated many projects and exhibitions in places such as the American Institute of Architecture in New York, The Lab @ Harvard and the Museum Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris. He was appointed Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres of the French Republic. EPFL+ECAL Lab projects earned several awards, including at DMY Berlin, Design Prize Switzerland, Best of the web.  

Photo by Yves Leresche / EPFL+ECAL Lab 

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Ralph Dum

Ralph Dum has a background in physics, thesis at Joint Institute of Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA). After a scientific career in several research institutions, including univ. Stonybrook, Oxford and the Ecole Normale superieure de Paris, he joined the European Commission where he is now a senior expert in charge of developing research programs in the the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology. The mission of this Commission department is focused on digital  innovation fostering also on sustainability. Ralph Dum is the instigator of STARTS - Innovation at the nexus of Science Technology and the Arts. It attempts to remove the boundaries between art and engineering to stimulate creativity and innovation.  Activities in STARTS include the annual STARTS Prize and STARTS residencies of artists in technology institutions. Many STARTS activities have addressed the notions of resource hungry, cultured landscape and ecological impact raised by the Verbier Art Summit 2021.

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