Artist Talk - Medientheorie: Sonja Bäumel
On May 28, 2019, Austrian artist Sonja Bäumel, who is based at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam,
will give a lecture in Vienna titled “Microbial Bodies”. The talk asks the question Where does an environment begin and end?
Sonja Bäumel’s interest focuses on the microbial layer, a second, top layer that can be found on all bodies.
is an in-between layer, full of life, which serves as a fluid coating where exchange takes place. The human body does not
end at the skin, but is continually, invisibly expanding into this fluid in-between. The in-between is full of complex microbial
relations, and the human body is just a tiny part of these. For more than ten years Sonja Bäumel has been collaborating with
scientists, artists, designers, cultural historians, anthropologists, philosophers, and filmmakers to find out more about
this in-between layer.
Her arts-based research also explores evolving perception of what bodies are made of. She investigates
how scientific knowledge has influenced the way we have perceived and interpreted the human body historically, and how this
affects our current society and the cultural contexts in which we act. Sonja Bäumel is particularly interested in how our
understanding of what it means “to be human” is fundamentally changing in the twenty-first century. The critique of human
exceptionalism and the democratisation of scientific knowledge are at the core of her work and its investigation of the curious
relationship between (human) bodies and microbes. Based on current scientific theories and discoveries, her work stages encounters
with these organisms living inside and on us to explore possible futures for further coexistence.
Sonja Bäumel studied
Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of Vienna, and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Art and Design Linz,
as well as a MA in Conceptual Design in Context from the Design Academy Eindhoven. In 2012 she was awarded the Outstanding
Artist Award for Experimental Design for her project Textile Anatomy, from the BMUKK Federal Ministry for Education, Art and
Culture of Vienna. Her work has been exhibited internationally at the Ars Electronica Center (AT), Anthology Film Archives
New York (USA); MAK Museum of Applied Art (AT); Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei (TW), Museum of Natural History Vienna (AT),
ZKM Center for Art and Media (DE), and Centre Pompidou Paris (FR). Her Textured Self project is in the permanent collection
of the Textielmuseum in Tilburg, The Netherlands. Her works have also been the basis of documentary films (ORF/ARTE: BioArt:
Kunst aus dem Labor; ServusTV_Terra Mater: Wir sind Planeten) to which she actively contributed. She is co-founder of the
Dunbar’s Number collective (2011), a member of the Pavillon35 (2012) collective based in Vienna, and of the WNDRLUST (2013–2018)
collective based in Amsterdam.
Sonja Bäumel heads the Jewellery — Linking Bodies Department at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie
in Amsterdam, as well as lecturing and holding workshops at various national and international academies and universities.
The Guest Lecture Series of Professor Ingeborg Reichle’s lecture course BioArt: New Directions in Art and Biotechnology
is an informative and stimulating opportunity to hear from distinguished artists and experts about what’s going on in the
emerging fields of bioart, biodesign, and speculative biology, and also helps our students to build their network of contacts.
Our guest lectures are open to all.