season 2 episode 22 – building art-science collaboration | Dr. Claudia Schnugg

In this episode, Dr. Claudia Schnugg, an author, curator, researcher, and producer of art and science collaborations, shares her knowledge about building art-science collaborations, examples of successful partnerships, and what organizations can benefit from these collaborations.

Nico Daswani The Artian Podcast


The transcript was produced by an AI, mistakes might appear. 

[00:00:00] Nir Hindi: Hey, Claudia, welcome to The Artian Podcast

[00:00:03] Claudia Schnugg: thanks for inviting me.

[00:00:05] Nir Hindi: I’m very excited. Generally. I’m excited when I do this podcast because the people that we have over here, so interesting just like yourself. And before we kind of dive deep to speak about science, innovation, and what artists are doing in this intersection, I’m interested.

Can you introduce yourself?

[00:00:24] Claudia Schnugg: I try to keep it brief.

I’m Claudia Shnugg, I’m curator and researcher in the field of intersection of art and science. And I’m working a lot with very different organizations from scientific organizations to startups and industry corporations. And my background actually is a social and economic science.

So I’m very interested in dynamics and, and, come up in groups when you work together, uh, work processes. Uh, so social psychology, psychology. But also I have a background in cultural studies and art theory. So I tried to bring this together, understanding the process, and then bringing it into this collaboration process between artists and scientists in these different various organizations and also different

[00:01:21] Nir Hindi: fields.

Great. And you actually have a PhD, right? And this PhD is on.

[00:01:29] Claudia Schnugg: My PhD is, um, artistic interventions in organizations. So I looked at what is happening actually, what are corporations and companies doing when they engage with art and what are these interventions actually aimed at and what can be.

[00:01:48] Nir Hindi: Okay. So at PhD on artistic interventions in corporations how did you find yourself even researching this topic?

[00:01:58] Claudia Schnugg: That’s a really good question. So I, as I said before, um, I started out with social and economic sciences, but I always was interested in so many different things. So I always went to, to bring my interest in art into my work. And so I decided to do this for my PhD, and I saw that there’s that quite a few things happening from consultants working with.

To corporations having their own museums. And I was interested in what is this? And back at the time, when I started, uh, to do my research for my PhD, there was this huge, uh, interesting, uh, disciple. So everybody’s told me, oh, what are you going to do with this ox thing? You should do something around design thinking.

And I decided, no, that’s not the way I wanted to go. I’m not a decide person that sends, I think design thinking is, is a great solution to. Many big problems or When he went to do something specific in our organization, but I was really interested in arts and the cultural aspect and the human aspects in arts and all these very, maybe undefined possibilities that art brings with itself.

Uh, instead of. Strong structure, the design thinking process has, so I decided to go that

[00:03:27] Nir Hindi: way. You know, you’re touching a topic that obviously you and I, we had conversation about it and I want to ask you everyone knows design design, it companies, designers in organizations, and often, you know, design and artthat kind of used interchangeably.

And I’m interested to hear, what do you think is the. Between design and art

[00:03:52] Claudia Schnugg: so maybe to put it very strongly with a big, with, with a picture is in design you try to answer a question. You have a specific situation that you want to find a solution for, and you want to find the best solution for that. So you have a specific process to go to reach the solution.

Uh, and if you decided. And in, when you bring art in, you want to open up, you bring in more questions, you ask more questions and you maybe want to understand what are the problems that come after you find a solution or what are the options and the perspectives you need to look at next. So it’s very different.

And also author design thinking, ask a lot of. Reflection. So you reflect on things that are they’re given in the design process in respect to the target audience or the problem that you want to solve. Whereas critical thinking arts is more this open question of how to engage with the topic critically bringing in this very important, um, aspect of.

Asking, does it actually makes sense? What I’m doing? Not just critically asking, how does it make sense? But it doesn’t make sense.

[00:05:22] Nir Hindi: You know, I really like it because that’s what I say for me, design is about solving problems and art is about asking questions that really require it certain point solution.

So I think. It’s not either all is how to understand the value of what artists and art thinking bring and how to connect it to the methodologies of the design thinking.

[00:05:48] Claudia Schnugg: And also, especially in organizations, you need to, you can’t always open up questions and open up new ways. You also need to narrow it down.

