Transformations to sustainability must address the whole human being. We believe that art, sensory and whole-body experiences of why change is both needed and possible add to our success. This is why we collaborate with artists and ‘sense-makers’ from all fields. 


Ancestral Futures (of Food?)

Jonathas de Andrade, Maya Minder, and Veronika Spierenburg (with Nuno Barroso). Curated by Damian Christinger with Sonja Schenkel


16th September – 13th November 2021 


The Habitat at the Wyss Academy for Nature was created as a space of reflection and experimentation on the interconnectedness between art and nature, to further our mission to catalyze solutions that transform interactions between people and nature. 


How can we modify our ways of living to reflect and sustain a respectful relationship with nature? Art can be one answer as it has the power to shatter outmoded paradigms and draw freely from the past in order to face and address challenges of the future. 


The current exhibition Ancestral Futures (of Food?) reflects on the imagery of fishing and the sea by presenting recontextualized historical visual documents and artefacts by Veronika Spierenburg, a highly aesthetical meditation through the medium of film by Brazilian artist Jonathas de Andrade and the cooking practice by Maya Minder. All works explore an area where the interconnection between land and water determines the climate and shapes the landscape as well as the working environment of its people. The camera (historical and contemporary) observes and explores the landscape with an artistic sensibility and captures fishing nets and boats, past, present and possible futures. 


The Habitat aims to open a multiversed conversation with the engaged public. The aim in bringing a diverse group together is to co-create and share, enact and grasp, disseminate and internalize multiple types of knowledge, expanding our perspective beyond the situated bounds of each of our respective singular contexts and traditions. Thus, the aim at the core of the Wyss Academy – to have an impact – is also at the center of its street-level window to the world. 

With our third chapter, we connect to our work on sustainable food systems and the Wyss Academy Declaration on Food Systems, presented to the UN Food Systems Summit, which will be taking place September 23rd, 2021. 


Fishing, which is an important part of the food system in many cultures, is deeply connected to the identity of Portugal and Brazil and stands for more than an economic activity. The sea and the land are interdependent. 

The starting point for the research presented here by Spierenburg and Barroso was Praia do Barril at the Algarve, where the fishing boats lay, nearly as obsolete as the material used for their covers bearing the photographs you see here now. They are witnesses to the tuna-fishing industry, which once flourished and finally declined during the last century due to overfishing. The artists experimental and documentary approach mirrors the legacy of ethnographers in the 1950s and 60s, whose work aimed to preserve and document techniques and knowledge that was already at the verge of disappearance. While the fishing industry might never come back on a scale that is both sustainable and economically sound, a by-product of the research suddenly comes into focus: the seasonal harvesting of seaweed that the inhabitants of the village of Apúlia are dedicated to. The algae that is collected on the beach of Apúlia is then used in agricultural fields, replacing fertilizers. 


Let us ask ourselves the question about the potential of such an ancestral practice, now that algae have become a focus of international research. Its benefits for nutrition, health, agriculture, and the science of materials. Do algae fit a Western palate? Will they be welcomed on our plates as an essential food that can be harvested sustainably and even as part of a truly circular economy?


Transformation through Art


Our Curator Damian Christinger on Ancestral Futures (of Food?)

Ancestral Futures (DE)Damian Christinger
00:00 / 04:50
Ancestral Futures (EN)Damian Christinger
00:00 / 02:37

Discover the first chapters of the Habitat