The arts as partners and drivers of change
Transformative processes triggered by climate change involve more than simple adaptation—they require a fundamental rethinking of issues from society. Berlin University of the Arts is searching for new ways to engage citizens in dialog about innovation, the untapped potential of the bioeconomy, and its risks.
As research and technology seek to develop effective solutions for mitigating climate change, the transformative processes involved in delivering these solutions and the complex social, economic and political issues these processes throw up are increasingly moving into view. This is the background against which the project “Farming the Uncanny Valley” (FUV) at Berlin University of the Arts has been developing new formats for participation and dialog with society in relation to the bioeconomy. The project focuses especially on feelings of uneasiness evoked by emerging developments in biotechnology and in society—moments when we feel unsure about whether developments are positive or negative. Workshops on the themes of air, insects, soil, and crops were designed and delivered in urban and rural contexts to facilitate dialog between members of the public, biotechnology researchers, and designers. Examples from current research were integrated into scenarios that made it possible to try out and discuss aspects of a future lifestyle in a developed bioeconomy.
Image: Stefan Schwabe
The results of these workshops were presented in the exhibition “MACHT NATUR,” a title inviting visitors to “MAKE NATURE.” By demonstrating how workshop participants approached the scenarios presented and developed positions of their own on each topic, the exhibition opens up a discourse space visitors can step into to find their own personal standpoint on innovations, the potential the bioeconomy has to offer, and the risks it presents. The ultimate aim was to enable members of the public to experience how their thinking flows into the shaping of research agendas and projects and can represent a relevant contribution. Participation does not mean simply listening to members of the public or informing them; it is understood as a collaborative, open-ended process.
This ongoing FUV project coordinated by Berlin University of the Arts brings biotechnologists, social scientists, and design experts together in an interdisciplinary cooperation. In addition to traditional design skills that involve giving shape to objects, methodological approaches from design also play an important role. The arts are valuable as partners and as drivers of change not least thanks to their ability to transform, adapt, synchronize and synthesize content from science.