Spinning World: New audiences and cultural networks for art-led science investigative research with environmental impact

Fields of Research

  • 190203 - Electronic media art
  • 1905 - Visual arts and craft

Socio-Economic Objectives

  • 86 - Manufacturing
  • 90 - Commercial services and tourism
  • 96 - Environment


  • textiles
  • creative
  • immersive
  • installation
  • material science

UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • 9 - Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  • 11 - Sustainable cities and communities
  • 12 - Responsible consumption and production
  • 13 - Climate action


Impact Summary

Agnieszka Golda and Jo Law created Spinning World for the Museum of Applied Arts & Science (MAAS) – Australia’s only museum of its kind, devoted to excellence andinnovation in applied arts and sciences.

Spinning World is the major creative outcome for Golda and Law’s joint 2017 Visiting Research Fellowship at the museum. MAAS President Professor Barney Glover and Acting Director Andrew Elliott reported: “Dr Jo Law and DrAgnieszka Golda from the University of Wollongong explored the exchanges between traditional and new textile technologies [...]. A major outcome of their research was discovering how lace and embroidery techniques can be combined with conductive materials, low energy devices, and energy harvesting technologies (photovoltaic cells) to invent new materials and sustainable methods of making. This was developed into an exhibition entitled Spinning World opening in July 2018, making MAAS research activities more visible to our audiences” (MAAS Annual Report 2017-2018, 57). A key but unforeseen impact of this exhibition for the cultural sector is how it provided new strategies for the museum to share its materials culture and new findings with the public.

Spinning World was staged at the Powerhouse Museum, which drew a total of 659,340 visitations in 2017-18. During the 6-month exhibition period, it is estimated that the exhibition provided 70,000 visitors with the unique experience and insight into how contemporary art-science collaboration work to tackle urgent global issues such as environmental sustainability.

Furthermore, as a multi-sensory immersive installation Spinning World was designed to deepen audience engagement with material knowledges embedded in Museum's collections in relation to advances made by climate and materials sciences through original artworks, novel applications of new materials, incorporation of climate data, museum objects, and multimedia content. Its success highlighted art's capacity to mediate and propose future focused sustainable thinking and making strategies to the museum sector and the broader public.

Spinning World is also the key creative output of the Global Challenges Seed project Materials Science, Slow Textiles and Ecological Futures with Dr Sepidar Sayyar (AIIM, ANFF) and ARC Principal Research Fellow, Associate Professor Helen McGregor (EIS, SMAH). This public exhibition showed how transdisciplinary collaboration at UOW can enhance the understanding of climate science and smart materials research through aesthetic experiences to a broad range of diverse audiences. The collaborative process was documented in the exhibition's multimedia content and further augmented the immersive learning experience for the visiting public The project's range of outcomes not only have significant impact on artistic and scientific fields, but importantly facilitated knowledge exchanges with the public.

Sayyar's success in developing alternative ecologically sustainable processes in graphene synthesis for the interactive artworks advanced methods for manufacturing new materials. The reinterpretation of McGregor's climate science research through artistic strategies into a visual narrative contributed to new strategies in science communication. Golda and Law developed new techniques using novel materials (screen-printed graphene and sewn programmable interactive electronics) to create new original artworks that exposed museum visitors to new knowledges in environmental making and thinking.


Related United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
11. Sustainable cities and communities
12. Responsible consumption and production
13. Climate action

Read details of the impact in full

Details of the Impact

Spinning World has impact beyond academia by responding to:

1. The need for MAAS as a publicly funded cultural institution “to adapt, grow and deliver a meaningful museum experience well into the future” (Strategic Plan 2017-2022, 31). Partnered with the museum, the project provided new strategies in deepening audience engagement that serve as "catalyst for creative expression" to "[inspire] people and communities to transform our world" (Strategic Plan 2017- 2022). The exhibition combined the museum’s collection, slow textiles techniques, electronics, new materials and climate data, to speak to creative ecological thinking and making that bridge the gap between material innovations of the past and material inventions for the future in response to current environmental challenge. The key impact of these strategies is evident in how the project changed the way the Museum shares new knowledges: Spinning World paved the way for future VRFs to share their findings with broader public by exhibiting in a dedicated space in the museum.