But you need both processes, especially when we always talk about innovation and we need to find new solutions to overcome this crisis and to find some thing relevant, how we design our future with all the opportunities that we have. We also need to think about this opening up and the critical reflection and the new perspectives and the opportunities that we can.

Think of, and not only about how do we apply it immediately, what we have, because there is an important step map missing

[00:06:31] Nir Hindi: in there. We’ll talk about measuring out in the organization later, but, uh, I’m kind of interested. Did you discover something that surprised you about the way artists and organizations work while you did your.

[00:06:45] Claudia Schnugg: When I started this, uh, there was not much conversation around artistic interventions. There were these few things coming up, but it wasn’t. Very strong group of research and activities yet and what surprised me was when I looked deeper, suddenly a huge variety of opportunities opened up and I found so many different interests.

Uh, initiatives that have been realized up until then, but I was so surprised that nobody’s talking about it. And it’s talking about art or art in this sphere of organizations is seen so much as a, uh, something strange. AGN to the organization. And when you look closer, it’s not alien and there is so much going on and you have actually tailor made solutions for any kind of idea where you want to engage with arts await, where you need to need to bring in this openness or a change or trigger change processes.

You know, organizations. So this is something that surprised me in that sense. Yeah.

[00:07:55] Nir Hindi: So I have to admit it also surprise me. And I guess that it will surprise also our listeners, especially if we are the one that in this field and, and discovering that there is a lot going on probably the average listener doesn’t even know that it exists.

So I have a question for you why we don’t hear about it. If there is so much thing going on, if they have so many references to go to a new speaking, 10 years back. I mean, even more so probably today there is even more material to go. Why we don’t hear more about art in the context of business organizations?

[00:08:30] Claudia Schnugg: That’s a good question. Um, I’m also puzzled why it’s like, that’s what I found out and maybe it’s, this is something connected to how we do management education, how we think about organizations, how we think about organizational goals and, and strategies that they always have to be tied to financial outcomes and specific conomic ways of thinking around targets that are connected to making money in the end.

So, and the artistic interventions are often tied to. Uh, the processes at the beginning. And when we think about measurement education, these processes are not so central. So, um, already60 years back, um, there was a lot of work from scholars and policymakers to make measurement education, more rational, and to make management education more accepted within universities as.

I feel sturdy off its own where you can do research. So they put a lot of focus on rational studies and the lot of focus on, uh, rational and more scientific processes. And they wanted to move away from social sciences and from humanity. This is still very much seen in the management education today, although there are some, some, uh, people who really try to push to bring back humanities and social sciences and the management that education, but this is still very strong, reflected in the education, but also in the research.

So as a management scholar, you’ve really need to. The struggle to have enough publications to get to into, into the right direction so that you get a position and this is nothing that’s you get published in that sense. And it’s nothing that’s of interest or it’s barely of interest for the big journals.

There are a few highlights in the last few years. So there have been a few people trying to push this and, and some really interesting publications, but it’s not. Uh, a general theme, neither in management education, nor in management studies. And it’s really difficult to get out of this structure for management scholars.

And if you’re a student and you don’t hear about it because your professor. I don’t really mind doing something. It’s difficult to get it out into organizations and into your world. Of course there are some consultants and so on working with this, but it’s just considered as a minor field and the tool and not so much as.

Interesting field of

[00:11:33] Nir Hindi: study, or I would say integral field of study in business, you’re talking and I’m listening to you and. It’s like everything we want from management is excellent. As long as we, you don’t take into consideration humans, if we use management to process, excellent.

This is for the, maybe for the era of, or boutiques when you don’t need to deal with humans. But when you need to deal with your

[00:11:57] Claudia Schnugg: monster, it be a way of that. Be aware of that because there a study used to say that. More easily you’ve replaced a magic eye robot. Then most of the work is

[00:12:10] Nir Hindi: so basically even it’s a shout out to the managers to we think how to bring humanities because they’re.

Eh, all his managers is in risk. And first of all, you know, I want to kind of maybe do a shout out for all the researchers out there that if they’re listening to us and you have a publications, I know we are not one of the most important magazines. Reach out to us and we will do what we can from our part to promote those kinds of things, because I think it’s super, super important.

