About Artists-in-Labs


The artists-in-labs program brings artists and scientists together in an experimental framework and has brought the collaboration between artists and KAUST since 2016. This program runs since 2003 by The Institute for Cultural Studies in the Arts (ICS), an international transdisciplinary centre for cultural analysis, cultural theory, and cultural history in the arts related to all topic areas of Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK). www.artistsinlabs.ch. 


About the 2019 KAUST-Swiss Residency Exchange

From April - June 2019, Saudi artist and architect Nasser Al-Salem was artist-in-residence at the Department of Materials/ETH, to exchange ideas, concepts, and methods, and develop an artistic project with researchers of the Department. Discover more about this exchange. 

About the Artist

   Nasser Al-Salem (*1984) lives and works in Jeddah. His artistic work is essentially the Arabic written word; therefore, he is first and foremost a calligrapher. His practice pushes the boundaries of this age-old Islamic art by re-inventing it in non-conventional mixed-media forms, by using a wide range of tools and materials - such as wood, paper, ink, concrete, glass, lighting technology, or silk - and by exploring its conceptual potential. Since his childhood, he has been asking what is the size of a human being in relation to the outer space, what are the parameters of this relationship, and how can humans recognize it. These questions still preoccupy him today, and he is attempting to address them throughout his practice.

Nasser Al-Salem believes that when we turn our attention to understanding this relationship and gain a more in-depth insight into the nature we all are part of, we might live differently. His exploration of concepts relates to scale, the human, and the infinite (or our current perception of the infinite). These concepts aim to reflect on the condition of time, space, and the universe as a system that is beyond all religious and profane components.

Nasser has been nominated for the Prudential Eye Awards 2015 and was artist-in-residence in New York in 2018 and London in 2014. In 2018, the artist’s work was a part of The Royal Commission of Al-Ula’s and was exhibited at the Winter at Tantora Festival in Saudi Arabia.



 About the Artists-in-Labs Program

The AIL initiated this transdisciplinary collaboration in 2016. Through the exchange, Swiss artists can apply for a 3-months grant to work with researchers of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology KAUST and Saudi artists to work with researchers from Swiss Universities. 

Since 2003, the AIL has been facilitating artistic research by way of long-term residencies for artists in scientific laboratories and research institutes. The AIL promotes sustainable collaboration between artists and scientists of all disciplines, not just in Switzerland but all around the world. These long-term interdisciplinary and cross-border collaborations provide artists with an opportunity to critically engage with the sciences and their experimental and aesthetic dimensions, including; explorations of the site of the laboratory, as well as a range of scientific topics, methods, and technologies.

AIL 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. AIL perceives its work as being culturally engaged and of a curatorial and mediatory nature.

Publications, along with accompanying scientific research, record the processes and results of these cross-border collaborations and offer reflections on them. Besides, in recent years the AIL has expanded to include a student-engaged dimension, seeing undergraduate arts and science students coming together to brainstorm some of the key issues of our times. The results include a range of science and arts projects, with outputs feeding into both scientific research and artistic practice.

All the collaborations the AIL produces are presented at various national and international exhibitions, symposia and workshops, making it possible to share findings and ideas, and to provide accessible discussions and aesthetic experiences to our students, peers and the public. 



The 2019 KAUST-Swiss Residency Exchange is supported by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology KAUST, the Office of Enrichment Programs and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia. 




Timeline of the KAUST-Swiss Residency Exchange


Nasser Al-Salem at the Department of Materials, ETH, Zurich, CH.


Nadya Suvorova at the Division for Computer, Electrical, and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering, KAUST, Thuwal, KSA.


Zahrah Alghamdi at the Stream Ecology Group, Eawag, Dübendorf, CH.

Muhannad Shono at the Drinking Water Microbiology Group, Eawag, Dübendorf, CH.


Marie Griesmar at the Reef Genomics Group, KAUST, Thuwal KSA.

Sandra Kühne at the Integrated Ocean Processes Research Group, KAUST, Thuwal, KSA.