Creating a community of practice
arvae creates spaces for collaboration between the arts, science, and local expertise. We enable the organic development of topics and projects across disciplines, in close collaboration with the localities we work in. We take time to learn from – and with – the interests and practices of each participant in order to discover synergies and develop joint projects that permeate institutional boundaries. Our work is deeply personal – rooted in the knowledge, experiences and (hi)stories of those we collaborate with.
Cultivating ground for authentic collaboration
We connect and share knowledge from the arts, science, and local experts (e.g. farmers, agricultural landowners, forest managers, or local tourism departments) at the sites of where we work. We are driven by an open and transparent process of knowledge sharing and project development.
The core of our work was the «Kollektiv»: a year-long site-specific experiment in collaborative and transdisciplinary work between artists, scientists, and local (environmental) experts, that took place in Arosa, Switzerland from 2021-2022. arvae created the conditions and the atmosphere needed to facilitate collaboration in 3 project phases (research phase, lab phase, production phase).
The arvae team started conversations and a pre-research phase in Arosa in March 2021 and established our relationship with our local partner, Arosa Tourism. We learnt that the municipality is facing some urgent environmental challenges. Such as changing seasons meaning longer summers and challenges to their dependence on winter tourism; and shifts in prevalent species in high altitudes. Therefore Arosa embraced the approach of arvae to activate and fuel a broader public imagination around these topics.
In August 2021 the research phase of the Arosa «Kollektiv» took place. In this first step the «Kollektiv» members visited Arosa and identified the needs, challenges, and opportunities for potential projects in close exchange with various local (environmental) experts. Thank you to – Evi Sprecher and Hanspeter Mohler (Biogarten Schanfigg), Janosch Bremauer (there-for-trees), Georg Arpagaus (hotelier, entrepreneur and pioneer in solar energy), Claudio Färber (district forester), Marcel Laversa (chef Anders Arosa), Ruth Licht (storyteller / Heimatmuseum), Lidia Alder (Arosa Tourism sustainability manager) Bettina Tschour (Restaurant Güterschuppen), Roland Bürkli (fountain master / Arosa Klaranlage), Yvonne Altmann (mayor of Arosa), Pascal Jenny (Arosa Tourism) – for your insights and ideas. The research phase resulted in the identification of water systems, agriculture, local food production, and sustainable tourism as key topics for the «Kollektiv» to develop projects on.
Based on the information gathered in the research phase, the «Kollektiv» started developing specific project proposals addressing the selected topics. In order to advance the work on the proposals the «Kollektiv» members met again in Arosa in September 2021. During this lab phase the «Kollektiv» largely organised their work autonomously. There were further meetings held with local (environmental) experts, we sat together with Arosa’s mayor and the president of Arosa Tourism; and had numerous work-sessions, gatherings, and reflections together to further develop the project proposals. Following this, the «Kollektiv» members worked on their project proposals remotely for three additional weeks.
A project advisory group made up of experienced members of our sounding board and network helped us then make a selection for implementation. This included Monica Ursina Jäger (artist, lecturer and research associate at the Institute of Natural Resource Sciences, ZHAW), Pascal Jenny (President of Arosa Tourism), Yvonne Altmann (Mayor of Arosa), Farah Ahmed (Climate Justice Lead at Julie’s Bicycles, London), Lalasia Bialic-Murphy (Lead Scientist at Crowther Lab, ETH), Serayna Solanki (freelance consultant in climate, environment and community participation, London); and Céline Oberle (“Organic” Lead at Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund).
From mid-November 2021 till June 2022 two projects submitted by the «Kollektiv» were produced: «Schpensa: a growing archive on cultivated crops» and «Food is human: (re)imagining human-fungi interdependencies» (read more about the projects in the tabs below).
During this phase, additional site-visits to Arosa, lab experiments at ETH Zürich; atelier work; and numerous planning and producing meetings took place. Late night zooms and whatsapp chats kept the project groups together during this intensive remote working phase.
The «Kollektiv» members
Meet the «Kollektiv» of artists, scientists, and local (environmental) experts for arvae in Arosa:
Visual artist, Matamaros, Mexico
Paloma is a visual artist interested in empowering the relationship between domestic living strategies and political context. She is a diaspora mother and a mestiza daughter whose work fictionalizes historical, ecological, and social issues as means of analysis and critique. Paloma´s projects nourish visions of connection and dreams of emancipation. Her favorite spaces to work range from the kitchen to river shores, from international bridges to agricultural land, from community meeting points to aquelarre. Paloma’s work is rooted in her home, the landscapes at the eastern border between Mexico and the US, and is now blooming in her current base in Zurich.