And Claudia, what you just said about reducing the management or designing management that is so focused on. Not only that I think it’s wrong. It’s horrible. And you know, organizations at the end consist of people. And I think that at the end, you cannot reduce vision into a. You need to have things that goes beyond a process, imagination, understanding of where you want to go aspirational and inspiration for the other.

So, yeah,

[00:13:16] Claudia Schnugg: Yeah, we also don’t want to reduce ourselves through robots of an organization that is not connected to goals that a society can back up and is interested in. So I think that is also a strange situation that people are putting themselves into when they, uh, hope this idea of very rational manner.

Up in their, in their work because neither the matches nor the, nor the people working in these organizations want to be dehumanized robots for de-humanized goals. So.

[00:13:53] Nir Hindi: Yeah, no, no, totally. Um, next year I will teach a course in, in the business school I’m teaching and I call it the artful entrepreneur.

And I actually going to speak about entrepreneurs that are actually coming from an artistic background and how they leverage it to build unique product and services.

 And I’m interested how artists kind of influence organizations from your experience.

Now there’s one example that I really like of doubt is the Sarah Craske and how she actually helped the, these researchers, this R and D uh, department. If I’m correct to actually see what they are doing in different eyes, can you show me.

[00:14:39] Claudia Schnugg: Sure. Sure. This was one of the cases that I presented in my book.

And this is a little more focused on R and D of course, as you said, uh, and science. So from this big conglomerate of artistic interventions, that can be anything like a museum or workshop or, um, yeah, also collaboration processes. I started to focus on art/science collaboration in different kinds of organizations.

And this process was actually at the bioprocess laboratory in Basel, which is a scientific organization. So it’s, it’s part of the university. And, uh, they’re doing research on and so it was the same 50th, uh, research project. And actually it’s about how to efficiently. True. Antibiotics that can circumvent the possible antibiotic resistance of bacteria.

And so it’s in, uh, researching synthetic biology and this artist, Sarah Craske joints. Um, the love for residents. And she asked really interesting questions about why are they using specific techniques? She also suggested some, uh, from her artistic perspective, more historical contextualization. And there were two things, I think she’s, she found out in her research that fossil was also center or when you’re fighting the pest, the black death, and garlic somehow always turned up as one of these remedies.

So she did her own research in this laboratory, into the antibiotic, um, agency, and then parts of garlic. Um, she was able to create her own fifteenths. The based on her research on garlic and while doing so she talked a lot with the, with the scientists about the, the different experiments. There was one experiment that the scientists found that’s very basic, but it’s also.

A little more work than other experiments, so they don’t use it anymore and it, but it will have the same outcome anyway, and then he had it. Didn’t have to say much come when Sarah tried this other experiment.

[00:17:03] Nir Hindi: So one second, just to make sure. So they ignored or kind of neglect one process because they thought the result will be the same, but Sarah actually showed that the results were.

[00:17:14] Claudia Schnugg: Exactly. Exactly. So she also gave them a lot of scientific questions to solve this experiment or this. But this is not save a pace. Things like that happen repeatedly. So right now I’m working at the Helmholtz center in Munich, uh, with IES Institute of Epigenetics and Stem Cells, uh, with artists on the

And although there is the lockdown and travel restrictions going on, so we couldn’t do or start to residency on site. There were over the. Conversations between the scientists and other, and also unless the test it’s in a conversation with one scientist, an interesting experiment, uh, and it actually it’s about how cells manage.

Uh, specific operations so that the machinery is that they have are not overcrowded. And she said, as you as a researcher, you know, cells are embedded in our body and not women and men. They have half the same body temperature. And especially also the female body temperature is also connected to the monthly cycle.

So why do you do this? Always at a standardized temperature? And, uh, so external factors actually could also affect this. So they have no lined up and experiments with the cells. Uh, project. When are those able to visit the lab that they do this research? And the scientist is already very excited, uh, when we join them.

So that, yeah, they find out if there is a change or if it affects this specific process in the cell. And that is also really a scientific interest. And I asked him, From my perspective, isn’t this something you do as a standard practice, and you said, yeah, there are some products in research where you do this as scent practice, but not in this kind of research and in this.

