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Hacking Greta Thunberg at the Shared Campus Summer School

Young activist speaking in front of crowd
Young activist speaking in front of crowd
Greta Thunberg at the Fridays For Future protest, Berlin 2019. Photo by Leonhard Lenz licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication
Written by
Cat Cooper
Published date
27 October 2020

This summer, we worked with our international partners Zürich University of the Arts to run our first online Summer School as part of the Shared Campus project. This is an international initiative co-developed by UAL in which art and design schools collaborate across global themes.

Exploring the theme ‘Pop Cultures’, students and staff from UAL and 4 other partner institutions came together over 2.5 weeks in June and July with the task of ‘Hacking Global Pop Icons’. The course was organised and led by Caitlin ShepherdLecturer in Contextual and Theoretical Studies at London College of Communication UAL (academic lead) together with Claudio Bucher and Tom Gerber from Zürich University of the Arts.

Twenty three participating students came from: UAL; Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU); City University, Hong Kong; Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore and Zürich University of the Arts. The core teaching team were Caitlin and staff from Zürich University of the Arts; with input and online lectures from partner institution staff including David Cross, Reader at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL and external mentors from HKBU.

Working virtually and in groups, the project culminated in the making of a final artwork and a live online exhibition on July 3.

Watch a video of the exhibition


00.00 - 02.15 - Introduction
02.15 - 13.30 - Group 1 “Gretaland”
13.30 - 19.35 - Group 2 “Holy Greta"
19.40 - 26.15 - Group 3 “Unwind Greta”
26.15 - 35.30 - Group 4 “What do you call the World"
35.30 - 48.12 - Group 5 “Greta with a thousand faces"
48.12 - End - Group 6 “We are Bodies of Water”

Picking Greta as our global icon

Hacking Global Pop Icons set out to use diverse creative practice to explore who and what can be thought of as globally iconic - and to what effect.

Global Icons have local meanings: What do they say about our identities, society and culture? What and who makes an icon? How can we deconstruct, remix and hack icons?

The students got together in May to think about the task of hacking a global icon and to agree who this figure should be. They chose to reflect, hack and reimagine what climate activist Greta Thunberg means, and to whom.


The approach was based on collaborative experimentation and creative production – including speculative fiction, critical analysis and hacking. The course gave students an understanding of the following theories, methods and creative skillsets:

  • Understanding of cultural concepts in global contexts
  • Understanding of climate change and planetary health
  • International and transdisciplinary collaboration
  • Virtual and sensory ethnography
  • Practice as research methodology
  • Knowledge of Greta Thunberg
  • Media representation theory
  • Presentation skills
  • Creative writing

Main image: Greta Thunberg at the Fridays For Future protest, Berlin 2019. Photo by Leonhard Lenz licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

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