Upping (social) impact through art
3 April 2019 - Maaike Hoogstede

Art can be many things and means different things to different people. One being that its creative approach to the world and its inhabitants can get people to pay attention and care. Cue photography, performance, text-based art, documentary, participatory installations and all else creative! Showing an audience a thing of beauty (or intrigue), something that stirs interest or tickles their funny bone, results in finding new eyes, ears and willingness to change behaviour that is crucial to social concerns.

At Impact Hub Berlin we took our first excursion into this idea of art as a social architect and can report back that there is something to it. At our Make Art, Not Waste WineDown last week we turned our co-working space into a pop-up exhibition to showcase photography, poetry, a collaborative installation, film and culinary delights by creatives who have made social change part of their practices. This time it was humanity’s untenable use of plastic and levels of waste that was being highlighted, as Impact Hub Berlin has been engaged in this particular SDG through the Dopper Changemaker Challenge, which is looking to award students who have made clean water and less plastic use the focus of their academic work.

Part of everything we do includes getting a wider public to pay attention and engage with complex issues of our time and we were delighted to see so many unfamiliar faces show up and truly engage with each other, the artists present and the issue at hand. To harness art in this way makes for a powerful alley in times of limited attention spans.

Whether it is photographs of piles of rubbish ruining a beachscape far away or learning from a chef how to turn near-waste into culinary delights, art triggers emotions and thus impacts how we engage with the world. It is powerful and a natural partner for anyone trying to get people to engage.

At Make Art, Not Waste the works that provided the base for an evening of engaged conversation and exchanging of hacks for plastic reduction were produced by:


  • Phoebe Blackburn, who has been documenting garbage bins around the globe, resulting in a striking photo series that puts an object into perspective that is integral to the story of global waste.
  • Caterina Rancho, who photographed the copious amounts of waste washed up on the shores of a Thai beach, in an effort to highlight how these man-made objects are morphing with nature’s paradises.
  • Kyoko Takemura, who uses photo-based prints to highlight issues that though of universal concern beyond difference of language and origin, are too often ignored by the larger public.
  • Mona Lüder, who approaches waste, hyper-consumption and the pull to purchase by focusing her camera lens on small details that to her symbolise these issues to her.
  • Oscar Nuget, a poet who delighted with readings from his beautifully crafted texts that did justice to his own belief that a consciously crafted string of words can have meaning beyond their individual definition.
  • Raw Paradise (Christian Rühlman & Moritz Wussow), a duo of industrial designers who created a machine for instantaneous recycling that provided a hands-on example of the workings of the circular economy.
  • DingsDums Dumplings and the Real Junk Food Project who both utilise ingredients that would otherwise have gone to waste provided nibbles for our guests, while we screened A Journey into Plastic Awareness and In Search of the Changemaker, had a commitment to plastic reduction facilitated by Gülcan Nitsch of Recup Aktion and browsed up-cycled jewelry by Carolina Könitzer.


What we saw was an audience new to Impact Hub Berlin walk through our doors. The format was family-friendly and crucially open to all ages, resulting in an atmosphere, very different to our workshops, panel discussions and lectures. It was a joyful reminder that diversifying the event programming, actively designing a broad bandwidth of formats and collaborating with professionals who share our concerns but are not in our direct field of work strengthens our ongoing efforts to connect, inspire and enable whenever we host.

In this way art can and should be a strategic element employed to engage audiences in social causes. Impact Hub Berlin will continue to get consciously arty!