So we didn’t think about it and nobody has thought about it by now. So there is a little bit of research around this field, but nobody has done this. So this is really an interesting question.

[00:19:30] Nir Hindi: Yeah. When you are talking, you know, I’m thinking about this stereotype type of the artists that just paint on a canvas, um, without, without understanding that that is actually go much beyond Claudia.

Let’s take a short break and then I want to speak with you about your.

Claudia you wrote the book, creating art, science, collaboration, bringing value to organizations, and how can out in science collaboration contribute to the process of innovation in organizations from working on this book.

[00:20:12] Claudia Schnugg: I already had a lot of experienced, uh, art, science collaborations. So after my PhD, I wanted to go a little more into the field of work also with practitioners on these projects. So I found out that in the field, there were a few open questions or there still are, but so one of these questions. Talking about innovation and creativity was very much attribute it to the final product of this collaborative process.

From my perspective, as, uh, with this, uh, social and organizational studies backgrounds, I thought, oh, how could you think of this? Like that? Why would you attribute creativity just to the outcome? Because creativity. Is a theory. And this actually, there are many theories around creativity that don’ts to just limit.

What is creative to one moment in time, which is constituted by an outcome. There are many different factors that influence. Creativity, the creative process and also the ability of specific individuals to be creative. So I wanted to shift the focus from look, just evaluating an outcome to looking at what are the potential contributions of the.

Very interdisciplinary processes between artists and scientists in organizations. So that it’s easier to understand that you can’t only find the. Contribution or the impact in an outcome or in a physical thing, like an artwork or a product, but you can also find it along the process and it can have a more lasting impact than a single out a single product at the

[00:22:13] Nir Hindi: end.

Yeah. You said, let’s forget for a second from creativity at the final product, let’s speak about the process. Can you give us an example? What does it mean? How artists influence in the process? What they do that actually can make maybe a more impactful product at the end, because of the unique process that they’re

[00:22:35] Claudia Schnugg: taking, bringing artists into these R&D departments, for example, you’re immediately breaking up site.

Yeah. Immediately keep breaking up something that could also be associated, not only with a disciplinary silo, but also with, uh, organizational blindness or have B12 blindness. As soon as you’re in a specific field, of course you go deep and you don’t look that. Left to the left and to the right, because you have to go deep because you need to understand, you fully understand what you do.

This, this could be seen as, as, as a very specialized way of working, which is needed for innovation. But on the other hand, you also need to connect to others. You need to learn to speak to other fields and you need to learn to exchange with them in order to see what you do can connect to the. And on the other hand, when we talk about habitual blankness or organizational blindness, as soon as we are an organization, we are starting to take over a little bit, the mindsets that is prevalent in this organization.

And we start to talk to each other in this group and we start to find interesting goals and interesting, uh, ideas. And we see the same problem. But it’s difficult to step out of this. And as soon as we bring somebody in like an artist, uh, it’s not only because it’s an external person, just like a consultant, but it is an artist.

They are for asking questions, opening up, asking critical of freeing up critical dimensions. You can open up and be can’t wake up this habitual blindness. So this is one example, but there are many more. So when you look at. All these different theories, uh, from sociology and or organizational studies that also is drawing from anthropology and ethnographic studies to understand organizational processes, you immediately have a link to understand what it can do when you bring in an artist, uh, with their tools, with this static dimension that they are working with.

Because aesthetics, as we said before, organization and aesthetics is also an important aspect. And what we do is also very much tied into a static. So we have certain rhythms that we are used to. When we learn to look at, um, at, at our data, we suddenly we learn how to see patterns, but if somebody else was an aesthetic, competence comes in and maybe they see different patterns and help us to.

Make even this what we already think we know better or see something new. Uh, so there, there are many dimensions, but it also goes into motivation theory.

[00:25:32] Nir Hindi: So it’s, it’s interesting. So what you’re saying is actually artists helping us to overcome organizational blindness. I really like it. Um, so, you know, it’s kind of, obviously, as you mentioned, there are a lot of dimensions and maybe it’s an opportunity to maybe have even a more deeper conversation on that.

But I want to ask you a question. One of the challenges that I often encounter. Is how to translate the value of art into an argument that the business world can understand. And I wonder how do you do that? How do you show organizations that there is a value in bringing artists and art into it? So you mentioned one thing that overcoming organization blindness, and you just started to speak about motivation and I’m interested.

