Artists who care…GROUNDED VISIONS.
Jill Scott

This article is based on Grounded Visions, and concerns the work of “artistic researchers” who have a PhD Degree from Z-node, and their supervisors. Z-node is a corporation between the ETH Zurich and the Zurich University of the Arts in Switzerland. The PhD researchers were mature age artists who either had worked with scientists or wanted to become alternative science communicators or even in some cases, wanted to become scientists themselves. This exhibition focus on the work from the Art and environmental science cluster-

The Title: GROUNDED VISIONS comes from the idea of artistic visions or the ability to interpret the surrounding environment by processing information that is contained in visible light. But a vision is also the ability to have foresight-to think about the state and future of our society. When artist talk about being Grounded-they refer to moving beyond the sphere of abstraction towards more concrete physical realities and what could be more concrete that the need for sound environmental solutions. In science it is the very understanding those “grounded “ properties that can lead to surprising and profound insights. So for artists being grounded is something as simple as being more fully aware of what’s going on inside and around you. But for both the scientists and the artists a main question is how can these visions can be shared. Therefore Grounded Visions is about trying to make those Visions PRACTICAL, and about finding a BALANCE to co-operate with others so that together, we can focus on the complex problems of the environmental reality that currently surrounds us.

For these artists, Art is a practice that tries to use metaphors about balance of art with environmental science, because they care! They have all worked with scientists on site-specific problems and they care about creating new forms of communication to raise awareness in the public realm and to apply activist strategies between communities. However, they are interested in informed levels of interpretation rather than scientific visualization, because they want explore the variety of potentials of art as a catalyst to reach the public.

For example Andrea Pollis question is How can the production of geosonification and other ecomedia open alternative pathways to environmental knowing in a time of urgent climate crisis? She coined the term “Ecomedia” to broaden her communication about air, climate, weather, pollutants and other atmospheric phenomena. Alternatives, Tiffany Holmes is interested in how artists might create ecologically significant data in real time to represent and promote water conservation. Again she uses her own term: “eco-visualisation” as a strategy to make invisible energy data comprehensible to encourage site-based learning and conservation especially for illiterate communities can create their own images of water quality measurements. In another variant, Eugenio Tisselli has worked with scientist Angelika Hilbeck to explore how the role of information and communications technologies could contribute to the creation of enabling environments in which subsistence farmers may exercise their own values and make their voices heard about climate change in Tanzania. This approach has required a transformation of information and communications technologies, to create new platforms for community exchange that are based on mobile phone exchange.

Aviva Rahmanai combines contributions from eco-art with scientific systems to improve the practical and theoretical issues and exchanges about landscape restoration. Her strategy was to take GIS mapping classes to analyze relationships between finfish abundance, eelgrass, and invasive predatory green crabs on her own restoration site- a town dump on the Island of Maine. USA.

Some artist like Juanita Schaepfler Miller, are using a more theoretical approach.
She explored how frameworks for other disciplines be applied to projects at the interface of art and natural science. In this exhibition she presented her Climate Hope Garden 2085. This was a garden grown in climate-controlled chambers of the ETHZ based on the climatic conditions proposed by IPCC climate scenarios. The project aimed to bring these scenarios to a spatial and temporal scale that visitors can relate to. It is like a graveyard for plants that places the food and future use of the Swiss landscape into question!

Other artists have become scientific investigators themselves. While Brandon Ballangee explored how transdisciplinary art practices and participatory biology programs can successfully increase the public understanding of ecological phenomenon, he actually also generates laboratory and field evidence. Along with the aid of public volunteers in Yorkshire, UK, he found that non-lethal predatory injury to tadpoles from dragon fly nymphs and some fishes resulted in permanent limb deformities in post-metamorphic frogs and published this in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

In relation to the wilderness and our bodies-I also became interested in how the
passing of environmental knowledge from one generation to the next could be combined with inspirations from tactile and aural sensory perception to raise public awareness. The project AURALROOTS, uses touch and sound to listen to three environments- the womb, the landscape, and the science lab. One of these-oral “herstories ” are told by Australian indigenous women to their daughters about how to gather plants and roots for survival and for medical conditions. Due to colonialism this knowledge is slowly disappearing. I claim that this very loss of knowledge also dampens our reaction to our environmental predicament.

As seen from these examples, a large part of artistic research is to try to “join the dots” by trying to combine influences from trans-disciplinary experiences- with new communication strategies in order to “speak” to the public make new kinds of associations. Artists are trained differently- in semiotics-the signs and symbols of communication, the value of using local stories to communicate and get the public to ask questions. Artists are trained differently- in semiotics-the signs and symbols of communication, the value of local stories-new strategies of communication. They are also trained to be filters of experience and the need to “think out of the box”.


Artistic researchers–being Grounded means searching for a balance or a harmony between the bodily experience and the environment. One of the first lessons of balance for a contempory dancer is to move all the body parts independently from each other while remaining “grounded”- attached by gravity to the floor. The artist in this show share the hope that pro-active interlinked small engagements might change the way we think about our environment. So part of artistic research is to construct new visual and auditory metaphors for what we call the “embodied experience”. Some examples are seen here in this show:

Andrea Poli was inspired by spending three months in Antartica to take the scientist on “sound walks” where they would listen to sound recordings she made of specific locations-they all said it gave them more respect for this landscape

Both Jill-and Eugenio use scale as a strategy to listen and to learn from our environment. In his case the viewer “stands on” the map of the landscape where the exchange takes place, in my case the viewer stand inside the stereocillia of the inner ear to listen to stories of the aboriginal people.

Artistic Researchers need to invent new strategies with the aim to create audio-visual metaphors that are local, digestable, have impact and cause post reflection. We believe that these pathways are grounded..because they can lead to surprising and profound insights as well as raise awareness of what’s going on inside and around us. Therefore by Grounding our visions we ground our experience- and part of this experience is to engage with scientific researchers. The ultimate, real fact is that our society needs to undergo a wholesome metamorphosis, so I am for seriously involving artists and scientists to create new dialogues. This means that we have to generate respect for each other’s disciplines. In this way our scientific and our artistic narratives may start to line up with our REAL WORLD ideologies.

Overviw with people copy