Bureau of Expertise for Critical Thinking and Artistic Intervention

Bureau of Expertise for Critical Thinking and Artistic Intervention


Institute of Sustainability Governance

Leuphana University Lüneburg

Coordinator & main teacher

  • Harald Heinrichs


  • Daniel Hoernemann – visual artist who holds extensive experience in artistic interventions in contexts of societal development. His role was to bring in strategies of artistic investigation and intervention.
Intended learning outcomes (more on programme level)

This course aimed at exploring the potential of scientific– artistic analysis and intervention in issues of (un)sustainable development.

Learning objectives (course specific)

Mediation and practical testing of scientific and art-based analysis and design approaches.

Objective statement (course description)

There are problems, let’s tackle them! That should be the motto for this seminar on (un)sustainable development. Based on the problem perceptions, questions, interests, ideas and skills of the participants, topics are narrowed down, viewed from multiple perspectives and options for action are designed. The seminar sees itself as an expert office for critical thinking and creative action. With the involvement of external experts, activists and artists, the self-chosen topics are addressed scientifically-analytically and artistically-creatively. The seminar thus aims to intervene in the socio-political practice of shaping the future.

Type of course :

Skills & content course

Target group :

Undergraduate students

Pedagogical approach:

Experiential learning; sense-based learning; learning-by-doing


Introduction: Topic, method, way of working, goals

2. Conceptual and empirical foundation of sustainable development

3. Conceptual and methodological foundations of critical thinking

4. Conceptual and methodological foundations of artistic intervention

5. Research subjects (1): Arts-based methods for generation of ideas

6. Research subjects (2): Projects and study groups

7. Research strategies: scientific and artistic methods

8. Scientific–artistic research of selected topics (1)

9. Scientific–artistic research of selected topics (2)

10. Intervention strategies: scientific and artistic forms of presentation and intervention

11. Design of Intervention on selected topics

12. Intervention on selected topics

13. Synthesis and Outlook

  • To keep students’ awareness during the seminar, a systematic, interrelated scientific–artistic procedure was important for sensory–aesthetic sustainability science. There is apparently a risk of slipping more towards the artistic side of the approach.
  • The careful definition of topics and research questions in order to allow for appropriate projects given the limited time of a seminar. The existing tension between open-minded, creative search for research subjects and content-related (sustainability issues) as well as time-related (seminar with 150 h workload) restrictions need to be addressed proactively.
Assessment of learning:

Groups of 3-5 students were asked to produce an intervention and an accompanying scientific reflection paper (10-15 pages), in which the analysed sustainability issue is described based on relevant scientific literature, the procedure of the intervention outlined, and the potential of sensory sustainability reflected.


  • Group 1: Traffic island—How far can perception of human-nature-borders be shifted by temporary appropriating a traffic island as living space?
  • Group 2: Spatial perception—To what extent can routinized use of top-down planned campus infrastructure be opened up by temporary spatial modification?
  • Group 3: Surveillance—How far does a surveillance intervention affect visitors at a university canteen?
  • Group 4: Body images—What happens, if people are confronted with (female) bodies, which do not try to fulfill dominating norms, and with the presenters themselves?
Effect (witness account, evaluation of the course)

Despite the intellectually challenging and labor-intensive seminar the discoursive seminar feedback of students was positive. Especially the relatively high degree of “allowed and demanded creativity” was felt as enriching, and allowed for a more sensory access to sustainable development.

Additional biblio sources

  • Heinrichs, H. (2021). Teaching Sustainable Development in a Sensory and Artful Way—Concepts, Methods, and Examples. Sustainability13(24), 13619.
  • Brand, K.W. Social practices and sustainable consumption: Benefits and limitations of a new theoretical approach. In Environmental Sociology—European Perspectives and Interdisciplinary Challenges; Gross, M., Heinrichs, H., Eds.; Springer: Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 2010; pp. 217–236.
  • Mouffe, C. Artistic Activism and Agonistic Spaces. Art Res. J. Ideas Contexts Methods. 2007, 1, 1–5.