top of page


Fluid Boundaries: The Interplay of Water, Art, Science, and Indigenous Knowledge Systems brings together participants from South Africa, Brazil and Switzerland in a transdisciplinary collaboration situated at the intersection of art, science and indigenous knowledge with a strong focus on decolonial practice.

By creating a common space for the exploration of water – and the flow of knowledges, wisdoms and practices around this life-sustaining element – the programme integrates questions and methods from different disciplinary and cultural perspectives. The Fluid Boundaries project aims to question the entrenched power paradigms and knowledge flow direction inherent in the sciences and the arts by disrupting the false dichotomy of centre and periphery.

Water is an essential resource for life on Earth, and a key element in the history and contemporary of all cultures. Stories and myths about water, reverence towards its spiritual meanings, policies and strategies linked to its politics, and processes and technologies of its uses and applications, may be traced across times and geographies. Within the sector of water there are many commonalities, but there are also significant divergencies of contexts, indigenous knowledge systems and practices.  

It is these very different and highly complex experiences that serve as the entangled starting point of our proposed project.  The various, unpredictable threats to humanity inflicted by the climate crisis add to the urgency of our multi-perspectival approach. Our project proposes a research and practice driven approach, emphasizing processes, that brings together arts and science to interrogate how we feel, think and act about our relationships to water, in a bid to create sustainable, equitable access. 

The project brings together artists and scientists through 3-months art-science residencies in research labs in the respective partner countries. This process will be informed, mentored, questioned and supported by indigenous knowledge convenors and the curators.

At a later point, the participants will come together in an intense 2-weeks workshop situation in Lugano, Switzerland. Within this context(s), knowledge will be shared, research questions discussed and ideas for artistic projects developed.

Interested artists from South Africa, Brazil and Switzerland may apply for one of the 3-month art-science residencies starting in March 2025 at the scientific partner institution in their home country.The deadline for the call for applications is on the 14th of July 2024. 


The project aims to bring the artist into contact with both a physical laboratory and an intellectual space to provide a creative environment for substantial transdisciplinary work. In every aspect and phase of the project, the reciprocal sharing of one’s own practice and perspective on an eye-to-eye level is an important prerequisite for the success of the collaboration. 




Prof. Leora Farber
— South Africa

Director: Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre; Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture University of Johannesburg

Co-curator: Fluid Boundaries


Brenton Maart
— South Africa

Curator: Bioart + Design Africa Programme; Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture; University of Johannesburg

Co-curator: Fluid Boundaries


Leli Hoch 
— South Africa

Founder: Tankwa Artscape Artist Residency

Co-curator: Fluid Boundaries


Gabriela Devaud
— Brazil

Art & Culture Project Manager between Brazil and Switzerland

Portas Vilaseca Galeria

Co-curator: Fluid Boundaries


Irène Hediger
— Switzerland

Head of artists-in-labs program (ail program) / DKV / Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK

Co-curator: Fluid Boundaries


Flurin Fischer
— Switzerland

Research Associate artists-in-labs program (ail program) / DKV / Zurich University of the Arts

Co-curator: Fluid Boundaries




Prof. Tobias Barnard

Director: Water and Health Research Centre; Faculty of Health Sciences; University of Johannesburg

Scientific partner: Fluid Boundaries


Dr. Tebogo George Mahashe

Lecturer: Michaelis School of Fine Art;
University of Cape Town

Indigenous knowledge convener: Fluid Boundaries

Prof. Kássia Borges

Artist, Curator and Professor

Indigenous knowledge convener:
Fluid Boundaries


Associate Prof. Nebo Jovanovic

Researcher: Environmental and Water Science (EWS) Program; Department of Earth Science; University of the Western Cape

Scientific partner: Fluid Boundaries

Paulo Cesar Basta-crop.jpg

Dr. Paulo Cesar Basta

Physician, Public Health Researcher
and Cultural Producer

Coordinator, Environment, Diversity, and Health Research Group at from Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz)

Scientific partner: Fluid Boundaries

Dr. Frederik Hammes

Group Leader Drinking Water Microbiology, Department Environmental Microbiolocy

Eawag,  Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology

Scientific partner: Fluid Boundaries

Dr. Christopher Robinson

Group Leader Stream Ecology, Department Aquatic Ecology

Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology

Scientific partner: Fluid Boundaries

Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre, established in 2007, is an internationally recognised practice-led group in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg. The centre pursues visual culture research through two key programmes: Radical Others which explores African and African diasporic histories and identities; and Bioart + Design Africa which explores connections between art, design and the life sciences. Research outputs may be texts, artworks and exhibitions, curatorial practices and other platforms for engagement.


