artists-in-labs program, Zurich

artists-in-labs program, Zurich

The artists-in-labs program offers a 6-months residency at the intersection of art, medicine and the humanities. The art-science residency The Persistence of Memory – Dementia and Digital Aid Tools for Decision-Making offers the unique opportunity for artists of all disciplines to exchange and workfor 6 months with researchers of the Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine (IBME, UZH) in Zurich as well as medicines, researchers and patients at the Institute of Regenerative Medicine (IREM, UZH) in Schlieren and to develop an artistic project.

  • The residency's unique setting opens up the possibility for a transdisciplinary dialogue that is brought about by juxtaposing concepts and procedures, cultural knowledge and backgrounds
  • The residency offers significant time and space to reflect upon ideas and to explore a range of scientific topics, methods and technologies in a broad field of medical disciplines and medical humanities
  • During the residency the artist will be immersed in the research andworking alongside scientists from IBME and the IREM
  • There will also be a coordinator at both IBME and IREM available to the artist for more general issues

On the subject of residency: Dementia is one of Switzerland's major social, cultural and health policy challenges. Today, 148,000 people with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia live in Switzerland. The ageing of the population will lead to a sharp increase in the number of people suffering from dementia in the coming decades. The experiences of other people with the same diagnoses, treatments or decisions have always been a valuable source of information for people facing a new diagnosis or a health-related decision. Digital media as sources of information create new opportunities and approaches to generate and harness knowledge, ideas and resources.  

Researchers at the Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine (IBME) at the University of Zurich are investigating the possibilities and consequences of digitalization and other issues related to dementia. A current project at IBME is the Swiss database DIPEx for patient narratives, which will serve as a basis for so-called digital decision-making aids in the future. The new database offers a systematic collection of interviews with female patients and to be made available to the public via video and/or audio sequences on the Internet in the near future. The patients' reflections on their everyday lives in connection with health and illness are collected in narrative interviews and made available via established methods of qualitative social research.

At the Institute for Regenerative Medicine (IREM) – also part of the University of Zurich - the focus lies on “advancing molecular life sciences into next generation bio-inspired therapies at the interface of degeneration and regeneration with a major focus on the most relevant human diseases, including neuro-degeneration and cardiovascular disease.”

In an exchange with researchers, doctors and patients, the artist will deal with the various aspects of the research and treatment as well as patient narratives. As a team member, he/she observes, thinks along, exchanges, questions and critically examines the contents of the research from the perspective of his/her own artistic practice and develops an artistic project from this.

Basic research questions from IBME for the artists-in-labs residency “The Persistence of Memory”:

  • How can patients’ and relatives’ narrations (available as video, audio and text in German, French an dItalian) best be used to support important decisions Alzheimer patients and their families have to make (e.g. regarding care at home vs. nursing home or the content of an advance directive)?
  • How can we use digitalization and artificial intelligence to produce the most useful tools for patients, surrogate decision-makers and providers ( predicting treatment preferences at the end of life)?
  • How can we use the narrative materials to inform policy makers and the broader public about issues that Alzheimer patients and their families encounter?
  • How can we produce educational materials that foster empathy and understanding of Alzheimer patients (e.g.simulators)?

 Applications for this Residency are open for artists from all disciplines, from Switzerland and worldwide. The application may be written in German or English. Deadline for applying is 25th August 2019. Please send your complete application incl. portfolio (max. 8MB) to: [email protected] (or via You can dowload the application form on their website.