Focus Artistic Research

Vibrant Matter

Project lead: Bernhard Sommer
Institute of Architecture
Duration: 01.04.2020 - 31.03.2023
Austrian Science Fund (FWF): AR 597 Programm zur Entwicklung und Erschließung der Künste (PEEK)

Vibrant Matter is an art-research project focusing on understanding climate change through artistic means. The project team consists of Bernhard Sommer, Zeynep Aksöz Balzar, Galo Moncayo Asan and Mark Balzar, who are based in the Institute of Architecture in University of Applied Arts.

Vibrant Matter understands urban nature as an unification of biological and technological components that exist in symbiosis within the same environment. This project aims to draw a holistic image of climate change and its implications on urban nature, by understanding the relationship between these different actors. The main question becomes how atmospheric effects influence the living and non-living participants of the urban realm and how will they adapt to climate change.

The Influence of climatic conditions has various effects on population and population density. We can observe a direct relationship between the world distribution of urban sprawl and the respected isotherms, zones on the earth's surface that share similar climatic characteristics. It is part of the argument that these isotherms are constantly moving and put tension on the current state of urbanization. Society can only use two strategies: Moving with the isotherm or adapting to the new climatic conditions.

By visiting and observing diverse actors in cities that remain in extreme climatic zones, this project aims to understand the principles of adaptation to changing energetic conditions.

New ways of measuring urban sensations will be investigated, by developing an apparatus for capturing the energy flows and transforming this information as raw material for art production. Information such as ultrasonic waves and infrared waves which are very important in animal and botanical life, however, they are not accessible through our senses. Phenomena such as climate change are hard to understand, as it is perceivable only through our personal history and experiences.

Consequently, a new method of surveying the urban realm is proposed, by perceiving the built environment and its inhabitants as equal vibrant matter, by synergizing disciplines such as science, art, and architecture in relation to society, biology, and technology. To cover the diverse topics addressed in the project, the team includes experts of whom each individual has a hybrid background with broad core experience in the fields of urbanism, architecture, energy, data-analysis, robotics, AI, and arts.

Art has the power to augment the human experience by extending the limits of sensory impressions. Vibrant Matter aims to produce novel and intriguing experiences that communicate the observed phenomena. Consequently, the narratives developed along the lifetime of the project will illuminate the influence of climate change to its respected environment.