Art and Ocean: Shifting Baselines

11.09.2018 - 13:00 to 16:00
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MFA 1st year
MFA 2nd year

Teacher: Prof. Florian Schneider, Prof. Susanne Winterling, Mari Sanden
Location: Kunstarken
Times: Tuesdays, 13:00-16:00

Course description
In fall 2018, the MFA course “Art and Ocean” deals with the concept of Shifting Baselines. Shifting Baselines addresses the genuinely fragile character of what is considered as “normal”. Shifting Baselines is a type of change to how a system is measured, usually against previous reference points (or baselines), which themselves may represent significant changes from an even earlier state of the system. It is a particularly powerful concept as it is able to address the challenges of a not-fixed framework or fluid environment where the reference points are constantly changing slowly.

Such slow changes over time are also considered as generational amnesia, where each generation defines what is ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ regardless of experiences of former generations. The concept of Shifting Baselines originally stems from the field of architecture but it was rediscovered and adopted to the fields of marine sciences by the marine biologist Daniel Pauly in 1995. Jeremy Jackson picked it up in his book “Shifting Baselines” in which he calls for experiments with new methodologies to document marine life in the oceans, as the timeframe provided by scientifically measured data is too short.

The concept of Shifting Baselines is radically challenging modes of perception, documentation and knowledge transfer across generations and across centuries. Although the concept is very important in the field of biology to reveal climate change, it is by no means limited to only this field.

The problem of Shifting Baselines and our inability to notice slow changes over a long timespan in particular, is relevant in all layers of society, where norm and normality is understood as a constant and universal state. Nevertheless, art and artistic research have the potential to offer radically different ways of dealing with the challenges of Shifting Baselines. This course will investigate it and develop concrete approaches.

Learning outcome
By using the concept of Shifting Baselines as a starting point for the course and expand it to other fields we will be able to look at specific relationships between art and science. Through lectures, group discussions, and individual projects the participants will be acquainted with differences and similarities between artistic and scientific research. The goal is to produce a publication with individual or collaborative artistic contributions by the end of the course.

Students are expected to participate in the course lectures, to conduct their own research on the topic and to contribute to a publication at the end of the semester.

Target group
The course aims at first and second year MFA students, but it is open to BFA students. It is also offered to design and architecture students.

Tuesday afternoon at 13.00 - 16.00 on:
11.09, 18.09, 25.09, 2.10, 9.10, 6.11, 13.11, 20.11

About the Art and Ocean research at KIT
What can be the role of art and the work of artists when it comes to addressing global challenges regarding the future of the oceans? Uncertainty, complexity, and fluidity within ocean research are challenging the borders of conventional forms of knowledge production. It opens up opportunities for interventions carried out within new alliances of agencies and collaborations. The production of knowledge across different fields of artistic practices and scientific research creates new understandings of the world we live in.

The MFA course Art and Ocean is in the midst of a series of activities and research at KIT addressing these questions. Over the past year, multiple possibilities of concrete collaborations have emerged between the Trondheim Academy of Fine Art (KIT), NTNU’s strategic research area (TSO) Ocean, and TBA21-Academy, the research unit of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21), one of the most important art foundations today. 

Photo: “Carta marina” (1539) a wallmap of Scandinavia by Olaus Magnus

Kunstakademiet i Trondheim
Norwegian University of Technology and Science (NTNU)
N-7491 Trondheim

Visiting address:
Innherredsveien 7 (Industribygget)

Contact form
adm [at]
Tel. +47 73 59 79 00
Fax. +47 73 59 79 20