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September 14, 2022

ISTA Produces Clouds at Design Week

Cloud images uploaded to cloud server by visitors befog exhibition in art project.

Research meets art – curator Mia Meus, cloud researcher Yi-Ling Hwong and physicist Andrea Stoellner from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA) are taking part in the Vienna Design Week from September 16 to 25. With their cloud machine, they are combining citizen science with design in a large participatory project and are thus also drawing attention to the advancing climate crisis.

ISTA is represented with the cloud server/cloud machine at the Vienna Design Week © ISTA

How does cloud research actually work? A curious look at the sky is already one of the most important building blocks: What does a cloud look like, how does it change over time, and how does it behave? PhD student Andrea Stoellner and researcher Yi-Ling Hwong from the Muller group at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA) are looking at clouds on a wide range of scales, from the tiniest components and forces to globally extending cloud fields. Clouds are among the most ubiquitous and yet largely unexplored entities in our atmosphere. Seemingly light, soft, and fleeting individual objects, they are actually a complex network of droplets and particles that together can weigh several million tons. They span landscapes, even continents. Researchers around the globe are looking skyward together to document their shape, behavior, and impact on our rapidly changing climate.

Guests bring science to Design Week

With the “Cloud Campaign” art project, the team wants to direct the public’s gaze to these very clouds. With a modified cloud server in the heart of the room, they encourage the audience to participate in observations and the collection of potential research data. Guests share photos of the Viennese sky using their smartphones and send them to the server. The server responds directly and recreates a cloud in the exhibition space, in which guests can literally immerse themselves. In this way, the project combines basic climate science research, as conducted at ISTA, with the participatory aspects of citizen science.

Cloud researcher Hwong: “It always amuses me when I tell friends and relatives that I am researching clouds. The first reaction I get is usually about IT infrastructure, not actual clouds. My personal wish for the project is that it inspires people to consciously contemplate the beauty of complex cloud formations for once.”

Playful learning

The project aims to produce an extensive dataset in a playful way while re-enacting the practices of traditional cloud observation with modern means to show the audience a new approach to cloud research. At the panel talk “Design Science” on September 17 at Haus der Begegnung, Königsegggasse 10, 1060 Vienna, the ISTA researchers will exchange views on mutual influences and synergies from research and science together with Viennese artists starting at 3:30 PM.

clouds on earth from space
A stormy job. Yi-Ling Hwong and Andrea Stoellner of the Institute of Science and Technology Austria and her colleagues study clouds using image data from around the world. © Shutterstock

Artful cooperation

ISTA cooperates repeatedly with the international art scene. As recently as June, Professor Michael Sixt was part of the exhibition “ENTANGLED RELATIONS – ANIMATED BODIES” in Milan in collaboration with the Museum of Applied Arts. “Our goal as a research institute is to be even more closely networked with the Viennese and also the international creative scene. We want to establish ourselves as an inspiring collaboration partner in the long term,” explains Mia Meus, Science Curator at ISTA. “So many incredible ideas emerge at our institute, just waiting to be realized and given shape! For this, artists and designers are wonderful partners. And exciting news for all fans of the arts: The Institute of Science and Technology Austria is open for applications for its first artist residency this fall.”

Location: “Cloud Campaign” will be displayed from September 16 to 25 daily between 11:00 AM and 8:00 PM at Rahlgasse 8, 1060 Vienna.


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