Ecologies. Artistic Research
Kat Austen | Mary Maggic | Fara Peluso
Video still from The Matter of the Soul, Kat Austen, 2018;
middle: Viva, Fara Peluso, 2016; right: Video still from
Open Source Estrogen, Mary Maggic, 2015
19 January 2019, 7PM
20 January - 17 March 2019
- Sun 2-6PM and by appointment
March 2019, 9 PM: HYDRO_PERFORMANCE Night. Performances, Talks with
New Cassettes and Vinyls!
With Kat Austen, Robertina ebjanič
and Fara Peluso
Water is the foundation of life, making
up 60% of our body. Water-born organisms produce much of the planet's
oxygen. Meanwhile human activity fills waterways and oceans with
plastics, industrial waste and diverse chemicals, effecting the
metabolisms of most living creatures, ourselves included.
This exhibition presents art projects on water, life and chemical
disruption whose research transcends the boundaries between art
and science. The artists pursue research in biology, chemistry and
ethnography with distinct and radical DIY methods. Diverse approaches
to the hydrosphere, the sum of the planet's water, explore the foundations
of life and the threat of human impact on both the environment and
our own bodies.
Artist and designer Fara Peluso's long-term research focuses
on potential uses for algae as an environmental regulator, source
for sustainable materials, and aesthetic catalyser of biophilia.
She proposes a closer relationship between humans and algae as an
answer to our current environmental crisis. Her research and practice
combine working with biotechnologists and DIY scientists in speculative
and critical design to produce a myriad of innovative design and
project VIVA (2016, right side of wall) initiates a speculative
symbiotic relationship between humans and algae through an accessory
that you wear around your head. Filled with algae the device has
a mouthpiece that enables an inter-species exchange of respiration,
based on the oxygen/carbon dioxide cycle. The 3D prototype (hanging
from the ceiling) shows a striking mesh with a biomorphic structure.This
collaborative relationship is explored further in WeaReactor
(2017), developed in collaboration with BioArt Laboratories in Eindhoven,
NL (left side of the wall). Here the symbiosis resembles a cyborg-like
being as the human body appears to melt together with the algae,
expressing a biophilic performative character (compare also the
drawings). Demonstrating interspecies relationships, this wearable
speculative device seems to belong to a posthuman nomad, wearing
the accessory as an eternal survival bag like a mobile algae station.
Peluso refers to the biochemical and the ethical: I create
fictional artefacts, says Peluso, that tell stories
of possible future scenarios about the quality of our lives, attitudes,
a plinth we encounter Pelusos design work with Algae based
Material (2017-ongoing), giving the viewers an insight into
the complex world of these one-celled organisms. She has produced
various bio plastic materials from different forms of algae, each
having its own materiality and texture. Next to Marimo seaweed and
algae moss balls there is also a DIY Photo bioreactor growing Spirulina
algae, which Peluso has used for her Algature workshops.
The Matter of the Soul (2017-ongoing) examines the impact
of climate change in the Canadian High Arctic through sound composition,
sculpture and performance. Here, Kat Austen, an artist with
a PhD in Chemistry, combines scientific knowledge, hacked equipment
and ethnographic research with a strong aesthetic approach. Crucial
to the work is the lived experience of being in a time of melting
in the Arctic.
Matter of the Soul exists in myriad forms, as audio-visual installation
(a one-hour symphony in the back room), live performance, sound
piece, objects and images. Austen aesthetically meanders her Arctic
research into different artistic formats: the round canvas and the
relief sculpture (front room) show a red geometric motif on white
background a triangle of the Arctic, a recurring form and
abstraction of the process of dispersal, which is the central subject
of the symphony. The cassettes contain the entire symphony or just
one part, concentration.
Her audio-visual installation The Matter of the Soul | Symphony
(back room, 58 min.) shows sequences of Austens travels,
by plane or sea, views of water and ice, complemented by found footage.
The compositions contain field recordings of acidity and salinity,
affected by arctic ice melt, made using pH and conductivity meters
altered to make sound. There are samples from interviews with visitors
to and inhabitants of Baffin Island and Resolute, Canada.
works with the classical four-part symphony structure, which she
strongly challenges in content and form. The titles of the four
parts refer to scientific terms: 1. biphasic (two phases), 2. concentration,
3. dissipation (dispersion) and 4. multifurcation (division into
multiple branches). She also distorts the visuals with colour filters
and abstraction. The constant recurring theme, the red geometric
motif, emphasizes the dispersal process, referring to different
components: chemical components (water/ ice) and social ethnographic
(migration). This meets her intention of creating more empathy for
climate and social change through art.
The work of Mary Maggic focuses on the presence and effect
of endocrine disruptors in water. Not just estrogen from birth control
pills, but many pesticides and other chemicals produce estrogen-like
chemicals (xenoestrogens) that flow into wetlands and infiltrate
drinking water. Maggic's work also questions our cultural notions
of gender conformity at a time when our industrial drainage has
changed the environment chemically and hormonally for over a century.
Maggic's projects generate DIY protocols for the extraction and
detection of estrogen hormones from bodies and environments, reflecting
micro performability and a potential for sex and gender hacking.
performative work combines radical DIY biochemistry, workshopology
and speculative design. In our exhibition three videos Housewives
Making Drugs (2017), 1-800-ESTROGEN (2018), and Molecular
Queering Agency (2017) demonstrate these different components.
The installation of posters, charts and objects relate to different
aspects of her works including the production of a yeast biosensor
for estrogen, extraction of hormones from urine, and a critique
of traditional definitions of sex and gender. Photos of DIY lab
kits accompany a chart related to her speculative project Open
Source Estrogen. The masks on the wall are relics of her participatory
performance Molecular Queering Agency, which turned the DIY
extraction of hormones from participants urine into a ritual
for potential hormonal exchange taking Natures
Queer Performativity (Barad) to a dynamic point. Her strong
biopolitical approach refers to toxic landscapes, where we are exposed
to the endocrine disrupting refuse of the petrochemical, agricultural
and pharmaceutical industries: The objects we encircle ourselves
with, the food we eat, and the air we breathe, all become part of
the process of sexing she says. These xeno molecules
are capable of transfecting change at the morphological level, queering
our bodies and bodies of non human species.
Regine Rapp & Christian de Lutz (curators)
Gazette, published on 16.03.2019, Sound der Klimakrise: Wie erlangen
wir Zugang zu verborgenem Wissen über die Erderwärmung?
published Jan. 2019 Exhibition: 'Watery Ecologies. Artistic Research'
at ArtLaboratory Berlin
Austen and Fara Peluso, installation view.
Photo (c) Tim Deussen, 2019
Mary Maggic, installation view.
Photo (c) Tim Deussen, 2019
Austen, The Matter of the Soul, video, sound, sculpture and
Photo (c) Tim Deussen, 2019
Austen, The Matter of the Soul, sculpture and cassettes,
Photo (c) Tim Deussen, 2019
Austen, The Matter of the Soul, 2017 (far left) and Fara
Peluso, Wea Reactor, 2017, Algae based materials,
2017-ongoing and VIVA, 2016. Photo (c) Tim Deussen, 2019
Peluso, VIVA, 2016. Photo (c) Tim Deussen, 2019
Peluso, Algae based materials, 2017-ongoing. Photo (c) Tim
Maggic, installation view, Video: Housewives Making Drugs, 2017.
Posters from Open Source Estrogen, 2016, Estrofem
Lab!, 2016 and Molecular Queering Agency, 2017,
photos (c) Tim Deussen, 2019
of the Vorspiel programme in partnership with the CTM and transmediale