Exploring the Potentials of Multisensory Scenography for Systems Awareness

Artistic research project by artist duo MUELLER-DIVJAK and AIL, starting September 2023

The artist and researcher duo MUELLER-DIVJAK (Dr. Jeanette Müller and Dr. Paul Divjak), who conceived and initiated SENSING LIVING SYSTEM, is working at the Angewandte Interdisciplinary Lab / University of Applied Arts (project leader: Mag. Alexandra Graupner) with international artists and systems scientists to form experiential spaces by artistic means (scenographies) and to create sensory impressions that help us to better understand and resonate with living systems.

During the project essential principles of living systems will be transformed into olfactory, auditory and tactile artworks / artefacts and used experimentally.

The result of SENSING LIVING SYSTEMS is supposed to be a multisensory scenography that can be utilized in different places and that enables an embodied learning experience for diverse users, so that they can perceive themselves as a living system, capable of taking action, embedded in living systems. This also in terms of a systemic change – on an individual, societal and structural level – for the implementation and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals / SDGs, which represent a universal compass for the shaping of a life-affirming social, ecological and economic transformation of our world.

'Through meditation and art, we can connect with our mother earth and reaffirm our cooperative nature, recognizing the environment as part of ourselves.’

(Sulak Sivaraksa – The Wisdom of Sustainability, 2009)

We live in a world that is permeated by systems, whether in nature, technology, business or society. A deep understanding of systems is crucial to solving complex problems, making better decisions, anticipating future developments, coping with change and creating a sustainable future.

It is important to understand that everything in our world is part of a larger system and is interrelated, from biological cells, humans and animals to trees and governments. We have an innate ability to perceive systems and their interdependencies, but often unlearn this through linear thinking, fragmented perception and mechanistic world views.

The project explores – with a special focus on the senses of smell, hearing and touch – how direct sensory experiences by staging olfactory, auditory and haptic artworks and stimuli artistically, i.e. by way of specially arranged spaces, can contribute to heightening our awareness of nature and to developing a deep understanding of living systems and imparting systems literacy.

Image by © Soil Performance by MUELLER-DIVJAK at AIL

SENSING LIVING SYSTEMS expands the field of scenography as a means for arts-based innovation and transformative research and supports systems science education, from systems sensing to systems literacy.

Monday, 28th August 2023, 15:30–20:30pm


Danube Canal, Karoline-Tintner-Promenade, near Siemens-Nixdorf-Steg; next to the the light green parasol / near U4 Rossauer Lände

Dialogue format and impulse reading as part of the Alsergrunder Kultursommer 2023. An artistic citizen science project by MUELLER-DIVJAK / SENSING LIVING SYSTEMS

Join us on a journey through the olfactory worlds of the Danube Canal and share your impressions, memories and wishes with us!

How did the olfactory landscape on the Danube Canal change and by what influences? What did it smell like in the past and what can be perceived today? How could it smell in the future and what would you desire? What stories are associated with "Danube Canal smells" and what feelings do play an important role?

With this SENSING LIVING SYSTEMS–field study, MUELLER-DIVJAK investigate the question of which odours in the urban habitat can be perceived by the population and which they desire. In semi-structured interviews, in-depth conversations and through participant observation, they engage in dialogues with different city dwellers about their perceptions of smells and the impressions and narratives associated with them. Olfactory perspectives of dogs, beetles, beavers, bees, butterflies and other creatures present are integrative subject of research interest and are included in the observations.

This research project is funded by FWF / AR 776 / FWAR00776