How do you link it? Well, you can actually measure. Differently. So,

[00:26:31] Claudia Schnugg: uh, what I use, or what I often use is I look at case studies and try to use these theories and the language measures are familiar with and translate what I see as the value and the impact in these cases. Uh, I tried to link this to or to translate it into this language.

So I link it to motivational theory through to innovation or creativity theory or also some things that are very important for the organization. Technology impact or right now there is also this, um, uh, understanding of yeah. Digital humanism and humanizing technology climate change, so that there are many levels that are relevant for the organizations.

And you can use either one of these themes or, uh, one of these theoretical approaches that are linked to management. And how managers understand their organizations and you need to make a link between the cases. And show the managers, how it’s relevant to them. So this is one thing, uh, so of course it’s a lot of work cause you go through case studies and you try to link it case by case.

So that make sense to the organization. But on the other hand I think every organization has also their own needs because they’re operating different branches. Because they are in different states of their developments, maybe they’re within the change process or their startup or whatever. So you also need to link these things.

And this is very much consultants who work packs.

[00:28:21] Nir Hindi: Yeah. Can you give us a concrete example, how an artist influenced the organization, which is not necessarily R&D aspect, maybe on motivation, maybe on a employee satisfaction, maybe on formulating vision, maybe.

[00:28:36] Claudia Schnugg: Okay. So maybe I give more than one example if I may, motivation.

I went to go to the European space agency that I’m working with. Residencies. They had a few years back, they brought an artist who is working with robots and they had a little bit of yeah. Questions because the robotic department was not the department. The artist was having the residency. And so they were a little bit worried that artist may have the wrong expectations of what they can get out of the residency, but in the end, their artist was just tiny around with the scientists and talking to me.

To them about the missions that they were working on, uh, what they felt when they realized that because the artists had very much a storytelling approach also with the Robert. So the Robert had a personality and she was talking about herself as the Robert mom and, and so on. So it was very much this, this playful interaction.

So she also started to have. Playful conversations with the scientists and some, the scientists, uh, specifically one said that it was so relieving to him so that he, again, started to see what actually motivated him to work at ISA. And that it’s so difficult when you get into this daily work life. To, to still see the wonder and all these opportunities that you have and all this very special moments that you can have in your work.

Yeah. That he, again, so meaning in his work and it motivated him to make new experiments and to dream of a future in this work. So, uh, this was one very, very beautiful.

[00:30:25] Nir Hindi: Yeah. It’s just that I have to jump in because you know, you are touching something very important is that I feel that the most important sentence for me, that you said is that if found, meaning in.

And, you know, when you look at the numbers of engagement of employees with the work you have, like almost 65% of employees disengaged with their work and what you just showed that actually the artists helped the scientists to maybe fall in love from the beginning, with, eh, what he was doing.

[00:30:59] Claudia Schnugg: Yeah. And I’d fall in love again.

Of course you can have some specific experiences with arts, but it’s also shown by studies that if management takes this serious, this can be really impactful. So if it’s not just one time experience. Yeah. Where the employees think it’s a marketing staff.

You don’t get much out of it, but as soon as them please see that it’s valued also within the organization. Then this can be really impactful. I just want to go to another very different organization or company, whereas saw a lot of interesting impact It is T tech. It’s a company working on designing and developing sensors for EEG measurement already five years back, over five years back.

Uh, when I still worked at Ars electronica, we brought them in touch with artists or fashion tech artists, Anouck Wipprecht.

[00:32:05] Anouk Wipprecht: My name Anouk Wipprecht and I’m fashion designer and for the last 20 years I’ve been creating sort of robotic dresses and dresses that have like sensors built into them. And that reacts either to the body, through body signals or to the world around them, sort of, you know, so these addresses are fully equipped with all kinds of cool electronics and, uh, yeah, mostly.

[00:32:29] Claudia Schnugg: Uh, for a project that we worked on, where we talked about, whoever wanted to present artistic ideas on the future of technology and health, and these artists had actually originally needed the company to contribute to the project agent unicorn because she needed the sensors.

