, Volume 55, Issue 1, pp 93–116 | Cite as

The Climate of Science-Art and the Art-Science of the Climate: Meeting Points, Boundary Objects and Boundary Work

  • Simone RödderEmail author


This paper reports experiences from an art-science project set up in an educational context as well as in the tradition of placing artists in labs. It documents artists’ and scientists’ imaginations of their encounter and analyses them drawing on the concepts of “boundary object” and “boundary work”. Conceptually, the paper argues to broaden the idea of boundary objects to include inhibitory boundary objects that hinder rather than facilitate communication across boundaries. This focus on failures to link social worlds brings the boundary object concept closer to Gieryn’s boundary work and allows for a co-application of the two concepts in the analysis of cross-boundary communication. Empirically, the paper provides an in-depth ethnographic description of an art-science project as a resource for future practice. In conclusion, the art-science encounter included meeting points as well as multiple levels of boundary work which engaged the artists in a different way than as illustrators of scientific representations of climate change. The closer they got to the research practice the more the public and policy construct of climate change disappeared. Rather than political activism, the approach triggered explorations of the scientific context, including affirmative as well as critical re-imaginations of research practices. Artists and scientists acted as publics for one another, as resources to draw on for reflection and self-identification. But instead of cutting back or renegotiating standards of one’s own practice, especially the artists engaged in boundary work creating space to produce a piece of art according to their own criteria of quality and relevance.


Art-science Boundary work (Inhibitory) boundary object Climate change Artistic research 



The “visiting artist researcher” project was supported by the German-Research-Foundation (DFG)-funded Cluster of Excellence “Integrated Climate System Analysis and Prediction” at the University of Hamburg (DFG EXC 177 CliSAP). The manuscript was written while the author held a Fulbright visiting scholarship at Cornell University. Discussions with Stephen Hilgartner and Bruce Lewenstein and the hospitality of Cornell’s Department of Science and Technology Studies have been very important to the completion of this article. The author is grateful to Anke Allner for making “science meets arts” a CliSAP priority and wants to thank the project team Friedrich von Borries, Anita Engels, Nadine Frömter, Maria Görlich, Werner Krauß and Hans von Storch, and all participating scientists and artists who made themselves available for interview. She is particularly indebted to Werner Krauß for sharing his observations from a cultural anthropologist’s point of view, and for interviewing the artists, and to Maria Görlich for support with the literature review and manuscript preparation. The author would also like to thank Markus Dressel and two referees for critical and constructive comments on the manuscript.

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Sciences, Institute of SociologyUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany

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