Sustainability Through Art

The Role of Art In and Towards Sustainable Changes

The Research Committee of Sociology of Arts and Culture (CR-SAC) of the Swiss Sociological Association and the Universities of Geneva, Lausanne as well as Lucerne would like to welcome all participants to the conference “Sustainability through Art”. The main purpose of the event is to render visible what is being done in the field of “arts and sustainability”, engage in debates and discussions between different actors working in the field, and explore future research and research-action directions.

For more than a century, sociology has studied art and culture as being among the main pillars of society and human activity, intertwined with social norms, values, traditions, ways of being, and seeing. In 2015, the United Nations Member States adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) towards attaining “a better and more sustainable future for all”. Some of the SDGs have long been the direct research subjects of the social sciences: poverty and vulnerability (SDG 1), health and wellbeing (SDG 3), labour and working conditions (SDG 8) as well as gender and social inequalities (SDG 5, 10). Since the 1970s, studies have also delved into the sociological aspects of what was left for a long time to the natural sciences: issues at the crossroads of society and biodiversity, marine and wildlife preservation, energy resources, and climate change – constituting a major part of the SDG agenda.

While the sociology of arts and culture has long dealt with classical sociological questions of artistic production, distribution and reception, the concern for ecological issues has only recently been taken up.1 On the one hand, the artistic field is an economy and an industry like any other, where the use of natural and human resources leads to questions of inequality, access, and power relations. On the other hand, it represents a particular case, as intertwined with the issues of sustainability are those of artistic meaning, reception and cultural practices, and social factors different than in other fields. This calls for broader sociological analyses of the complex relationships between arts/culture and sustainable development in all its forms. The sociology of arts and culture therefore provides a special take on all areas of sustainability while contributing to bridging the gap between dualisms such as ‘nature/culture’, ‘environment/society’, and ‘art/technology’.

The initially identified two main themes – the environmental and social impact of art and art’s role in the support of the transformations towards more sustainable societies – will be discussed in various ways and approached from different angles. Over thirty scholars will give fourteen presentations, reflecting on the role of art in taking up environmental sustainability (session 1) and illustrating it (session 2), the sustainability of art itself (session 3), and its role in making change happen, both in specific contexts (session 4) and in relation to more broader issues (session 5). These presentations are supplemented in two different ways: first, a world café format on the second day of the conference offers the possibility to discuss issues in a more open format. Second, the conference will start and end with keynote presentations – the first by Karin M. Ekström (University of Borås) and the second by Nicolas Nova (HEAD Genève) and François Ribac (University of Burgundy-Franche-Comté). The virtual format represents a challenge to the informal discussions that are usually an integral part of a conference. We do hope, however, that we are also able to provide the opportunity to socialize, for example with a digital aperitif on the evening of the first day.

Scientific and organizing committee

  • Olivier MOESCHLER, University of Lausanne
  • Nuné NIKOGHOSYAN, University of Geneva
  • Loïc RIOM, Mines ParisTech and University of Geneva
  • Marlyne SAHAKIAN, University of Geneva
  • Guy SCHWEGLER, University of Lucerne

Online Participation & Venue Address

The conference “Sustainability through Art” will take place in a semi-virtual format. All participants will join online via the video platform ZOOM (details below). In addition, Swiss scholars will be meeting at Les Saules in Geneva,


Should you need assistance in joining the event or further information, please contact:

Nuné Nikoghosyan,, +41 78 753 59 89 Marlyne Sahakian,, +41 79 393 8733

Conference Program

Thursday, 24.09.2020

09:15    09:45    Welcome Address

09:45    11:15    Keynote 1 

Karin M. Ekström: Tensions Between Marketization and the Value of Art: Looking Beyond the Figures

11:15    11:45    Coffee Break

11:45    12:45    Session 1: The Role of Art in Taking Up Environmental Sustainability

Michel Massmünster & Judith Tonner: Creating Futures – Opportunities Through Extra-Curricular Art Education

Robin Casse & Carole Christe: “Saving the Planet” while “Making Art”? How the Environmental Crisis Influences Contemporary Performing Arts Production

12:45    14:15    Lunch Break

14:15    16:15    Session 2: The Sustainability of Art

Montserrat Filella: Music Listening in the Anthropocene

Chien Lee: Seeing Art Through Photographic Mediation – Re-considering Visitor Photography, Virtual Museum, and Sustainability of Exhibition

Filip Vermeylen & Ulrike Hahn: High Profile Artists, Museums and Exhibitions and their Ecological Messages

Loïc Riom: Concert Atmosphere: Live Music Venues and the Anthropocene

16:15    16:45    Coffee Break

16:45    18:15    Session 3: Art and Social Sustainability in Local Action

Jenny Maggi & Fiorenza Gamba: The Guediawaye Hip Hop Centre in Dakar – Articulation between Artistic Production, Political Awareness, and Activism for Sustainable Change

Melissa MoralliPierluigi Musarò, Paola Parmiggiani, & Roberta Paltrinieri: On Social Sustainability – the Role of Performing Arts in Valorizing Cultural Diversity

Sophie Vögele: Teaching and Learning Sustainability? Lessons Learned from Diversity and Anti-Discrimination in Higher Art Education

From 18:15  Informal Discussion & Online Drinks

Friday, 25.09.2020

09:15    11:15    World Café

Parallel Group Discussions lead by Federico Andreotti & Amalia Sacchi, Guy Schwegler,Loïc Riom, and Michel Massmünster & Sophie Vögele

11:15    11:45 Coffee Break

11:45    12:45 Session 4: Policy Change With, Through, and Alongside Art

Bettina BrohmannUwe R. Fritsche, & Sina Ribak: How can Art as a “Model of Change” Support Sustainable Transformation Processes – Experiences and Lessons from the Energy Transition in Germany

Harald Heinrichs Daniel Hoernemann : Arts-based Scientific Policy Advice

12:45    14:15    Lunch Break

14:15    15:45    Session 5: Illustrating Environmental Sustainability

David Maggs: A Theory of Art for its Transdisciplinary Destiny?

Federico Andreotti & Amalia Sacchi: Scientists Take Action – Communication Processes and Methods for Narrating the Sustainable Development Goals to Citizens

Núria Bonet: Sonification and “Climate Fatigue”

15:45    16:15  Coffee Break

16:15    17:45  Keynote 2 Nicolos Nova & François Ribac : Arts and Sustainability

From 17:45 Concluding Remarks & Informal Discussion

Zoom Links

Welcome Address & Keynote 1, Karin M. Ekström (please note, the keynote will be recorded):

General Conference: paper sessions and world café breakout rooms; no recording:

Keynote 2, François Ribac & Nicolos Nova (please note, the keynote will be recorded):


The Research Committee of Sociology of Arts and Culture (CR-SAC) of the Swiss Sociological Association and the Universities of Geneva, Lausanne as well as Lucerne would like to welcome all participants to the conference “Sustainability through Art”. The main purpose of the event is to render visible what is being done in the field of […]

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