Sisters bring art and science together

28 Apr 2023

In the shape of ¡vamos, simbiosis!, Annika and Stephanie Guse are bringing art and research together in an attempt to raise awareness of the need to protect the oceans and biodiversity. Their project is on display at the LMU Biocenter.

Participants diving together to explore the sea

Participants diving together to explore the sea | © Tobias Brehmer and Axel Warnstedt

Molecular biologist Annika Guse studies the symbiosis of corals and algae. In summer 2022, she took over as Professor of Quantitative Organismic Networks at LMU’s Faculty of Biology. Together with her sister Stephanie Guse, an artist who lives in Vienna, she has launched the interdisciplinary ¡vamos, simbiosis! Project. An exhibition and a documentary are now bringing the project to the LMU Biocenter in Munich.

In September 2022, the sisters teamed up with representatives of various scientific and artistic disciplines to organize a ‘Symbiosis Studio’ in Águilas. The Guardian newspaper in 2017 referred to this Spanish coastal town in the Murcia region as a “climate change hotspot”. So, for three weeks, the participants tackled the topics of climate change and marine conservation from a range of different angles. Renowned bioscientists from around the globe met together with anthropologists, illustrators, actors and choreographers – as well as local players, including municipal staff, fishermen, cooks and diving instructors.

Dr. Annika Guse and Dr. Stephanie Guse

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The project of Annika and Stephanie Guse was documented on film.

5:33 | 28 Apr 2023

The project title ¡vamos, simbiosis! can be understood as a call to form alliances. “Symbiotic associations are a key concept in life. It is about adapting to one’s environment,” Annika Guse says. In the same way, interdisciplinary cooperation spawned by the ¡vamos, simbiosis! project can open up new pathways and new opportunities – in climate change mitigation and to safeguard biodiversity, for example. Art sees the world from a different perspective to science and can help a broad audience access certain topics in new ways, Stephanie Guse believes. “Unlike cold, hard facts, art speaks to people on an emotional level,” she insists. “And you need that if people are to become active.”

Communicating clearly across different disciplines is not always easy, though. A common language must be found so that people can understand each other. To simplify the task of collaborating across the boundaries of different disciplines, Annika and Stephanie thus invented the ‘Thinking Hands’ method: As participants use simple drawings to ‘talk’ to each other, they quickly get to the heart of what are often complex issues.

Annika Guse is a molecular biologist researching the symbiosis of corals and algae. | © Fabian Gasperl

The ¡vamos, simbiosis! exhibition opens at the LMU Biocenter in Martinsried in May. A film by Tobias Brehmer and Axel Warnstedt documenting the Symbiosis Studio in Águilas will also premiere at the exhibition. A large number of the project’s participants will be in attendance for the opening.

However, the exhibition in Munich does not mark the end of the project: The plan is for this symbiosis to grow and spread further. “In the long term, I would like to set up a thinktank where people meet regularly to engage in interdisciplinary work,” Annika Guse says. She wants to keep the focus on a combination of science and the arts. “But we are obviously also very open to approaches that link the topic to other disciplines such as journalism, film and philosophy,” Stephanie Guse adds. “I’d like to develop a sophisticated educational system covering all these aspects."

You can find more information about the exhibition in the LMU calendar of events. Learn more about the project on the website of ¡vamos, simbiosis!.

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