Artists-in-Labs Season 1

Video about the artists-in-labs residency exchange 


Art is a source of inspiration for innovative science and vice versa. To connect art and science and generate inspiration, the Enrichment Office has organized more than 580 cultural events and invited more than 220 artists to KAUST since 2010. 

In 2016, KAUST started a partnership through the Enrichment of Office with the artists-in-labs program (AIL) of ZHdK. The partnership brings a collaboration between scientists and artists to enhance the dialogue between art and science and is co-financed by KAUST, Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, and Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK). 


Since 2016, the artists-in-labs program brings artists and scientists together in an experimental framework to bring inspiring ideas to the public. It has brought the collaboration between artists and KAUST. 

Through the artists-in-labs exchange, Swiss and Saudi artists can apply for a 3-month grant to work with researchers of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) or researchers from Swiss Universities. The next program will take place in the Spring of 2020; more information about this exchange will be available soon. 

This program runs since 2003 by The Institute for Cultural Studies in the Arts (ICS), an international transdisciplinary centre for cultural analysis, theory, and history in the arts related to all topic areas of Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK).  Learn more about the artists-in-labs program



Zahrah Alghamdi at the Stream Ecology Group - Eawag

Institute/Lab: Stream Ecology Group, Eawag
Scientific Discipline: Ecology

During her residency at Eawag, Zahrah Alghamdi accompanied the Stream Ecology research group lead by Prof. Christopher Robinson on three excursions to the Roseg Valley in the Engadine. Taking her inspiration from the activities of the scientists in the mountain terrain with its countless rivers and streams, she captured her impressions in the form of works that make use of found materials, directly intervening in the landscape. She created the pieces either by hand or using simple tools, and made use of materials that she mostly picked up in the Roseg Valley — such as sand from a riverbank, or dried plants. This process enabled Alghamdi to tune in to an unfamiliar landscape and leave her imprint on it while at the same time offering up these imprints to the effects of impermanence. The series of photographs represent a moment in time, as do the scientific data collected in the Roseg Valley.


The Artist


Zahrah Alghamdi grew up in south-western Saudi Arabia. She graduated in Design and Visual Arts at Coventry University in the UK and is currently employed as an assistant professor at the Faculty for Art and Design at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah.
Traditional and artistically decorated architecture inspires her work. This architecture reflects the cultural traditions and the history of Saudi Arabia. In her work as an artist, she draws on her memories of these rooms and their cultural significance. Alghamdi forges links between history and the modern-day world by trying to create an echo of the past while throwing light on the changes in architecture that have moved it away from traditional techniques, materials, and resources.



Zahrah Alghamdi_Safar-Travel_Eawag, Dübendorf_KAUST-Swiss Residency Exchange 2017 from artists-in-labs on Vimeo.

Muhannad Shono at the Drinking Water Microbiology Group - Eawag

Institute/Lab: Drinking Water Microbiology Group, Eawag
Scientific Discipline: Biology

Muhannad Shono worked within the Drinking Water Microbiology Group, lead by Dr. Frederik Hammes. Based on his exploration of the scientific research on Bacteria, he developed his fictional organism. He compares this organism with LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor), the hypothetical last common ancestor and foundation stone of all organisms. On a metaphorical level, his project led to the origins of civilization. Referring to the creative processes in the arts and scientific research groups, the artist puts the fictional organism in the context of his artists-in-labs residency: «It’s a behavioral organism that originates from within our internal microbiome, a physical manifestation of human behavior or need. It appears to be an organism whose only purpose or reason for being in the propagation and spread of ideas; this idea-rich institute seems to be the ideal environment for this organism to grow».

The Artist


Born to Syrian parents, Muhannad Shono grew up in Saudi Arabia. He currently lives and works in Riyadh and Sydney. Shono completed his studies in architecture at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dharan, Saudi Arabia. His artworks grapple with themes of displacement, migration, and identity. At a young age, he was already writing comic books that wove together various storylines, fictional worlds, and drawings. Shono likes to extend his use of ink on paper beyond the traditional forms by bringing sculptural, animated, and acoustic elements into his works. He describes the artistic process as “a journey in which materials and methods are given the time and space they need to tell best and serve the story”.




Muhannad Shono_Living Ideas_Eawag, Dübendorf_KAUST-Swiss Residency Exchange 2017 from artists-in-labs on Vimeo.



Marie Grismar at KAUST Red Sea Research Center 

Institute/Lab: Red Sea Research Center, Reef Genomics Group, KAUST

Scientific Discipline: Red Sea Ecosystem

This project was developed during a three months residency in KAUST, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, lead by Prof. Christian R. Voolstra and organized by the artists-in-labs program. My residency at KAUST has given me an invaluable opportunity to learn in detail about the habitat of corals, and therefore the requirements for durable artificial coral structures. I worked closely with both the marine scientists and the lab staff, learning from their research, exchanging ideas and theories, and joining them on field trips.

What inspired me to design these sculptures is the different patterns and geometrical forms which can be observed in corals, sponges and other organisms that constitute reef environments. I analyzed the shapes –from their molecular bases to their resulting final structures– and then I interpreted them into sculptures. The chosen material to build them is clay. When burnt, it offers a high adherent surface upon which corals can prosper. Furthermore, the shapes I conceived provide natural protective spaces in which a variety of organisms can find secure and comfortable dwellings. By organizing and combining the sculptures in the area, I created a new form of an artificial reef."

The Artist


Marie Grismar is an artist from Lausanne, Switzerland. In her artistic practice, she focuses on water and the underwater world: the complexity and poetry of water is a significant inspiration for her work. Marie has been diving since the age of nine and is a devoted observer of marine life since then. Thanks to the driving skills, she has come to understand water as a new space of creation.




Marie Griesmar_Beneath the Red Sea a New Form of Reef_KAUST, Thuwal_KAUST-Swiss Residency Exchange from artists-in-labs on Vimeo.

Sandra Kühne at KAUST Red Sea Research Center

Institute/Lab: Red Sea Research Center, Integrated Ocean Processes Research Group, KAUST
Scientific Discipline: Red Sea Ecosystem

Focusing on the Red Sea coral reefs during her artists-in-labs residency at the Integrated Ocean Processes Research Group at the Red Sea Research Center, lead by Prof. Burton Jones. she looked for ways to show themes of interaction, balance, and symbiosis through her art. 

The Artist


Sandra Kühne is an artist living and working in Zurich, Switzerland. She is inspired by novels, sentences, and charts that describe relations and interdependence between body, space, and interruption of action. In her drawings, cut-outs and installations - mainly made from paper -Sandra leads two-dimensionality into three-dimensionality describing her artistic practice as a way of doing cartography.



Sandra Kuehne_Into the Blue - Soft and Solid_KAUST, Thuwal_KAUST-Swiss Residency Exchange 2016 from artists-in-labs on Vimeo.


 The artists-in-labs program is brought to you by KAUST Office of Enrichment Programs, Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia and Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK)