News about climate change, species extinction, wars, and the like confront young people in particular with entirely new questions: How does it affect me and my surroundings? Can I just continue on as if nothing were amiss? Won’t everything change? What has to change? And if everything does change: Will there still be room for me and my art? What can we do? And how can I effect change and make my contribution as an artist, an educator, a researcher?

The Fridays for Future movement arose out of a rebellion by countless students both against schools and universities that had left young people alone with these questions and against curricula that included no representation of themes relevant to the future of humankind. With this in mind, the mdw Senate working group Klimawandel in Forschung, Kunst und Lehre [Climate Change in Research, the Arts, and Teaching] is investigating various ways in which the themes of climate change and ecological sustainability might be integrated in the mdw’s teaching in order to bolster the kinds of proactive, future-oriented thinking and knowledge that are needed on the part of all students.

I enjoy the feeling that I, as an artist, really can do something to contribute to [the transformation of] the world.

Annie Ternström, mdw student and participant in Lectures for Future as well as Arts of Change

What do the arts have to do with the Earth’s climate?

For two years, this question has been put to individuals active in the arts in the form of a Q&A feature in mdw Magazine as well as in the “Lectures for Future” (L4F). For the latter, guest lecturers from the most varied fields are invited to speak—thereby expanding upon existing knowledge, generating an ever-broader and simultaneously more complex impression of the relationships between the arts and sustainability, and joining in the search for new forms of artistic expression and opportunities to take action, all of which gives rise to new substantive questions. At the same time, there exists growing recognition of the potential that is inherent in artistic creative processes, strategies, and problem-solving approaches relevant to social and ecological transformation—as well as recognition of how important it would be to eliminate those barriers with which artists and academics alike are forced to grapple: barriers between the arts and the sciences, between various artistic and academic disciplines, between thought and action, and between being human and being an artist.

What I like best about this course is that lots of different people from all kinds of different fields come together here, getting acquainted with and also building new and different networks.

Lukas Nisandzic, mdw student and participant in Lectures for Future

Alongside the Lectures for Future, whose mdw-based editions Doris Ingrisch and Michael Kneihs will offer once again in the 2024 summer semester both as a course for students of all programmes and semesters and as further training for members of the mdw community and other interested individuals, the funding and coaching programme “Arts of Change – Change of Arts: Studierende österreichischer Kunstuniversitäten gestalten Wandel” […: Students of Austrian Arts Universities Shape Change] offers students the opportunity to “realise self-initiated projects at the interface between the arts, sustainability, and social and ecological transformation as teams. The realisation of their own projects as part of Arts of Change affords participants experiences of self-efficacy such that they realise how they can use their art to achieve impacts conducive to sustainable development.”1

The lectures left me with a whole lot of ideas in terms of artistic realisation. Though I’d been very interested in the topic of sustainability before, I hadn’t been able to connect and think about these two realms as a whole.

Gemeilung Wang, mdw student and participant in Lectures for Future

Arts of Change – Travelling Exhibition & Call

This programme, initiated by the association “forum n”, has seen twelve mdw students participate since 2020, developing projects and realising them in teams together with students from other Austrian arts universities. The outcomes of this artistic networking and intense engagement with the words “Art can change the world?!”—understood as both a question and a summons—will be exhibited on the mdw Campus from 15 to 19 January 2024. The call for the fifth round of Arts of Change – Change of Arts will then go out in January 2024.

Further information

  1. Julia Herzog, Franziska Allerberger, Anna Struth, Helena Detsch (2022): Mit Kunst die Welt verändern?! Studierende im inter- und transdisziplinären Projekt Arts of Change – Change of Arts machen es vor, Read the full article at:
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