Journalist for the Arosa Zeitung and deputy manager of the Güterschuppen restaurant in Arosa
Raised in the eastern part of Switzerland, Bettina has been living in Arosa and working in gastronomy for the past four years. As a Deputy Manager at the Restaurant Güterschuppen she can follow her passion for food and enjoy the beautiful nature around the Schanfigg valley. A summer job in a mountain hut on 2300 m a.s.l. gave way to her wish to work in gastronomy after working at an international Grisons energy company, receiving her bachelor’s degree in business administration, and gaining work experience in the areas of human resources development, marketing, sponsoring, and events. In her spare time she loves cooking with local and seasonal ingredients from the market or her parents’ garden.
Dr. Mark Anthony
Microbial biologist for Crowther Lab, ETH Zürich
Mark is a microbial ecologist and teacher at ETH Zürich. He researches how the diversity of soil microorganisms influences plant development and the sensitivities of ecosystems to global environmental changes. His main motivation to study fungi lies in the fact that many of these organisms form symbiosis with plants through mycorrhizae, and that the composition and diversity of fungi strongly affects forest ecosystems. Despite their importance in ecosystems most fungi live in the soil and are invisible to the naked eye and thus do not garner the same attention as plants and animals in conservation or restoration initiatives. Mark is passionate about making a convincing case for fungal conservation and research because fungi are figurative engines powering nutrient cycles as decomposers and mycorrhizal symbionts, and that we can prepare better for the future by understanding the ecology of fungi and explicitly incorporating them into environmental initiatives. He is fascinated with Swiss forests because they are highly managed and face many contemporary environmental challenges which will be exacerbated by climate change.
Arosa citizen since 1928 and storyteller
Ruth has lived in Arosa since 1928. Even though her birth place is Glarus, she is a true Arosa citizen. Really, there are probably few people who have more Arosa in them than she does. Not only has she spent her whole life in this wonderful place, some say her personality and life truly reflect this magical alpine town. Just by listening to her stories you might feel sent to the past so vividly that you might even come out believing you had lived it yourself.
PHD candidate at the Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems, ETH Zürich
Being a fond lover of nature and always having felt the urge to understand our impact on the environment and how everything in the ecosystem is connected and interacts, Nadine decided to study physical geography with focus on forests, ecology, and hydrology. While she mainly studied temperature forests during her studies, she now works in the tropical rainforests of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, investigating the effects of forest restoration on ecosystem functioning. Moreover, she’s also observing if the forest structure resulting from logging influences the hydrology cycle, and the special role of dung beetles in the infiltration of water into the soil. Her work in forests has not only opened her eyes for their value and beauty but it also constantly fascinates her anew.
Chemist, soapmaker and owner of the Seifenmacherei in Arosa
Beat is a pharmacist by formation and runs the Seifenmacherei in Arosa. His soap manufacturing produces hand-made, natural shower soaps and is a family business. His mother is in charge of packaging and shipment across Switzerland, his father takes care of technical issues and is a cool crisis manager, and Beat himself runs the core business of the Seifenmacherei as founder and is in charge of production and development.
Violeta studied architecture in Mexico City and urban design in Berlin and Shanghai. She is currently working with Vogt Landscape Architects in Zurich, where she develops research and practice-oriented projects as part of the Case Studio. Apart from her experience in film and art production she has also curated several cultural events as a member of her office and co-designed exhibitions from Los Angeles to Venice... She recently released a book titled “Paradise Now. Die Neuen Grenzen des Gartens”, co-written with Günther Vogt, which investigates shifting ecosystems as a result of human activities and the thresholds that separate our notions of architecture and landscape.
Arosa district forester
As district foresters in Arosa, Claudio is responsible for the sustainable maintenance and management of Arosa’s forest. The biggest challenges to his work are currently posed by increasing deer populations due to changes in climate and vegetation around Arosa, risks for alpine agriculture due to shifts in tree and forest lines, and current shocks to the international lumber market.
Anne-Laure Franchette is a French artist with a background in Human Sciences. Her work deals with urban nature and the circulation of plants in relation to industrial materials. She is particularly interested in the intersections between botany and industry, wilderness and civilized world, authorised or sanctioned migration and spontaneous settlement. Since 2018 she has been part of the interdisciplinary research group TETI which explores the textures and experiences of trans-industriality. She is also co-founder and artistic director of Volumes, a non-profit organisation founded in Zurich in 2013 to support local and international DIY facets of art publishing and introduce them to a wider audience in Switzerland.