So is sent the company started to collect. And originally the everybody felt, oh, it’s just a very instrumental relationship, but it turned out not to be because first of all, this autistic protects, got a lot of attention and a lot of researchers from different areas, but also, uh, groups of people who are, uh, directly confronted with the situation.

18th unicorn is, is a device or is a speculative device for children on the autism spectrum. so there was a lot of conversation around this project and the idea came up that, uh, the company and the artists do together hackathon . So it opened up a completely new field actually. And this is also something very beautiful that happened.

[00:33:40] Nir Hindi: Love it. One thing you mentioned that caught my interest, and I would like to pick your brain. You said that if a company’s management is committed to the process, it can be very impactful.

And I wonder if you have, if you can name one or two or three even, or more companies that actually you see that the management is committed to this way of thinking that others in this audience can actually look up to and learn from these.

[00:34:13] Claudia Schnugg: Actually, uh, the experiments in our technology at Nokia bell labs.

This is something that it’s really an interesting program. Uh, I also think that you already interviewed

[00:34:25] Nir Hindi: Stumo.

[00:34:26] Domhnaill Hernon: Now within bell labs, since the very start of bell labs, bell labs was created in 1925. Within a few years, bell labs already started. Pioneering collaborations with artists and musicians and we collaborated with artists and musicians to push our technology way beyond where we told we code.

[00:34:44] Nir Hindi: Yeah. So for listeners that are not familiar with EAT, I recommend go to the first episode of season two to hear a demo. So one company you mentioned is bell labs and their project EAT.

[00:34:57] Claudia Schnugg: So they had this really great program that be developed in the last few years, which is somehow connected to some previous work that they did already in the 1960s.

So it’s really interesting. And it’s also really interesting because it’s so much focused on this collaborative process and gives a lot of space and openness to this. This is one company everybody should, should look up. Then there are those that are starting to have an interest. So it’s not one company that I want to mention here, but the START initiative by the U M B half also opportunities for R and D departments, but also for scientific.

Labs to become hosts of residents, artists, and residents. So the give funding, your funding to these residency processes because they want to promote. Uh, these opportunities and one of the more famous hosts there, uh, from a company side was, uh, last year Schindler the company that’s doing elevators.

And so they, they’re also super happy and had interesting conversations with them.

These are really impactful projects that it’s not just playful engagement with their products.

[00:36:29] Nir Hindi: Yeah. I think that often that’s what the managers see when it comes to artists. Some group of people coming to spray colos, all of our, co-pilot walls without understanding it, my own humble opinion that out is coming to make you feel.

[00:36:47] Claudia Schnugg: Yeah, it’s not directly a company. It’s a, it’s a research institution. Working very closely tied to industry is fumble for medias, in payment in Germany. They have really interesting engagement with artists that started from their R and D department. Yeah. So there are a lot of companies and they’re even some new, some new, um, approaches within the field of mining.


[00:37:17] Nir Hindi: interesting. First of all, I mean, we will make sure to add the links to the names of the companies and institution. You mentioned on the show notes. So make sure to go and check it. We are getting into the end of our. And I have a question. One of the things you did also is taking part, at the future lab at Ars electronica, but I don’t want to speak about the lab, but I want to hear your opinion about what we are going to.

In the next few years at the intersection of art science and technology, in your opinion.

[00:37:54] Claudia Schnugg: So as he imagined the future lab when I joined the future lab, it was some kind of a refuge for people who wanted to work interdisciplinary with arts and bring together art, science, and technology and experience.

Um, this was already quite a few years back. And in the meantime, I think I’m also looking to OECD studies and whatever on transdisciplinarity and, uh, all these calls also in education for interdisciplinarity. I think we’re finally reached this point that we’ve got. Neat to have these interdisciplinary collaborations and bringing art into all of these different aspects of our lives in the very near future to have a valuable future and to create a future that we want to have.

[00:38:44] Nir Hindi: Great. I think we couldn’t have finished this podcast better with such an inspiring and aspiration to bring out to all the different parts of our lives to have a better and more imaginative future. Dr. Claudia, thank you very, very much for taking the time and sharing all your wisdom and knowledge about this intersect.

[00:39:10] Claudia Schnugg: Thank you so much for inviting me. It was a pleasure talking to you.

[00:39:14] Nir Hindi: Thank you, Claudia.