IIASA, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, is housed in a former Habsburg castle, Schloss Laxenburg, in the small town of Laxenburg (population 2,800), that celebrates its 625th anniversary as a municipality (Markt Gemeinde) in 2013.
IIASA, at age 40, is a relatively new kid on the block, and needs to pay its respects to the older community within which it is embedded. One of the ways it does this is to open the castle doors to the public once a year, in cooperation with the mayor’s office, an annual “Tag der offenen Tuer.” These occasions are highly appreciated by the local community, some of whose older residents even played soccer among the ruins before the extensive renovations that restored the castle to its former grandeur. IIASA moved in at the same time and this cut off local access to the premises.
Science and Art
IIASA is by now well established within the community, but few non-scientists are aware of the nature or importance of its research. Systems studies, with their extensive use of mathematical models, need lengthy explanations to show their relevance to solving real-world problems. These explanations often end up hopelessly entangled in technical language that lay people have no patience to deal with. As an analogy, imagine coming out of church after a Sunday sermon and being asked: So what does God say?!
Enter Art. Artists, with their enhanced contextual and environmental awareness, can help to interpret the abstractions of IIASA’s research and graphically show its relevance to the important global issues in the world today; climate change, energy, population, food, water, forests and poverty; IIASA works on all of these.
Organizing art exhibitions in the ideally situated Kaisergang corridor of the Schloss was a first step to establishing this Science and Art connection. See the link below for photos from a Vernissage in September 2012.
In the 7 years of its existence, the Kaisergang Art Gallery has attracted attention from a small but growing public (mostly from Laxenburg and the surrounding communities) as well as from artists, both amateur and professional, who wish to exhibit their work in these regally rustic surroundings. The Kaisergang Gallery space is currently booked out till mid-2014. A next step might be to establish a regular artist-in-residence program, perhaps an honorary appointee for six months or a year at a time, who spends extended periods of time in Laxenburg to absorb and reflect some of the Institute’s work and intellectual challenges as works of art.