Arosa’s fountain master
Roland has been responsible for Arosa's water supply and infrastructure facilities as a fountain master for almost 12 years now. He manages the water extraction, which takes place via twelve spring systems in the region of the ski resort. Management and monitoring of the water supply is done via a metering and remote control system in the office of the municipal building department – Roland's workplace - when he is not in the field at the springs, pipelines or pumping stations. Challenges in Roland's work arise mainly in connection with the fact that the demand for water as well as the load on the treatment plant increases during the months of the winter season.
Forest scientist and Community Engagement Officer at Restor
Simeon has been working in the forest restoration sector for more than 10 years. He has been working with NGOs in many parts of the world, mostly in Uganda and Indonesia, implementing ecosystem restoration projects on the ground, and has represented the grassroots perspective at various international conferences. As the Community Engagement Officer at Restor his responsibility is to build and grow the global restoration network, connecting actors from all over the world with themselves and with science.
Evie Sprecher and Hanspeter Mohler
Organic pioneers in vegetable and herb cultivation
Hanspeter and Evie run the organic garden Schanfigg. It is located in Pagig on a sunny south-facing slope in Schanfigg. In the relatively mild mountain climate, they grow herbs, vegetables and food-grade hemp in organic quality at 1300 metres above sea level. Evie and Hanspeter sell their products fresh from the garden or process them into fragrant teas and aromatic spice blends. They attach great importance to sustainable, ecological production and high product quality. In addition to their garden in Pagig, Evie and Hanspeter can also be found in Soglio, in Bergell, gathering herbs for Soglio-Produkte AG. And in October they are always harvesting chestnuts.
project #1: fungi
Food is human: (re)imagining human-fungi interdependencies
This highly experimental, process-based project aims to grow edible mushrooms (fungi) from human waste in order to investigate current hierarchies in food consumption and production globally and in Arosa.
Following a site-visit through Arosa’s water system during the research phase and multiple exchanges with the organic garden in Schanfigg, the project group drew strong connections between the underground water-pipe system in Arosa and a fungal network. Based on the great potential of mushrooms to mediate connections, the project takes up one of the issues most discussed by the «Kollektiv»: the development and expansion of tourism in Arosa and the urban waste it generates. It offers new perspectives and possibilities on waste generation while addressing the challenges of growing food and sustaining soil health in an alpine region; and the importance of local food production in Arosa. For this purpose, an experiment was conducted to cultivate edible mushrooms from mainly sewage sand gained from Arosa’s wastewater treatment plant. The experiment was made visible through an installation in Arosa, aiming to expand the idea of what waste can be.
The project team found that different edible fungal species colonised Arosa municipal sludge and very likely used it as an energy and/or nutrient source. Both oyster and lion’s mane fungi intentionally grew towards and onto the municipal sludge, even when given the chance to avoid it. Only the industrial indoor spawn bags fruited during the exhibition. Unfortunately our DIY spawn bags did not. We believe this is because we opened the bags too early and possibly they needed more time to grow before trying to induce fruiting. We did not yet have the timing correct to synchronize the timing of the mycelial growth with the exhibition duration. The project team is interested in taking the experiment further in another constellation next year.
«Food is human» centers around questioning how fungi and feces have so often been described as unwanted, ugly and disgusting; rendered invisible and thereby non-existent despite being an important part of Earth’s survival. It portrays fungi as a metaphor of rhizomatic, interdependent, invisible relations and communications – from whom we can learn so much.
To procure the waste, the project team worked with Arosa’s fountain master, Roland Bürkli. The project was supported by the Crowther Lab, ETH Zürich, who provided facilities to safely remediate the waste and test the growing of edible fungi.
This project was developed by microbiologist Mark Anthony, artist Paloma Ayala, ecologist Nadine Keller, and the Arosa sewage treatment plant.
project #2: schpensa
Schpensa: a growing archive on cultivated crops
The interdisciplinary project “Schpensa” (a Grishun expression for food storage or pantry) aims to show the potential of localising food systems in the Alpine region. It addresses this by using the example of the potato and the relationship of the Arosa population to cultivated plants.
«Schpensa» consists of three elements:
1. A growing online archive which collects both historical and current scientific, artistic and culinary contributions on the potato. These contributions range from new recipes for old potato varieties, to scientific articles on the origin of the potato in Europe, to global stories of potato cultivation.
2. A town garden of potatoes was planted throughout Arosa – with the help of the municipality of Arosa, Didis Bluemelade and the Maran experimental garden by Agroscope – and cared for by local garden hosts.
