top of page


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. 


Towards a Circular Society: Learning from Nature

Ursula Biemann with Mo Diener, Jon Brown, David Kaiza, Marika Verploegh and Theanne Schiros with Helen Lu, Romare Antrobus and Yueh-Ting Chui


15 December 2021 – 19 March 2022 

The current exhibition “Towards a Circular Society” focuses on the reflection of the concept of circularity to go beyond the buzzword circular economy and what we can learn from nature in this regard. To enable such a transformation, we need to look at transforming our society rather than just focusing on changing the economic system. Thus, the Wyss Academy wants to put its own theses on the "Circular Society" out in public for discussion. Together with actors from different sectors of society, we want to reflect on the theses in the context of this exhibition and beyond, adapting them throughout this exhibition, which will continuously change as well.

Ursula Biemann's work "Twenty One Percent" offers a poetic-radical approach to this. Amidst the oxygen-rich forest, a science fiction actress (Mo Diener) manipulates a variety of ingredients: minerals, forest fruits, liquids, and other substances. Some of them are known as potential human food, others are not. Spanning from the cosmos to the kitchen, the video is an exploration of the capacity of chemical elements. It focuses on the materiality and processes by which human and other organic bodies are kept alive, intensifying relationships with the diverse, living world in which all living things are integrated in a circular way.


Materials cannot be reused indefinitely, as their quality and quantity decreases with each cycle. Therefore, the overall material consumption must also be reduced. Lower resource consumption combined with innovation offers possible solutions. Marika Verploegh and Theanne Schiros, a shoemaker/designer and a scientist, take this approach further with their microbial, cyclical sneaker. The entire manufacturing process is sustainable and value-preserving. Verploegh and Schiros found and adapted the processes that make the novel material bendable and workable from ancient indigenous cultural techniques. The microbial sneaker, created in collaboration with Public School: for OnexOne, a New York brand rooted in circularity, is a transcultural ambassador, an object that symbolizes the shift away from "fast fashion" toward a fashion culture of sustainability. This symbol is understood by a young generation from New York to Nairobi, from Bern to Lima. Current scientific research, design and craftsmanship work hand in hand to make natural processes applicable to fashion.

The material innovation and technology  was achieved by Theanne Schiros in scientific partnership with Prof. Helen Lu and Romare Antrobus of Columbia University Biomedical Engineering. Schiros was partnered with Public School NY, a brand known for its focus on circularity and sustainable production. They developed a sneaker which is fully biodegradable and colored with natural dyes. Bespoke shoemaker, Anne Marika Verploegh Chassé, built the sneakers.


Collaborative, transcultural and transdisciplinary thinking is also at the heart of Theanne Schiros' search for natural dyes. She joins with traditional artisans from Kindia, Guinea, to learn directly from nature. The process was documented by photographer Jon Brown for the project "6876KM." Writer and poet David Kaiza explores a place in Kampala, Uganda, the Ekilawuli Glass Recycling Community Art Centre, which combines these approaches in an artistic-creative way and tries to find new approaches for a circular society through the recycling process.


Transformation through Art


Towards a Circular Society: Learning from Nature

Audio CommentDamian Christinger
00:00 / 05:03

Discover the first chapters of the Habitat

bottom of page