The Bartlett School of Architecture


Sonja Bäumel - Bartlett International Lecture Series

18 October 2017, 6:30 pm–7:30 pm

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The Bartlett School of Architecture


Christopher Ingold Auditorium, 20 Gordon Street, London, WC1H 0AJ

Empathy and Microbes 

Lecturer’s Abstract:

"We are slowly realising that our bodies are ecosystems full of biodiversity, in which complex societies of microbes live. If 50% of the cells that constitute our body are not human but microbial, how can we get in touch with our co-habitants? How should we approach the microbial body, the microbial interplay between humans and other living species? What does this mean for our self-recognition, for our concepts of autonomy, and for the borders of our self?

This lecture will present projects such as Expanded Self and Being Encounter, which explore an in-between space, addressing uncertainties, ambiguities and imagination linked to the microbial paradigm shift. Based on lab research and current scientific theories about the influence microbes have on the human body - and mind - the works stage encounters with these organisms living with us to explore possible futures of further co-existence."


Across various disciplines including art, design, fashion and biological practice, Sonja Bäumel works with the unexpected diversity of the human ecosystem, with its communication and ‘social network’, and with our changing perspective on the human body. The critique of human exceptionalism is at the core of her work and its investigations of the curious relationship between humans and microbes.

Sonja studied Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of Vienna, and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Arts in Linz, as well as a Master’s in Conceptual Design in Context from the Design Academy Eindhoven.

Her work has been exhibited in multiple museums, festivals and galleries, both nationally and internationally. Sonja is currently heading the Jewellery - Linking Bodies Department at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, as well as lecturing and giving workshops in different national and international academies and universities.

View the full schedule for The Bartlett International Lecture Series