Tubes, in which green floating algae (Chlorella vulgaris) circulate, grow out of a sculpture named HYDRA, a hybrid of a submarine and a whale. The tube system, more than a kilometre long, serves the algae in a manner comparable to the leaves and branches of a tree: for surface enlargement, light absorption and photosynthesis. The meandering tubes create a green pattern in the room.
For Feuerstein, green is more than a colour: In his Manna Machines, Chlorella, as the most chlorophyll-rich and greenest plant cell, acts beyond botany as a model organism of our culture. It forms a narrative knot that links speculative utopias, science fiction, ideologies, material transformations, art, science, economics and politics. The big problems of the present such as food, climate and scarcity of resources are condensed in this small cell. Feuerstein’s Manna Machines grows pigment for his monochrome paintings, sugar and food are produced for fruit flies and bacterial cultures, algae biomass is fermented into the spirit TONO-BUNGAY, or becomes the molecular base for new materials and bioplastics.
Mythologically, HYDRA symbolises the monstrous. If she loses a head, two new ones grow back. This references the impression sometimes given by science and technology, in that a solution creates new problems. Numerous references to cultural and scientific history spring from Feuerstein’s HYDRA and, at the same time, new biotechnological possibilities. HYDRA does not prove to be a hostile monster of nature, but rather a biological actor that performs natural processes and, via its photoautotrophic resource production, holds out the prospect of alternative horizons for action. The metaphorical and symbolic scope of art is expanded through the metabolic – through the biological metabolism of algae, their binding of carbon dioxide, and the synthesis of organic substances. Through its hybrid form of whale and submarine, HYDRA refers to a concept of nature that places culture, technology and biosphere in a reciprocal relationship. Green becomes a narrative knot that entangles different narrative strands such as colour, metabolism, nature and culture and experimentally tests a change from petrochemistry to biochemistry.
The Intelligence of Plants
With Berlinde De Bruyckere, Thomas Feuerstein, Marshmallow Laser Feast, Abel Rodríguez, Diana Scherer, Nicola Toffolini and with exhibits from Forschungszentrum Jülich (Institute for Plant Science), Pflanzensoziologisches Institut (Austria)
Curated by Franziska Nori