Artful Sustainability Studies: Of aesthetics of complexity and radical open citizenship

Monday, 29 June 17:30h
Dr Sacha Kagan

SachaKaganIn this talk, I will engage into an exploration of the deployment of art, not as an add-on “tool” for an already partly-institutionalized “sustainability science”, to help it with the governance of “transformation processes” through problems-solving, but rather, as an epistemologically, phenomenologically and hermeneutically transdisciplinary approach to queering sustainability science.

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In this context, I will first discuss the role of “aesthetics of complexity” within a transdisciplinary research culture, and the qualities of artistic research for sustainability studies. I will then further elaborate on art as an articulation of the political – considering antagonistic, agonistic, consensual, and dialogical tendencies in social-ecological art practices and discourses. Moving on from ‘the political’ to policy, and considering the positing of “Culture in, for, and as Sustainable Development”, I will then look at several approaches, ranging from sectoral and inter-sectoral policy-making, to transversal artistic double-agency, and to the emergence of artful spaces of possibilities stimulating a radical open citizenship.


Sacha Kagan is a Research Associate at the Leuphana University Lüneburg, Institute for Theory and Research on Culture and the Arts (IKKK) in Germany. He is the founding coordinator and founding member of Cultura21 International – Cultural Fieldworks for Sustainability: a network bringing together artists, scientists and other cultural practitioners engaged for cultures of sustainability.

Sacha is also the founding director of the International Summer School of Arts and Sciences for Sustainability in Social Transformation (ASSiST). His main research and action area is the trans-disciplinary field of “arts and (un-) sustainability”. Some of his other areas of work and interest include the sociology of arts and culture, cultural economics, dance studies, documentary film, sustainability and sustainable development.


Working »Predisciplinarily«. Towards Sources of Sustainability

Tuesday, 30 June 17:30h
Dr Hildegard Kurt

HildegardKurtIn view of sustainability, inter- and transdisciplinary approaches are being widely explored in science as well as in art. Within this context, the lecture proposes “predisciplinarity” as an additional or, more precisely, primordial transformative approach.

“As a cultural researcher I explore forms of science which, going beyond the mere intellectual, seize the whole person and encourage a development of consciousness.”
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»Predisciplinary work« takes place in an experiential sphere were theory and practice are not yet separate. The Greek origin of the word theory – théa, meaning »beholding« – points to this sphere. Here, insight and knowledge emerge from a heightened sense of being as well as from an enlivened practice of perceiving – and therefrom of thinking.

Since quantum physics, this sphere has become empirically detectable as immaterial, creative aliveness. Paul Klee might have had that in mind when he stressed in his teachings at the Bauhaus that: `In order to bring something genuinely and sustainably new into the world, be it in art or elsewhere, one should not work at the »form ends«, i.e. where things are explained, categorized, determined, but rather as closely as possible at and with the »formative forces«´. Joseph Beuys´s famous but still enigmatic phrase »every human being is an artist« has opened up another portal to the said primordial transformative sphere, where an expanded understanding of art and of science correlates to refined modes of perceiving, sensing, thinking, communicating.

Where does the transformative strength of predisciplinarity actually lie? What are its political and societal impacts in terms of sustainability?


Dr Hildegard Kurt is a cultural researcher and author. She lectures internationally on key culture and sustainability platforms. Her work focuses on art and sustainability, culture and sustainability, aesthetic education, social sculpture and intercultural dialogue. She is co-founder of “und. Institut fuer Kunst, Kultur und Zukunftsfaehigkeit” (and. Institute for Art, Culture and Sustainability) in Berlin and has played a significant role in Germany by linking cultural policies to sustainability policies. Since 2009, Kurt also works as an interdisciplinary practitioner in the field of social sculpture.

Science Education Indisciplined

Friday, 3 July 17:30h
Prof Raghavendra Gadagkar

GadagkarIn this talk I will illustrate how I teach my students to think about and learn new concepts in science. But I do so in an unusual way. I attempt to break all boundaries, those between teaching and learning, between student and teacher, between different sub-disciplines of science and indeed between science, literature and art.

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By moving seamlessly between interesting facts about nature, seemingly complex scientific concepts, art, literature and history, I try to show the unity of all knowledge. This is hard to describe but easy to demonstrate, which is what I will attempt to so in this lecture.


Raghavendra Gadagkar is a full professor at the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India. Gadagkar has published over 275 scientific papers and articles in various international journals as well as in Indian journals like Current Science magazine, and the Journal of Biosciences (India), both published from Bangalore. Over the last three decades he has established an active research group that has contributed towards understanding the proximate and ultimate factors of social evolution in wasps. He holds a number of other academic positions and his research work has been recognized by a number of awards.

In 2004, Gadagkar pioneered the establishment of the Centre for Contemporary Studies in the Indian Institute of Science. As the founder chair, Gadagkar has initiated a new experiment that endeavours to engage some of the best practitioners of different disciplines in the human sciences, such as philosophy, sociology, economics, law, literature, poetry, art, music, cinema etc. and aims to forge meaningful interaction between the natural and human sciences with special focus on understanding the diverse research methodologies of different disciplines and create opportunities to rethink the foundations of our own disciplines.


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