Living art in the service of science: The new exhibition Living Canvas at STATE Studio Berlin lets a living, air-purifying artwork grow.

The STATE Studio in Berlin unites the fields of art and science - we talked to curator Johanna Wallenborn about the direction of the project and interviewed artist Fara Peluso about the new exhibition "Living Canvas".

The intersection between science, art and society: With increasing research speed the need to make innovations tangible and comprehensible in society at an early stage is growing all the time.  From the other side the interest is also high: Artists, designers, developers and citizens are interested and would like to exchange ideas about possible opportunities and conflicts in human development. The big questions of the present about how we will live together in the future and how we want to shape our society and environment affect us all.

The Open Science Approach - making science and research accessible to the general public in a simple, free and comprehensible way
- and meeting places such as the STATE Studio in Berlin help to make palpable innovations and distant visions of the future available for philosophical disposition through art projects and to open a dialogue at eye level between the various parties involved.

The curiosity for the dialogue and the resulting new insights were therefore also the driving force behind the founding of STATE and the exhibition series Field Experiments, as the co-curator Johanna Wallenborn told us.

Johanna Wallenborn: STATE Studio is a space in which future developments in the here and now can be discussed. The aim is to reflect on the consequences of research developments on a social and philosophical level. With Field Experiments we place them in an experience exhibition and shed light on what is to come. Participative exhibits enable interaction and feedback from the audience, such as at Farming the Uncanny Valley, an interdisciplinary research project with the Berlin Universität der Künste Berlin (University of Arts), Fraunhofer Umsicht, YOU.SE and funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Six different artists and designers developed prototypes that explore new forms of communication and participation in the bioeconomy for a sustainable future. Visitors can leave their personal thoughts, ideas and impressions behind. The feedback flows back into the project and helps us to improve our interaction possibilities. 

In general, all our complementary readings and exhibition materials are written and designed to be understandable for both experts and non-experts, regardless of their age. By asking introductory questions, we want to involve our audience and motivate them to reflect critically.

After several international stops, STATE has found a fruitful home for its research and exhibitions in Berlin, after it was founded in 2014 as a spin-off from the Paul-Drude-Institute for Solid State Electronics by the physicist Dr. Christian Rauch, who now acts as CEO and curator.

Johanna Wallenborn: The STATE Pop Up Studio LA and the STATE of AI exhibition were a milestone and a turning point for us and essentially the beginning of the STATE Studio Berlin. A permanent home offers many new possibilities; in addition to a continuous program of constant dialogue, we are also able to reach a broader group of people. We deal with young and older persons, passers-by and curious school classes and are now in contact with a much wider audience. It enables a discourse at eye level that involves experts and non-professionals alike.
There is so much to learn for all sides, the researchers, the artists and the team of curators. It is a fertile breeding ground for science communication in general, art is a fantastic dialogical tool. I believe that artists and researchers have enormous power and responsibility. We are here now to help shape the discourse around it.


The artist Fara Peluso, who conceived the new exhibition Living Canvas, also wants to initiate a discourse on sustainability and new technologies. For this purpose, she has created a work of art from a living, air-purifying bioalgae film, which continues to develop over the course of the exhibition.

Brain City Berlin: What was your motivation and idea behind "Living Canvas?

Fara Peluso: Living Canvas focuses on the importance of microorganisms and their relationship to humans. It is a tribute to the microalgae as one of the most important life generators even before we appeared on Earth. Living Canvas provides a scientific knowledge of the properties of algae and contributes to thinking about anthropocene changes: How has man influenced the world and brought about drastic changes? We talk about what relationships we have today with our natural environment and what the possible future prospects are.


Brain City Berlin: What impact will the new technology of living, air-purifying surfaces have on the world and its growing cities?

Fara Peluso: The use of living machines will, of course, help to change our urban centres and landscapes not only architecturally, but also in terms of the relationships that our cities will have with the environment. I am optimistic that our cities will become more active units, nuclei that, analogous to the natural world, are fully linked to an entire biological cycle, and no longer just consumers of resources. Richard Buckminster Füller coined the theory of the "Comprehensive Man" and "Comprehensive Thinking" in the 1960s: he defined a "Comprehensive Man" as a perfect synthesis of an artist, inventor, economist, but also a person who needs to know about biology and can use it. He saw the increasing diversification and isolation of professions and specializations as a development in the wrong direction. The historical moment in which we now live with the new possibilities of information exchange and cooperation gives us the opportunity to fulfill his dream.


Brain City Berlin: What opportunities and possibilities do you see in the fusion of art and science?

Fara Peluso: I have always regarded artists and designers as generators of critical questions that contribute to changing the way we see the world. I think that the fusion of art and science will initially help us to understand what we have designed to date and who we have become, what instruments we should develop for the future and how we want to deal with the environment. The future will be shaped by the interest in biology, not only from scientists, but also from designers, artists and engineers, along with a common idea not only to actively change the world, but also to change the way we see it. This collaboration will help to find a balance between human needs and the desire to solve the problem of the consumption of limited resources. It will hopefully give us the opportunity to realize that our machines should begin to create life.


Brain City Berlin: How do you think life in the big cities will develop and change? Where do you see problems, where opportunities?

Fara Peluso: I hope that cities will become more and more promoters of connections between people and their ideas and not proponents of isolation and exclusion. Today I see problems that are potentially solvable in our attitudes and decisions as human beings, as directly responsible for our present state. I decided to take a speculative approach because I think this method is a great learning and exploration tool: it helps us understand our society today, create critical thinkers and become open to new solutions.


Brain City Berlin: What role will Berlin play in all this, in which direction are we going here in this city?

Fara Peluso: Berlin is a city that has always impressed me with its ability to reinvent itself, to be attentive and to understand with a critical attitude where society is going. I see a lot of potential in Berlin, also because the people here are really interested in participating and discovering more. This is also a good message for other cities: the presence of a strong connection to nature in culture can contribute to a positive change in society.

The exhibition was realized in cooperation with Solaga as technological partner and with the funding of the Innogy Foundation.