„Could it be that artists and scientists may not be that different after all? Aren’t they both driven by curiosity and the same motivation to explore, to experiment, to understand, to translate and to demonstrate?“

The international exhibition Think Art – Act Science displays a selection of works and collaborative processes from artists, who have engaged in a extensive creative dialogue with scientists. During an immersive nine-month residency in a scientific research institute as part of the Swiss artists-in-labs program (Zurich University of the Arts/ZHdK/ICS) they have all been exposed to specific discourses within the scientific community and gained deep insights into the methodologies and processes of scientific research. The institutes’ research areas range from Biology and Biodiversity over Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology to Nanotechnology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Physics – some of them are amongst the leading research facilities in their field.

Inspiring exchange between artists and scientists

The exhibition investigates the manifold dynamics of artistic encounters with science in the way that the works disclose subtle connections between aesthetic and scientific perspectives on both experimental and observational research. The core idea consists in conveying the immediate and reciprocal intellectual exchange between artists and scientists as representatives of two traditions of reflexivity and the human exploration of the world. As much as science is continuously looking for new ways to legitimise itself and generate practically valuable solutions, artists are inspired by the technological advancements applied in contemporary scientific research and the profound impacts it has on society at large.  Many artists currently explore the scientific, technological and cultural developments of the 21st century and they are engaged in critical and ethical debates. In this line of reasoning, art and science become complementary disciplines and two sides of one and the same coin. The confrontation urges each side to reflect upon its own ways of working and in this way seek new potential in a mutuality of receptiveness.

Providing access

The exhibition wants to enable a broader public to comprehend this exchange of perspectives, ideas and knowledge. It aims at allowing the visitor to reflect on the role of technological progress in our globalised information societies in general based on distinct collaborations. It reveals the communicative potential of artistic responses to science by making scientific issues accessible through artistic interpretations.

Themes and concept

From a total of thirty-six artist who have participated in the Swiss artists-in-labs program since 2007 and created works so far, there is always a selection being exhibited in each location. Since four of the artists took part in a Sino-Swiss residency exchange 2009 between Switzerland and China, the exhibition not only tries to build a bridge between different cultures of knowledge but moreover points towards promising exchanges between art and science on a global scale.

The exhibition is arranged around three main research themes addressed by the artistic investigations:

ecology and environment | spatial awareness and emotions | explorations of new technologies

Each work is accompanied by a short documentary and extracts taken from interviews with both artists and scientists. The videos are an integral part of the exhibition, because they mediate the reflective and emotional experience of both scientists and artists as well as the actual development of the end-result of the collaboration – the artwork itself.

Surrounding Program

For the duration of the exhibition a surrounding program will comprise a variety of participative and engaging formats such as workshops (student and public), conferences, performances, lectures and reach out to build bridges within to local contexts.



Swiss artists-in-labs

The Swiss artists-in-labs program acts as a facilitator, providing a framework for artists to investigate relations between contemporary art practice, science and society through long-term interaction with scientific research. In the form of a nationally and internationally functioning exchange program it enables artists and scientists to detect the thematic correlations and differences between their fields of work and to benefit from the constructive dynamics of mutual inspiration. The intention of the Swiss artists-in-labs program is to share common goals, to broaden the dialogue, generate ideas and raise awareness of the contributions both artists and scientists can make to the larger challenges of our time. Providing a research environment where these experiments can take place makes all the difference. The idea is to generate a free flow of ideas and expertise, which is based on an equal partnership, the inspiring nature of curiosity and the shared goal of learning from each others point of view. The co-operation with Science laboratories is a conscious attempt to encourage the development of the primary creative forces shared by both disciplines: the quest for interpretations of nature, matter and human desire as well as the interest to comprehend, explore, reveal, sustain, create and build.

The Swiss artists-in-labs program is a collaboration between the ZHdK Zurich University of the Arts, Institute for Cultural Studies in the Arts (ICS) and the Federal Office of Culture (FOC).