Thijs Biersteker is an award winning artist that creates eco-digital installations based on scientific collaborations with top scientists and universities. His immersive art installations, often described as eco- or awareness art, turn the impact of topics like climate change, air pollution, ocean plastics and the collapse of our ecosystem, into a tangible experiences that turn the facts into feelings.
In his work he creates a symbiotic relationship between the scientific research and the visitors using a fluid mixture of organic and digital materials, sensors, sea plastics and bio data extracted from living trees feeding into enormous sculptures. His work sets out to deliver an empowering communicative experience that is accessible both intellectually and technologically, or as he likes to put it: turning the facts into feelings.
Currently Biersteker holds a teaching position at the Delft University of Technology (NL), and he is Fellow at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He has won awards like the prestigious Lumen Prize for digital art, was nominated for the Stars Prize from Ars Electronica, and the New Technology Art Award. In March 2020 he gave a TED talk at TEDMed in Boston about the importance of collaboration between arts and science to turn facts into feelings and give research reach into culture.
He has exhibited at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain Paris (FR), Today Art Museum (CN), Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (NL), Science Gallery Dublin (IE), SXSW (USA), Science Centre Kuwait (KW), Mu Gallery (NL) and has been featured in Wired, New Scientist, Financial Times and Discovery Channel.
He is the Founder of Woven Studio.
What is an Alternative Thinker for you?
Today is the day of the others, the ones that are outside of the system, those who have been thinking about what a new world may look like. The ones that do small interventions and big discoveries in shaping this world. An alternative thinker is today’s thinker. Scientists and artists start with the same core process, but set out on different paths to explore these new worlds.
What are you bringing forward in your work?
In my work I use the journey science has made as my starting point to show glimpses of a new sustainable system. Based on scientific facts and findings I create approachable installations that connect people to the often far away and difficult problems our world is in, especially in these times. I believe new solutions and suggestions should be made accessible for everyone, as everyone should be able to join and be part of the solution.
Why did you highlight this/these specific project(s) below?
These works provoke new perspectives on the things happening to our ecosystem by making the invisible visible, by uncovering the impact we have through the lens of nature, and reflecting that back on us as humanity.
What would you like to see change in the current economy?
I would change economy to ecology, where we return to a symbiotic relationship with the rest of the planet. For this we need insights into the systems and the systematic impact we have on our planet.
What are the questions you have been thinking of for years and never had the time to answer?
I only have one question driving me every day. WHY? Why is this happening? Why am I doing this? Why would someone do this? Why don’t we care about our planet? The question that is on repeat every day, minute, second is; why?
Who would you like to collaborate with in terms of brands / institutions / property developers / other Alternative Thinkers?
I would love collaborate with scientists and other developers of products and prototypes and see how we can give people glimpse of a world that is possible if we only want to.
Voice of Nature, 2018
– Using data coming from living trees to give them a voice in times of climate change.
Voice of nature is letting a tree’s real time data talk about climate change. Tree rings are sort of data capsules, you can read the change in climate happening over the years. By using different sensors attached to the tree, a system developed in collaboration with Delft Technical University, we generated a tree ring every second indicating the impact of its environment real time. Giving nature a faster voice in a time where climate change is moving faster and faster.
Voice of Nature (2018)
– Real time uncovering the symbiotic relationship between trees and their environment
In collaboration with the plant intelligence biologist Stefano Mancuso we created a work that shows the real time data of climate change through the sensibility of trees. The work reveals the first hints of tree to tree communication and uncovers the direct effect of the CO2 levels in Paris on its trees.
Symbiosia is commissioned by Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain and part of the successful exhibition ‘Nous les Arbres’.
– A slice of rainforest disappearing at the Amazon deforestation rate.
While we are in isolation deforestation is in full acceleration. Deforestation in the Amazon is picking up with a 71% increase since the Covid-19 outbreak due to a lack of enforcement.
Wither is a slice of digital rainforest that disappears in front of your eyes on the rate of deforestation happening right now. Every leaf is controlled using real time deforestation data. Every leaf flickering marks the loss of 225m2 of Amazon rainforest. That is more than 2560m2 a second.
Wither is commissioned by the Dutch fashion brand Daily Paper for the Paris Fashion week and beyond.