Atmospheres: Art, Science, and Space Research
November 14, 2023 – January 5 2024
Austrian Cultural Forum New York
11 East 52nd Street, New York, NY, 10022

ACT Director Azra Akšamija is participating in the upcoming exhibition, Atmospheres: Art, Science, and Space Research, hosted at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York. Dr. Akšamija has collaborated with Dr. Dietmar Offenhuber, Chair of the Art + Design Department at Northeastern University, to create a mesmerizing 4-minute room-sized digital animation titled “Navigating the Sky.” This work contemplates the interplay of sensory perception and scientific understanding of the celestial sphere.

This exclusive commission for the exhibition Atmospheres: Art, Science, and Space Research will be on display from November 14, 2023 through January 5, 2024.

Atmospheres is more than an exhibition; it’s a convergence of art, science, and inquiry, set within a Mobile Pavilion, courtesy of Styria’s regional government. It is an immersive expedition into atmosphere, climate, and space, probing the mysteries of the skies and their link to our existence, identity, and destiny. This blend of artistic and scientific perspectives offers a novel lens on atmospheric phenomena and underscores the urgency of maintaining our world’s livability amidst climatic shifts.

Central to the exhibition is the provocative thought: How would life adapt to vastly different atmospheric conditions? This question, echoing the discoveries of extraterrestrial atmospheres, mirrors our own terrestrial climatic challenges.

Bridging Styria with the cosmos, Atmospheres carries a profound message of custodianship for our planet. It prompts reflection on the ethical dimensions of space travel and technological intervention in the climate crisis.

The contributions from Dr. Akšamija and Dr. Offenhuber are a deep dive into the cognitive frameworks that mold our celestial comprehension. Their work is a dialogue between traditional and scientific epistemologies, evidenced in the two-part animation. The “Manu-o-Kū” segment is inspired by Nainoa Thompson’s Polynesian navigation, illustrating a multisensory guide through stars and seas. The “SIMBAD” portion reflects on the scientific narrative, shaped by tools and cultural contexts.

Research and project development assistance: Merve Akdoğan, Jehanzeb Shoaib; AI animation: Merve Akdoğan (using Stable Diffusion and Deforum); Data visualization and sonification: Dietmar Offenhuber. Voices: Nainoa Thompson, Polynesian Voyaging Society. Data from SIMBAD Astronomical Database, Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg.

Thanks to: Hōkūleʻa Polynesian Voyaging Society; Thomas Boch, Université de Strasbourg, Prof. Alyssa Goodman, Peter Williams, Alberto Pepe – Harvard University

Exhibition Details:
Exhibition Opening: November 13, 2023 at 7 pm
General Opening Hours: November 14, 2023 to January 5, 2024, daily from 10 am to 6 pm
Venue: Austrian Cultural Forum New York, 11 East 52nd Street, New York


About the artists:


Azra Akšamija is an artist and architectural historian. She is the Director of the MIT Program in Art, Culture, and Technology and the Future Heritage Lab. Akšamija’s artistic practice and academic research explore how social life is affected by cultural bias and by the destruction of cultural infrastructures within the context of conflict, migration, and forced displacement. Akšamija authored two books, Mosque Manifesto: Propositions for Spaces of Coexistence (Revolver, 2015) and Museum Solidarity Lobby (Revolver, 2019), and edited the volumes Architecture of Coexistence: Building Pluralism (ArchiTangle, 2020) and Design to Live: Everyday Inventions form a Refugee Camp (co-edited with M. Philippou and R. Majzoub, MIT Press, 2021). Her artistic work has been exhibited in leading international venues, including the Generali Foundation and Secession in Vienna, Biennials in Venice, Liverpool, Valencia, and Manila, Manifesta 7, Museums of Contemporary Art in Zagreb, Belgrade, and Ljubljana, Sculpture Center and Queens Museum of Art in New York, the Royal Academy of Arts London, Jewish Museum Berlin, Design Festivals in Milan, Istanbul, Eindhoven, and Amman. Most recently, her work has been shown at the Kunsthaus Graz, the Aga Khan Museum Toronto, the Kästner Gesellschaft Hanover, and the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2021. Akšamija holds two master’s degrees in architecture from the Graz Institute of Technology (2001) and Princeton University (2004), and a Ph.D. in history, theory, and criticism in architecture from MIT (2011). She received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2013 for her design of the prayer space in the Islamic Cemetery Altach, Austria, the Art Award of the City of Graz in 2018, and an honorary doctorate from the Montserrat College of Art (2020).


Dietmar Offenhuber is an Associate Professor at Northeastern University and the Head of the Art + Design Department. He holds a Ph.D. in Urban Planning from MIT, an MS in Media Arts and Sciences from the MIT Media Lab, and a Dipl. Ing. in Architecture from the Technical University Vienna. Dietmar was a Key Researcher at the Austrian Ludwig Boltzmann Institute and the Ars Electronica Futurelab and a professor in the Interface Culture program of the Art University Linz, Austria. His research focuses on the relationship between design, technology, and governance. Dietmar is the author of the award-winning monograph Waste is Information – Infrastructure Legibility and Governance (MIT Press) and published books on the subjects of Urban Data, Accountability Technologies, and Urban Informatics. His Ph.D. dissertation received the Outstanding Dissertation Award 2014 from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, his research received the Best Paper Award 2012 from the Journal of the American Planning Association, and the Ascina Award 2017.