3. The harvest in autumn was followed by a harvest dinner for all local partners and collaborators.
In a broader sense, «Schpensa» aims to use the example of the potato to pose questions about contemporary and sustainable nutrition in the Alpine region. The «Schpensa» project team believes that the future development of global food production depends largely on societies’ ability to adapt to climatic changes and to re-think their dietary habits.
«Schpensa» is the result of a collaboration between the Arosa native Tina Arpagaus, the Arosa resident and gastronomy manager Bettina Tschuor, the landscape architect Violeta Burckhardt and the artist Anne-Laure Franchette.
exhibition in Arosa
New perspectives on sustainability
The exhibition «Neue Perspektiven zur Nachhaltigkeit» in Natur Labor Arosa was the first moment to bring arvae’s collaborative processes to the public. It was open from 30 June – 13 August 2022 with a public program taking place on 2 July 2022.
In the exhibition, representations of the «Schpensa» process were displayed – the online archive was available to view and images of contemporary schpensas, found around Arosa and documented by Roman Ernst, were displayed on a traditional potato storage unit.
Unused plastics found in kitchens, second-hand stores and studios were recovered for the «Food is human» installation. We learned that plastic, in this form, is productive for fungi to grow and flourish. Some habitats are filled with bought / industrial indoor spawn bags and some with the project team’s DIY spawn-bags in order to monitor growing and cultivation variations during the 6 week exhibition. Hanging walls traced this intensive, ongoing research process which was also materialised at the archive table; and in a short video produced by Paloma Ayala.
Thank you to Flavia, Papi, Yumi, Phillippe and Jérémy for their production support in the lead up to the exhibition. And to Claudio and the Natur Labor Arosa team for caring for the exhibition. And to Nina for the photo documentation of the exhibition and Schpensa garden.
«am Tisch» dinner series
Food for thought.
«Am Tisch» is a curated dinner series taking place in intimate, informal and unexpected settings. It acts as a forum for (future) exchange with arvaes transdisciplinary community within, across, and between the arts and sciences.
Our first dinner in this series took place in September 2021. We invited visual artist and «Kollektiv Arosa» member Paloma Ayala to co-host the evening with us. Paloma foraged local ingredients and prepared the meal in her garden (with her self-made oven), giving our guests a deeper insight into her decolonial cooking and artistic practice.
«Mobile Soils» dinner series
In 2022 we collaborated on «Mobile Soils» at SAE Greenhouse, ETH Zürich as part of a series of networking and thematic exchanges between science, art and agronomy. This series of three dinners was a collaboration between arvae, Manon Briod & Mathieu Pochon, foodculture days, TETI Group and SAE Greenhouse Lab. Together, we unfolded the three chapters of the publication “MobileSoils” by TETI Press: investigating the mineral and rooted discussions of the underground, looking at the layered and planted conversations on the ground, and finally exploring the circulating patterns across the overground.
arvae and SAE Greenhouse curated the second dinner «Ground» which took place on 3 June 2022 and included contributions by Mariana Murcia, Santiago Pinyol, Siavash Namehshiri, Kenza Benabderrazik, Jose Caceres Mardones and Tara Lasrado.
The dinner explored the dynamics of “giving and taking”, “production and consumption”, “human beings and machines”, “linear and circular”, addressing food and agricultural practices and through scientific and socio-political questions. How to turn the relations of a greenhouse into a social, educational and cultural space for interpersonal relations, embodied gestures and non-production? How does soil nurture or feed us – and what do these processes look like? We understand soil as a body of knowledge, containing many (hi)stories. This dinner was a sensory exploration and haptic experience – we invited guests to taste the research, listen to the food, smell the sounds.
«Mobile Soils» dinner series was made possible with the support of Pro Helvetia and Migros Pioneer Fund.
our community of practice
arvae was present at and participated in various gatherings, meetings and presentations throughout 2021 – 2022, including «Blue Cables in Venetian Watercourse» in Shanghai, (Y)our2040 summit in Laax, The International relations committee of ZHdK, Franklin University in Ticino, «Kulturforum» in Lüen, «Agroecologist without borders» seminar, part of the Sustainable Agroecosystems Group at the Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich; Inland Academy for art, agroecology and territory; «Nachhaltige, kreative Ökonomien» at the Institut Kulturforschugn Graubünden, «with the field» collective as part of the Pro Helvetia To-Gather project, LEARNING FROM THE EARTH symposium as part of the Land Art Biennale Safiental; and the South Asian curators trip in Switzerland organised by Pro Helvetia and Artlink.
*all articles in German.
