Ursula Biemann. »Acoustic Ocean« and »Subatlantic«

Swiss artist, writer, and video essayist Ursula Biemann develops poetic science fiction on the subject of ecology, climate change and marine research. In her two film essays »Subatlantic« (2015, 11 minutes) and »Acoustic Ocean« (2018, 18 minutes) she speculates about new forms of life, fictional contexts and developments of the planetary ecosystem. To do this, she travels to remote areas and documents phenomena of climate change and changing ecologies. Set in the Shetland Islands, Greenland’s Disco Bay and a tiny Caribbean Island, the video implicates far apart locations yet connected through invisible Ocean streams, which determine the temperatures in the North Atlantic, sea and land. 

The title »Subatlantic« suggests both sunken areas of the Atlantic as well as the so-called current climatic age of the Holocene epoch, which started 2,500-year ago. Accordingly Biemann dives her camera into the depths of the oceans and links serious changes caused by melting glaciers and the global consumption of fossil fuels. A scientist tells about frozen micro-organisms. With the first major glacier melting after 12.00 years they now back into the liquid flow and change of the ecosystem with archaic DNA. Today these phenomena connect geological deep time and contemporary climate. For Biemann they trigger speculations on the beginning of new species. 

In «Acoustic Ocean« a she-scientist examines the acoustic ecology of the oceans on the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway with hydrophones and parabolic microphones. In her orange suit, the ocean acoustician itself already looks like a techno organic compound. “A techno-organic bond links this aquanaut with her body with the sensorial instruments and the sonic environment of the vast multiplicity of sea creatures she is exploring. In this scientific array, any form of critical distance between the scientist, her research subject and the instruments, is absent. They have all grown together. The hydrophones laid out like tentacles over the dark rocks, taking on characteristics of deep-sea creatures. This feminist posthuman figuration suggests a porosity, permeability and connectivity of the human body with regards to water and the many life forms it sustains and ingests.” (Astrida Neimanis). 

The sea floor is an important communication space for many creatures of the ocean depths. Given the poor visibility in the deep sea, the Sonic dimension is the primary means of navigation in the half-light of this almost entirely unknown to us liquid universe. In two film essays, there is a speculation about new forms of life, fictional contexts and developments of the planetary ecosystem.

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Event Venue

Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt
Gallery of Art after 1945
Friedensplatz 1
64283 Darmstadt


Dr. Gabriele Mackert
T 06151 1657-012

Running Time

April 2 until April 28, 2019

Gallery Talk

Wednesday, April 10, 5 pm
with curator Gabriele Mackert