June 23, 2024

Alliances between art and science: ZKM Karlsruhe announces “Renaissance 3.0”.

In his installation “Metabolica Camp,” sculptor Thomas Feuerstein uses bacteria as a tool. Photo: Felix Groenschloss

Being a spider for once: this is now possible at the Art and Media Center (ZKM) in Karlsruhe. Anyone who enters Tomás Saraceno’s “Algo-r(h)i(y)thms” fitting room will find themselves in a bright white room entwined with many black polyester threads. A grid structure that invites the visitor to capture it – thus creating a soundscape. For this construction, the Argentine artist was inspired by spiders’ keen sense of touch and their ability to communicate with each other via vibrations, which Tomás Saraceno has collaborated with arachnologists and other scientists.

Such alliances, that is, between art and science, are the focus of the current exhibition “Renaissance 3.0”, which presents 35 sites in international media art and draws a historical line from Arabic to Italian Renaissance to the present day. ZKM’s technical and scientific director, Peter Whipple, worked for more than a year on the show he wanted to say goodbye to Karlsruhe before dying unexpectedly on March 1st.

Artists and scientists use the same tools

Alliances between art and science: ZKM Karlsruhe is called "Renaissance 3.0" out of place

The heart of the show: an interactive knowledge area where visitors can explain 250 terms. Photo: Felix Groenschloss

Curator Annette Holzhead explains that the beginning of the secularization of recurring art is intended as a thesis and an opportunity for a new understanding of the world. “In order to access things that are not visible, to find advances in knowledge where we cannot access our natural senses,” says the culture and media scientist, both disciplines use the same cognitive tools. According to project managers, this toolkit also includes scientific methods or technologies such as artificial intelligence as well as devices such as measuring devices and microscopes.

The heart of “Renaissance 3.0” is an interactive field of knowledge. Based on a digital library and designed as a kind of mobile book, it brings together 250 key exhibition terms – including, for example, genetic code, 3D printer, hypothesis or collective – that AI ChatGPT uses for written explanations. Sensors record visitors’ movements and enable them to navigate to words in the room and break down their meanings. In the context of the presentation, knowledge must increase and other terms must be included.

The studio and exhibition space became a laboratory

Alliances between art and science: ZKM Karlsruhe is called "Renaissance 3.0" out of place

Spiders and their ability to communicate with each other via vibrations inspired Thomas Saraceno to create his work “Algo-r(h)i(y) thms”. Visitors are invited to pinch the black strings and create sounds. Photo: Felix Groenschloss

Many artists use the studio and exhibition space to turn them into a laboratory. For example, Austrian sculptor Thomas Feuerstein cultivates bacteria and has them decompose a replica of the right hand of Michelangelo’s “David” in his extended installation Metabolica Camp. Thus the bioreactor becomes a sculpture, which is the metabolic part of the sculpting process.

Christian Lucert and Daniel d’Alfuveau call their research project “Autopoiesis”. In collaboration with neuroscientists, they study the effects of colors, shapes, and sounds on the human brain using EEG measurements. In the sound room and through virtual reality glasses, visitors can experience scientific tests and assessments in the exhibition.

Bioengineering, robotics, genetics, ecology and more: the creative approach to theories and processes from these fields is amazing. The web idea, developed specifically by Thomas Saraceno and his spiders, runs through the entire show. Topics such as things unseen in nature are explored in various ways in the works. As a visitor, you are happy to follow this invitation to go on a discovery tour – and go online with ZKM.


Painter, sculptor, architect, anatomist, mechanic, engineer, and natural philosopher in personal union: Italian scientist Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is considered the authority on the European Renaissance (French = rebirth). The 21st century artist was predetermined in it, says ZKM curator Annette Holzhead. In Da Vinci’s Trattato della pittura, he says, “Art is a spiritual matter.”

exhibition duration

Until January 7, 2024 at the Arts and Media Center (ZKM) Karlsruhe, from Wednesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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