Symbiosis – An experimental platform

In Symbiosis, ideas, experiences and different areas of knowledge meet as an ongoing experiment. Through meetings between research, art, architecture and much more Symbiosis aims to imagine, test and reflect upon symbiotic thinking.

The term symbiosis comes from Greek and can be translated as “living with”. The original meaning is a biological cohabitation where two organisms are mutually dependent on each other, sometimes even for their survival.

Symbiosis is increasingly used when talking about interaction between different systems. This can be, for example, how social structures, communications, the environment and biodiversity interact in urban planning.

What happens when we apply “symbiosis” as a model of thought when adressing our present and future challenges?

Detail from installation piece by John Jakobsson

Why Symbiosis?

“Symbiotic thinking” can be used to tackle many broad challenges. Challenges which in turn are directly and indirectly linked to one another. Individually, man’s various systems, such as cities, trade, production and transportation, can be enthralling and well-functioning, but together they often compete both amongst each other and with the planet’s own fragile systems.

In 2018, after the hot summer and the large-scale forest fires in Sweden, we gained a strong and clear experience that also we here in the north are vulnerable and that climate change is affecting us. That the effects will be a world with political turbulence and ongoing ecological disasters. The insight has become even clearer during the ongoing pandemic. An entire world is affected. It has had enormous consequences that will shape us for a long time to come. In light of the plethora of great challenges in our time, we must ask ourselves: What kind of world are we passing on to future generations? We need to create the conditions for alternative thoughts and ideas to emerge.

Man has the potential to not only parasitize on the unique planet the earth is. We need to develop self-healing and adaptable systems, societies and cultures, based on compassion and knowledge rather than on ever-accelerating consumption and exhaustion of limited resources.

Can an art space somehow contribute, inspire hope and create new ways for orientation in this confused time? Can art and other forms of cultural expression be integrated with research? We believe so and have therefore initiated the project we call Symbiosis. Färgfabriken has created a forum where meetings, clashes and cross-fertilizations occur.

In order to formulate ideas and visions for a good and hopeful future, we must begin to think, research and collaborate across borders – visible and invisible. We therefore want to discuss and test all kinds of possible and impossible symbiotic contexts in a non-prestigious and creative way. Our ambition is that it gives the audience an opportunity to think and reflect on different dimensions of our complex existence.

“In times when we face difficult and complex challenges, we need to try out new methods. An artistic process is an exploration that uses methods other than the typically scientific ones. This creates other freedoms and other claims, but has its own validity. “
/David Nilsson, researcher KTH Watercentre

”We shape our technologies and our technologies shape us. But how aware are we of this symbiosis really?”
/Tove Kjellmark, artist

”We see Symbiosis as a concept that marks reciprocity, or rather interdependence. Most often, one probably thinks of symbiosis in connection with ecological processes, but we find it interesting to think more broadly about phenomena that make connections.”
/Mattias Höjer, researcher and Jens Evaldsson, artist


In Symbiosis we have, together with many others, reflected on various issues and themes that help us identify different inputs and symbiotic relations. We also drew inspiration from our owh archives.

We have learned a lot about how nature’s systems and building blocks work. At the same time, we parasitize on nature. Much of what evolution has created over billions of years, humans have affected and broken down in just a few decades. We have now begun to recreate and simulate ecological systems. Being human has always been about defining and influencing one’s surroundings. Ecological projects are now needed on various scales that recreate the nature that humans have stolen. How will we be able to handle these challenges when planning our cities around the world?

In the exhibition Experiment Stockholm (2015), Luis Berríos-Negrón with his family along with animals, plants and many guests staged a full-scale artistic experiment – Earthscore Specularium – which practically (by actually living in the work of art) and philosophically investigated how we can live in cities of the future with challenges such as pollution, lack of resources and climate change. How do we enable more symbiostic relationships with other people, beings and plants? In the seminar the Stockholm Biotope, we learned more about the overlap between nature and the city’s infrastructure.

“Hinterlands” can be found in the field of tension between the what is left over, the unseen and the imaginative. What are the “hinterlands” of today? There is a rapid development of the borderland between the urban and the countryside. This borderland can be a landscape near a big city or a remote area incorporated into the global economy. These places are in a symbiotic relationship with the city and the countryside. The border sites are used for new housing, utilization of natural resources or constructions for the “new digital economy”, like server halls. We pass by these places but rarely note them.

The concept of “Hinterland” has served as a starting point for a collaboration with the Nationalmuseum, which is shown in the exhibition Arcadia – a paradise lost.

In a short time, our existence has gone from living in isolated groups and clans on the savannah to becoming civilizations based on systems that are complexly intertwined around our entire planet. This has created a strong yet fragile “cobweb” of relationships and structures that affect each other. In their daily lives people are dependent on goods and services that origin around the world. Economic and political systems are interdependent in sophisticated but also contradictory ways. Their inner powers are both positively and negatively charged. Trade and mutual cooperation create trust and prosperity at best. But disputes over who has the initiative for change and changes in the equilibrium of power cause conflicts.

Are we aware that the survival of our species depends on countless symbiosis that create balance between different beings and life forms? How can we maintain our compassion and dignity in a world that is becoming increasingly polarized and unpredictable? To be human is to exist in an ever-changing state – we are both impulse-driven and reflective. There are many examples of how technological development may prolong our lives. What do we do with this time? Digital systems create new opportunities to communicate with and understand the world, but there is also concern that technology could take over and thet we become its “slaves”.

