Materials and media
2 x 4K Projection, Algae, CO2 sensors, TDS sensors, Raspberry Pi's, Sound, custom bioreactors, device
“At the beginning of this project was a dream. We tried to imagine how it could look or sound if non-neuronal beings like plants or algae were able to dream. What kinds of visions would they produce and how would they process reality? So we imagined what structures or entities algae would recognize as being particularly important to us humans and picked two ecosystems that enable our human lives in different ways:
Forests are vital for life on Earth by purifying air, water, as habitat and to mitigate climate change. On the other hand, server farms represent our digital lives. They are the overlooked architectures of the Anthropocene holding the infrastructure of our networked lifes. They give physical presence to our digital data and make us understand that digital life has an impact on the world by using resources and contributing to climate change. We see a strong aesthetic and conceptual relation to interlink the forest as a hyperorganism and a server farm as metaphors for our lives.
The algae sculpture in the center of the installation is symbolically speaking the dream machine. It gives us an altered view of our reality and offers us a narration on how it may compute the world. It further shows how everything is connected to each other. The air we breathe gives CO2 to the algae, which returns as oxygen,their signals cause effects in the videos and the light from the projections also stimulates the algae growth. At the same time living organisms are not binary, they can not be programmed like a computer, and even if they may be controllable, unpredictable events will always happen.”
Theresa Schubert, Ivan Taranin
In Aristotelian philosophy, Hylē is the original substance, the primordial matter
that only takes shape through human processing (tecnē).
translated from Werner Marx: Einführung in Aristoteles‘ Theorie vom Seienden, 1972, 40
The audiovisual installation Hylē interacts with one of the most existential bodily mechanisms of living beings: breathing. Between observation, meditation, material experimentation and playful action Hylē offers an algae-altered narration about aspects of our world by investigating visual metaphors of network dynamics modulated in realtime through interaction with a living biological sculpture and the larger world. Hylē displays the successive interconnectedness of the presence, the actions taking place within and the effects, reactions and feedbacks they cause.
The multi-channel video environment is created from 3D-laser scans of a forest and the inside of a server farm and open for interaction to the public via sensors. By breathing into a funnel device two aspects of the work are affected: firstly, the CO2 enriched air will be measured by a sensor before it is being pumped into the algae bioreactors. The sensor signals will trigger disturbances and abstraction in the scanned video environments and sound synthesis in realtime. Secondly, algae need CO2 for their metabolism and will release Oxygen in their photosynthetic process which is returned to the air in the exhibition space thus creating a feedback between human breath, algae and the audiovisual spheres. By this Hylē suggests an aesthetic and conceptual relation by interlinking a forest as a hyperorganism with a server farm as metaphors for the underlying networks of our digital and carbon lifes.
The audience is invited to participate in the interactive installation, experiencing the impact of their presence by altering the immersive and ephemeral audiovisual environment and by this their own sensorial state.
Artist: Theresa Schubert
Programming and Sound: Ivan Taranin
Sensor Programming: Sarah Grant
Project Management: Helene Bosecker
Assistance: Sabrina Bühn
Exhibition Setup: Jens Baudisch
Thanks to: Laura König-Mattern, Max-Plank Institut Magdeburg
Hylē is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.
Hylē was originally commissioned as ‘ooze’ by Laboratoria Art & Science Foundation and Kaspersky.