The Environmental and Water Science (EWS) Program, Department of Earth Science, University of the Western Cape was formed in 2009 with the goal of promoting research, postgraduate training, and outreach on water-related issues through the collaborative efforts of university staff. The institute aims to increase the understanding of surface water, groundwater, and ecosystems linkages, and how water users are affected and affect these linkages. Since water concerns cut across disciplines the centre has a multi-disciplinary approach to its research.

Portas Vilaseca Galeria, stands out in the Brazilian art scene for its unique trajectory, evolving from a local frame shop to a contemporary art gallery. Situated in a three-story townhouse in Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro, the gallery juxtaposes traditional museum settings on the ground floor with experimental projects on the upper levels. Representing 22 artists, the gallery not only supports experimental art but also champions artists engaged in pressing social issues, with their works showcased in prestigious international biennials and exhibitions worldwide.

Since 2003, the artists-in-labs program at the Department of Cultural Analysis, Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK has been facilitating artistic research by way of long-term residencies for artists in scientific laboratories and research institutes. This programme promotes sustainable collaboration between artists and scientists of all disciplines, in Switzerland and around the world. These long-term transdisciplinary collaborations provide artists with an opportunity to critically engage with the sciences and their experimental and aesthetic dimensions.

Our interests lie in the interaction and expansion of types of contemporary knowledge and artistic production, and the creative potential resulting from exploring the parallels and differences of scientific and artistic practices. We perceive our work as being culturally engaged and of a curatorial and mediatory nature.

IBSA Foundation was established in 2012 in Lugano, Switzerland, by the pharmaceutical company IBSA Institut Biochimique SA.

IBSA Foundation aims to promote a scientific culture which is both authoritative and accessible. It pursues scientific outreach, being part of an international scientific network, supporting scientific research and combining it with the arts and cultural activities – such as the SciArt Talks,
a collaboration with the MASI Lugano.

WhatsApp Image 2024-06-13 at 13.45 copiar.png
WHRC logo.jpg

The Water and Health Research Centre studies the links between disease-causing microorganisms and human health in relation to water, sanitation and hygiene practices. Its lab- and field-work is epidemiological and forensic in an attempt to understand how diseases spread and adapt in rural, informal, peri-urban and urban environments. The centre conducts joint research projects in the Gauteng, Eastern and Western Capes, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, often in collaboration with other universities and institutions. An important aspect of its endeavours is community engagement.

Tankwa Artscape Residency, founded in 2017, is a free artist residency in the Tankwa Karoo desert, South Africa, for artists working in the fields of site-responsive sculptural art, spoken word/sound, movement/performance art. Much is ephemeral or performance based, and the conceptual focus is on interacting creatively with the vast environment, history, politics, ecology of the Tankwa Karoo – a space that facilitates conscious confrontation of the artist with harsh, relatively unspoiled nature.

The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) is a national institution for research and development in biological sciences, located in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and affiliated with the Ministry of Health. Founded in 1900 by the renowned public health physician Oswaldo Cruz, it is the most important institution for science and technology in health in Latin America, serving as a reference in public health research.

The Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology Eawag is one of the world’s leading aquatic research institutes. With its professional diversity, close partnerships with practitioners and an international network, Eawag offers an excellent environment for the study of water as a habitat and resource, for identifying problems at an early stage and for developing widely accepted solutions.

MASI Lugano (Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana) was established in 2015, when two long-standing Lugano museums - the Museo Cantonale d’Arte and Museo d’Arte della Città di Lugano – merged.


Thanks to its strategic position, at this cultural crossroads between the north and south of the Alps, MASI Lugano has quickly become one of the most popular art museums in Switzerland.


In its two venues – the modern LAC cultural centre and the historical Palazzo Reali – MASI presents a rich programme of temporary shows and frequently changing exhibitions devoted to the works in its collection. It offers a wide range of mediation activities in several languages, upholding the values of inclusion and accessibility. MASI is committed to providing a participatory, engaging museum experience for all. Its artistic scope is expanded by its partnership with the Giancarlo and Danna Olgiati Collection - part of the MASI circuit – which is entirely dedicated to modern and contemporary art.

Fluid Boundariess is supported by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia

bottom of page