ECODATA Artist Talks

Ursula Biemann (CH). Acoustic Ocean (2018, Video projection)

Grounded in a research-based practice, Ursula Biemann creates video essays and texts that address the interconnection of politics and the environment across local, global, and planetary contexts. In her most recent work, Acoustic Ocean, Biemann combines scientific, personal, and phenomenological narrative in an exploration of oceanic depths and interspecies relations above and below the waterline of the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway. The female aquanaut and human protagonist of this semi-fictional narrative places sensing instruments such as hydrophones and parabolic microphones along the shore in search of communication and connection with beings that inhabit the depths below. This watery world holds memories of evolution that span time scales, and also swirl with the possibility of dissolution. Microscopic creatures, for example, with bodies porous and vulnerable to the increasing acidification of their habitat, foretell of an unknown future existence. The narrative takes on a personal dimension when the aquanaut, performed by singer and environmental activist Sofia Jannok, recounts the uneven effects of a shifting climate on the indigenous Sami community of which she is part, and the reindeer on which their economic and cultural sovereignty rely.

Ursula Biemann is an artist, writer and video essayist based in Zurich. Her artistic practice is strongly research oriented and involves fieldwork in remote locations where she investigates the political ecologies of forests, oil and water. Her video installations are exhibited at the International Art Biennials of Istanbul, Liverpool, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Gwangju, Montreal, and in museums worldwide. In 2020 she has a solo shows at the Museum for Modern Art in Nice and in Buenos Aires. Biemann received the 2009 Swiss Grand Award Meret Oppenheim


Sarah Burger (CH). (un)earthed (2014 – ongoing, Textile collage and video)What does a work of art consist of when it disappears, when it completely changes its shape, when it becomes something it was not at the beginning?

(un)earthed: Nine sewn objects made of biodegradable fabric, buried in nine places. A work about material properties, duration and places, about disappearing and the things that appear from within it.

Sarah Burger studied Philosophy, Comparative Literature and Linguistics in Zurich and Berlin as well as Art in Geneva. In 2017 she finished her PhD in Artistic Research at the Kunstuniversität Linz in collaboration with ZHdK, Zurich.

In her artistic practice she focuses on the idiosyncratic qualities of different materials, the on-going transformation of the surface of this planet earth by natural and cultural forces, as well as in the eclipsing contemporaneity of different periods of time.


Susana Soares (PT). Urpflanze (2013, Print and digital design)
In collaboration with Monica Santos (interactive piece design) and Dante Marinho (webmaster). Acknowledgments: Professor Andrew Fleming, Department of Animal & Plant Sciences – Science advisor

Can or should we design plants adaptable to extreme weather conditions? Can we afford not? The diversity of leaf shapes, sizes and structures allow plants to adapt to nearly every environment. Research on plant morphology is putting together the genetic blueprint that controls plant structure and shape. The findings could be the first steps to a new generation of plants that are more resilient to unpredictable weather patterns, meet the challenges of global demand for food and even influence climate.

Urpflanze displays computer-generated images of plants that represent optimal macro scale designs for extreme weather conditions. The illustrations are inspired by plant morphology research from the Department of Animal & Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield. It looks at metamorphoses by which specific plants adjusted to certain living conditions and environment, such as duckweed to water and cactus waxy coatings to drought.

The project attempts to give a brief overview of current research, questions whether we should design specific adaptations to a rapidly changing environment, and where can we draw parallels applicable to us.

Susana Soares is a designer and educator exploring the implications of the technological redesign of nature. Her work oscillates between harnessing symbiotic relationships with living beings and reengineering nature. She employs design to create opportunities to increase technological fluency, empathy and engagement.

She is Senior Lecturer at London South Bank University and in addition has held research fellow positions at IMPACT! and Materials Beliefs.

After completing a BA in Industrial Design, she graduated at MA Design Interaction in Royal College of Art, London.

Susana work has been published within design and scientific publications such as Wired, New Scientist and Nature, and exhibited at the MoMA in NYC, MOMAK in Kyoto, Science Gallery in Dublin, Southbank Centre and The Royal Institution in London.


Leena and Oula A. Valkeapää (FI). Manifestations (2017, Multimedia)
Manifestations is a compilation of text messages and emails Oula A. Valkeapää sends to his partner Leena. The verbal and visual messages describe Oula’s Sami background and his life with reindeers. They reveal the parallel existence of the everyday and the mysterious through Oula’s experiences. The messages catalogue various events in an often dream-like reality. They include documentary footage, photography, poetry and less formal texts. The two different media convey knowledge of the Sami culture and its mysticism, which are documented by the poetry of the work. Manifestations is a dialogic work produced by two artists. Leena’s role is to be an inspiring and inquisitive receiver. She also records and edits material produced by Oula and supplements. Oula’s narratives with his own images. Manifestations is a collage where word and image are conjoined in an intensive meditation on being. The manifestations of the work also create an air of questioning where the questions become a part of life, without the need to find clear answers. Living with questions and the mystery of life creates a space for creativity.

Leena and Oula A. Valkeapää live on the fells of northern Lapland where no roads can reach them and work together surrounded by natural phenomena. Leena Valkeapää works as an environmental artist and Oula A. Valkeapää continues his family’s tradition of reindeer herding.

Leena Valkeapää (Doctor of Arts) is an artist and researcher who lives in the wilderness in the northwest Lapland, near Kilpisjärvi. Valkeapää is working as a mentor in Ars Bioartica residence. She has exhibited as a visual artist since (1988) and has produced public environmental artworks, including the rock wall piece Ice Veil (1999) in Turku. Her doctoral dissertation Luonnossa, vuoropuhelua Nils-Aslak Valkeapään tuotanon kanssa, 2011 (In the Nature, a dialog with Nils-Aslak Valkeapää´s art) proposed a dialogue with nature and its poets.

Oula A. Valkeapää is working as a reindeer herder. He is interested in an engagement with the authenticity of a deeply individual experience with nature.