2. The need for the public to engage with cutting-edge artworks, scientific research, and new technologies. The exhibition exposed the artworks to a large and diverse public (not possible in traditional art galleries). The considerable number of visitations from educational institutions also means that Spinning World reached a substantial portion of audiences under 25. As a result, Golda and Law have been invited to participate in MAAS’s education outreach program in 2019 to speak to young off-site audiences on their practices. Multimedia materials including a video documentation that explores art-science collaboration (made for the project), and a digital publication that revealed the processes behind the making, augmented the audiences’ experience with the artworks and extended the reach of the project.

3. The need for climate science research and ecologically sustainable manufacturing methods to be communicated beyond academia. The immersive interactive installation was designed to provide multiple entry levels for audiences. Young children may enjoy the underwater audio recording of the Great Barrier reef (made by XL Catlin Seaview Survey) played through hand-embroidered fabric speakers on the 9.2 x 3.3m hand-stencilled wall hanging that depicted a fantastical scene of coral-scape; or visitors may study how low-energy electronic devices powered the flapping paper birds on another artwork. Artist Olafur Eliasson states, “Art can offer people direct experiences of phenomena, which can be more effective than just reading an explanation […] an important step towards motivating people not just to know something but also to respond to it, to feel the urgency of it and to take action” (King 2017). In this way, Spinning World conversed with audiences on urgent climate issues through multisensory experiences.

Novel applications
A key unforeseen novel application was the synthesis of using more ecologically sustainable methods (replacing toxic chemicals with vitamin C) for screen-printing. This has the potential to develop alternative environmentally-sound methods for producing conductive screen-printing inks. Spinning World featured two lengths of graphene screen-prints showing enlarged microscopic coral fossils images (Porites spp. from McGregor’s climate research). The work showcased the new materials by allowing the audience to touch the conductive screen-prints that acted as capacitive touch sensors which activated various programmed lights patterns.  The re-interpretation of climate science research into visual narratives is another key benefit that contributed to new strategies in science communication. Golda and Law were invited to present an artists’ talk at the 2018 Australian Science Communicators Conference (13 November 2018) to speak to these experimental methods. The conference was held at the Powerhouse Museum over three days and attended by around 300 delegates from across Australia. The public’s interests in the future development of these artistic strategies is evident in the Wollongong Art Gallery’s commitment to exhibit Golda and Law’s future works in 2021.

The unique research findings that were important in achieving impact lie within critical reflections on art-science collaboration. These findings were discussed in a joint refereed paper presented at Australian Network of Art and Technology’s Spectra2018 Art-Science Symposium (12-14 October 2018) with publication in Leonardo to follow in 2019. One reviewer comments: “... a brilliant and successful long-term project pulling together a wide range of expertise in science, technology and art to directly challenge the practices of them all. By introducing environmental concerns into the manufacturing processes, they are tackling one of the core concerns facing us all. The need for artists to have scientific accuracy wherever possible is also core to their concerns, something that is often elided over in artscience collaborations” (Anon conference review). The symposium had a reach beyond academia and was well attended by artists, scientists, and representatives from cultural institutions and government bodies including National Arts Council of Singapore, Queensland Government (Science Communication unit), CSIRO, Australia Council for the Arts, and Experimenta. The symposium explores “the increasing convergence of art and science and considers how each area impacts the other” beyond the knowledge economy to the cultural and economic sectors. (https://spectra.org.au/)

A key impact the research facilitated was knowledge exchanges between artists and scientists, researchers and museum staff, academics and the public. Golda and Law presented to the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (11 May 2017) on their research to instigate discussions on how art-science and materials science can contribute to innovative manufacturing and environmental sustainability. Knowledge exchanges with museum staff has been ongoing. Golda and Law presented their VRF findings to MAAS staff on 13 September 2017. The three artworks in Spinning World accompanied by the Museum's green silk kimono provided the key avenue for knowledge exchanges with the public. Katie Dyer, Senior Curator MAAS, states, “[Spinning World] is a fantastic opportunity for the museum to demonstrate how our holdings of cultural materials can be used in varied ways [... and] influence the creation of new cultural materials. [The show is] dynamic contemporary art but there is science, there is something to learn, there is new knowledge being formed. I am excited to share this with the public.” (MSSTEF 2018).


  • General public (70,000)
  • Cultural institution (1)
  • Australian science communicators (300)


Impacted Countries
  • Australia