Aroser Zeitung – August 2021
Aroser Zeitung – April 2022
Aroser Zeitung – June 2022
WOZ – July 2022
Before joining forces with Tara to start arvae, Alex leveraged her intercultural capacities building platforms and bridges for artists and designers who work with new technology and science. With an academic background in international relations, cultural management and cultural policy in urban development, she has always been interested in where the arts meet other sectors, disciplines and logics. She has dedicated her career to holding space for free artistic practices within these other structures and fostering understanding for the value of other disciplines collaborating with the arts. She has curated cultural content for tech and science platforms, facilitated collaborations between Swiss partners and American universities, and consulted art schools on their interdisciplinary teaching and internationalization strategies. She has also conceptualised and realised both physical and virtual exhibitions between art, science and technology. Furthermore, by facilitating programs for exchange on cultural entrepreneurship and mentoring cultural start-ups, she has developed a sense for the potential that lies between the arts and a market. She believes that we can most effectively make this world a better place by working together and that every fruitful collaboration starts and succeeds in honest human connection. This is what she strives to contribute to with arvae.
Tara is a producer and curator particularly interested in working on experimental, interdisciplinary, collective, and non-institutional collaborations. Her practice-based experiences permeate institutions, manifesting in public spaces, off-spaces and open fields. She has produced artistic projects intersecting with climate science, communications, activism and pedagogy. Tara has initiated numerous platforms for emerging artists to present their works to new audiences, mentored artists, organised public space interventions, curated festivals, summer schools, and performance programs, and hosted artist residencies. She works closely with artists and collectives on land-based, decolonial, and performative practices. Her research on the role art plays in an environmentally fragile context like Bangladesh was published as input for the OHCHR report on climate change, culture, and cultural rights. Her focus on production while developing support systems and sustainable conditions for artists drives her current works.
Roman has his roots in art education with further academic training in design, communication science, and history of photography. In addition to his work as a communication officer at arvae, he has been working for three years in the field of Knowledge Visualization at the Zurich University of the Arts. In scientific illustration it is important to have a good understanding of both complex scientific issues and the reading habits and visual skills of the respective target audience in order to translate them into effective visual content. This experience shapes his understanding of communication, which relies on the ability and willingness to constantly change perspectives. Against this background Roman accompanies the transdisciplinary work of the «Kollektiv» in a mediating capacity. He is also responsible for the photographic documentation of arvae.
Local coordinator for arvae in Arosa
Tina is the third generation to run the charming, family-owned chalet hotel Sonnenhalde and hosted the members of the «Kollektiv» during their stay in Arosa. A passionate hotelier, she was born and raised in Arosa and – as she has discovered during several stays abroad – cannot imagine a more beautiful place to live. She shares her fascination for the beauty of Arosa and her attachment to the local culture to her guests with dedication and charm. Tina joined the arvae team as local coordinator of our first «Kollektiv» in Arosa, mediating between the local citizens and stakeholders, «Kollektiv» members and our team.
Farah Ahmed, Climate Justice Lead at Julie’s Bicycles, London
Prof. Tom Crowther, ecologist and founder of Crowther Lab, Zürich
Prof. Dr. Charlotte Grossiord, Group Leader of Plant Ecology Research Laboratory PERL (EPFL / WSL), Lausanne
Nicolas Henchoz, Director of EPFL + ECAL Lab, Lausanne
Monica Ursina Jäger, artist, lecturer and research associate, Institute of Natural Resource Sciences, ZHAW
Adrian Notz, AI + Art Curator, ETH AI Center
Dharmendra Prasad, artist, Nadaon
Christian Simm, Head of International Relations at University of Zürich
Serayna Solanki, freelance consultant in climate, environment and community participation, London
Migros Pioneer Fund
The Migros Pioneer Fund looks for and supports ideas with social potential. It enables pioneering projects that break new ground and seek out forward-looking solutions. Its impact-oriented funding approach combines financial support with coaching services. The Migros Pioneer Fund is part of the Migros Group’s social commitment and is enabled by the Migros Group with around CHF 15 million annually. For further information: www.migros-pionierfonds.ch
Crowther Lab is an interdisciplinary science lab at ETH Zurich. Their global research generates a better understanding of Earth’s ecology and inspires responsible ecosystem restoration. The team believes in conserving, protecting, and restoring nature to fight climate change and enhance human health and wellbeing. For further information: www.crowtherlab.com
As a destination management organization, Arosa Tourism represents the destination and its tourist facilities, offers and events to the outside world, including marketing for the mountain village. Arosa Tourism does its utmost to maintain the destination as a small paradise in the Grisons mountains for both locals and guests. For further information: www.arosalenzerheide.swiss