In the project
Psychosis, we turn to art to deepen our understanding of the human psyche and our social relationships. Part one – I Will Never Talk About the War Again – was about how the self dissolves like an effervescent tablet in a collective trauma, while part two used the symptoms of psychosis as a starting point to talk about the transformations of the self.
   How is the human psyche, life and our societies and cities affected by an exponential curve of change in our civilization due to the digital revolution? It was investigated in the project Expanded Societies. The exhibition Between Realities examined what it is like to be human in a rapidly changing world, where technology is constantly changing and affecting both our behaviors and perceptions of our existence.

Our world is intertwined across national borders through oceans, lakes, rivers and small streams of water. Water is a symbiotic element. A prerequisite for life. (Scientists now believe that there is water both on the moon and inside the celestial body Pluto). How can multiple perspectives on water create positive holistic world views? Water is connected to many aspects of life, such as the illusion of control, the modernist view of the city, cleanliness, food, industry, population growth, disasters, conflicts, migration, recreation, biology and many others.

In the exhibition Stockholm on the Move, one of the scenarios that were showcased had the title “Stockholm water commons”. In Experiment Stockholm, the project Maretopia was shown, led by the artist Jens Evaldsson, who investigates the potential that exists in Stockholm’s waters, through co-creative activities and based on the idea of a floating cultural and ecovillage.nstnären Jens Evaldsson, som undersöker den potential som finns i Stockholms vatten, genom samskapande aktiviteter  baserat på idén om ett flytande kultur- och ekoby.


Installationview, Symbiosis. In the foreground: backside of the video installation Art of Rules by Jens Evaldsson and Mattias Höjer. To the right 4-metre inflatable globe by Irene Stracuzzi. Photo: Johan Österholm

The ambition of the exhibition, presented in Färgfabriken’s main hall August 28 – November 28 2021, is to make visible how artists, architects and researchers approach the concept of “symbiosis” based on different themes. An imaginative, inspiring and thought-provoking exhibition that openens our minds to how complex and fascinating our world is, while at the same time providing a reasoning about challenges and opportunities in our rapidly changing time.

Talks, lectures, discussions and workshops take place throughout the exhibition period, in the exhibition room itself, in Färgfabriken’s project rooms and on the top floor. Different groups of researchers, representatives from business and the public sector as well as artists and architects will reflect on the concept of “symbiosis”.

In the autumn of 2020, the artist group Gylleboverket exhibited a suggestive site-specific room installation, whih was our first aratistic venture into the Symbiosis-concept, inspiring thr process further.


Exhibition folder
Click on the image to read the exhibition-folder.
Content from the exhibition
Click on the image to read a digital compilation of the material presented in the exhibition.


Blekinge tekniska högskola (BTH)

An ongoing research collaboration between Blekinge Institute of Technology and Färgfabriken focuses on sustainable urban development and imaginations of the future. together we investigate the concept of “regenerative cities”, starting from, among other examples, our immediate area Lövholmen and Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka.

Södertörns högskola

A long term collaboration with Södertörn University has in the autumn of 2020 manifested in an exchange with Isabel Löfgren, artist, researcher and university lecturer in Media and Communication Science. Through the PUSH program she contributes in discussions and analyzes about Symbiosis’ content and themes, while conducting her own research in the border zones between different fields and practices.

Kungliga tekniska högskolan (KTH)

Many interesting collaborations and dialogues with the Royal Institute of Technology are taking place. Some of the sections and departments that are involved in Symbiosis are KTH Watercentre, KTH Environmental strategies and Futures studies, KTH Sustainable development ICT and innovation, KTH Architecture, KTH Science and Technology Studies with focus on Gender and Environment, KTH Media Technology and Interaction Design . The collaboration is expressed as the exchange of ideas, joint research projects and the formulation of course assignments.


Konstfack is Sweden’s largest art college with a focus on art, design and crafts. For Symbiosis, Färgfabriken has collaborated with the industrial design program through Anna Maria Orru.

North Cultitude 6263

A network for collaboration between artists and cultural creators along the 62:nd and 63:rd latitudes, which problematizes concepts such as center – periphery, challenges perspectives and questions conventional geographical world views and value perspectives. The collaboration with Färgfabriken results in a public program.


Färgfabriken and the Nationalmuseum teamed up in spring of 2019 with a focus on exploring what the historical and contemporary art witness and teach us about natural resources and climate policies. The result can be seen in the exhibition Arcadia – a paradise lost, on display at the Nationalmuseum September 17 2020 – January 17 2021.

Nordic Biomimicry

Nordic Biomimicry is a Nordic Knowledge Hub & Education Platform for Biomimicry, bringing together the knowledge, network and tools for Biomimicry, Biomimetics and Bio-inspired design that are based on nature, its life principles and solutions for sustainability.

Posthumanities Hub

A feminist research group and a multi-university platform for more-than-human humanities, founded in 2008 by Professor Cecilia Åsberg at Linköping University (LiU). KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm hosted the Hub 2018- spring 2021. It’s now back at LiU and connected to the Gender, nature, culture platform. Bringing science and art to the humanities, the Hub has been a transformational force of the societally relevant, extra-disciplinary, super-networked, new humanities.


Karin Englund