Microplastic and Medusae – Expeditions into H₂O

Left: »Crystalline Garden« at the Université du Maine, Le Mans/FR, Institute of Molecules and Materials; right: »Dancing Synthetics« at the Aquarium de La Rochelle/FR; © 2017 Roman Kroke

In the Winter Semester 2017/2018, students of the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK) and the Technical University of Berlin (TU) will embark together on a travel assignment to research the hotly debated topic of “microplastics”. They will track down these microscopic synthetic particles that have been detected in oceans, rivers, marine animals, etc. Abrasions of our “plastic society” which may also constitute a risk to human health?

Question and Content

“… like a child in front of a fairy-tale world.” With these words Marie Curie, Nobel Prize winner in physics and chemistry, once described the scientist working with the laws of nature. Exploring experimental methods as a strategy to find and invent new pathways, is a vital element not only in scientific but also artistic working processes. What kind of new artistic language with respect to form and methodology can UdK students discover when they depart from their art studios, rehearsal rooms, stages, and venture together with students from the TU into the laboratories of scientists? Conversely, will TU-students be able to derive new impulses for their thinking processes by transferring artistic perspectives to scientific challenges? To what extent can art serve as a communication bridge helping to make complex research topics on “microplastics” accessible to a broader public in order to raise awareness for a responsible and sustainable interaction with nature?

In the first phase of the seminar, the students will visit the magic underwater world of the medusae during a behind the scenes tour of the Berlin Aquarium guided by expert aquatic caretakers. In this context they will encounter various philosophical questions linked to topics of “Sustainable Development”: the relationship between “Vulnerability and Responsibility”, “Man and Material”, as well as the evolving polarity between the “Natural and the Artificial”. Subsequently, the students will travel to different German research institutes where they will dive, together with the scientists, into the current laboratory practice on “microplastics”. In the second part of the seminar, the students will be faced with the task of transforming their experiences into an artistic-scientific concept. They may choose freely from a wide variety of forms of artistic presentation (sound collage, scenic reading, sculpture, photography, poem, performance, etc.) The project processes and the resulting works shall be presented in a final exhibition.

Target Group

The course is aimed at students from the UdK and TU Berlin.

Support from the Hybrid Plattform

Support and Communication


Gallery and background information concerning the development process of the project


Special thanks to the following people for the exchange and inspiration provided during the elaboration phase of the project concept: Dr. Annika Jahnke, Dr. Dana Kühnel, Christoph Rummel (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ); Prof. Dr. Jérôme Cachot, Florane Le Bihanic (University of Bordeaux/FR, Institute of Ecotoxicology); Dr. Gunnar Gerdts (Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research/AWI); Rainer Kaiser, Daniel Strozynski (Aquarium Berlin); Ambre Bénier, Frédérique Michely, Pierre Morinière (Aquarium La Rochelle/F); Dr. Marie-Laure Bégout (IFREMER, French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea/FR); Dr. Annegret Potthoff (Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS); Dr. Fabienne Lagarde (University of Maine/FR, Institute for Molecules and Materials); Prof. Dr. Jean-Philippe Pierron (University Jean Moulin Lyon 3/FR, Faculty of Philosophy); Prof. Dr. Rita Triebskorn (Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Institute forr Evolution und Ecology); Prof. Pflugmacher Lima (University of Helsinki/FI, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences); Prof. Dr. Erik A. Toorman (Catholic University of Leuven/BEL, Department of Civil Engineering); Dr. Florian R. Storck (DVGW- Water Technology Center); Dr. Mark G. J. Hartl (Heriot-Watt University Riccarton/GB, Director Centre of Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology); Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Thomas P. Knepper (Hochschule Fresenius, University of Applied Sciences, Dean Faculty of Chemistry and Biology, Director Institute for Analytical Research/IFAR); Dr. Ulrike Braun (German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing); Prof. Dr. Christiane Zarfl (Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Centre for Applied and Environmental Geoscience); Saskia Rehse (PhD student, Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries Berlin); Prof. Sylvie Gobert (University of Liège/BEL, Departement for Biology, Ecology and Evolution); Prof. Dr. Christian Laforsch (Bayreuth University, Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences); Dr. Claus Gerhard Bannick (German Federal Environment Agency, Wastewater Technology Research); Dipl.-Ing. Regina Gnirß (Berliner Wasserbetriebe, Department Research and Development).