LAS x Berlin Science Week
As part of this year’s Berlin Science Week, the Berlin-based art foundation Light Art Space presented an ‘in conversation’ event exploring the foundation’s commission BERL BERL, an immersive installation by Jakob Kudsk Steense shown in Halle am Berghain between 10 July and 26 September 2021.
The installation, informed by biodiversity research from scientists at the Museum for Naturkunde, explored Berlin’s history as a wetland and the mythologies associated with it.
To introduce this year’s event, Dr Bettina Kames, director and co-founder of LAS, explained how this commission highlights art and science collaboration as one of the core values of both Berlin Science Week and LAS “Our curiosity for the unconventional leads us to pioneering emerging artists that bring new matters and formats into the art sphere. Jakob is one of these artists.” The event follows last year’s event by LAS at the 2020 Berlin Science Week which explored quantum computing and the challenges of the future of making art.
The panel discussion at this year’s Berlin Science week, LAS x Berlin Science Week: Retracing Berlin’s Wetlands, included artist Jakob Kudsk Steense, Museum for Naturkunde scientist Dr Kim Ortega and was moderated by guest LAS curator Emma Enderby.
BERL BERL started during lockdown, when Jakob became fascinated by the worlds in front of us that we don’t necessarily see, such as the rivers and wetlands surrounding our cities. The exhibition invites the public to restore their connection with nature, and seeks to bring back a fascination for the wetlands, not only as a key place for biodiversity restoration but also the key place where many civilisations started.
For the development of the artwork Jakob spent seven months researching the surviving marshes of the Berlin/Brandenburg region, and documented them through cutting edge 3D technology and sound recording. Jakob then merged the visual content with samples of archival soundscapes from the Museum fur Naturkunde, which included birdsong from extinct species, and memories and stories form local people connected with the swamps, creating an immersive audio-visual experience.
During the panel discussion, Jakob explained that the combination of biodiversity data, three-dimensional moving image, local soundscapes and spoken mythology was key to create an immersive environment where audiences could fully connect with the wetlands “As ritualistic beings, we have to connect to things through movement and colour through rhythm, through emotion, through memory, it’s an embodied experience. We have to move through matter in order to internalise it, and then it becomes part of your thinking”
The panel discussion explored the potential that art science collaborations like BERL BERL have to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. As a scientist, Dr Kim Ortega felt that collaborating in this type of work allowed her to share her passion and knowledge with the general public “putting science and society together to increase their each other’s strengths”. Kim believes that interdisciplinary methodologies provide an ideal platform to promote a dialogue with diverse communities, which is key to confront environmental threats. As an artist, Jakob highlighted that collaborating with the Museum for Naturkunde and scientists like Kim inspired him to take the process even further, and develop a conservation programme that encourages audiences to connect with the world around them.
As a result, the Museum fur Naturkunde and LAS foundation are currently developing, amongst many other citizen science projects, WissensFluss, a thorough educational programme exploring the biodiversity habitats of the Panke river. The programme includes guided tours through wetlands, events and interactive online activities which aim to connect to people and invite them to explore their urban and natural surroundings.