Art Laboratory Berlin is glad to announce the solo show of bio media artist Saša Spačal with the newly produced artwork TERRA XENOBIOTICA (2023) based on her current artistic research.
Humans have an ambiguous relationship to the ground, often identifying and personifying with the soil of their ‘homeland’, and depending on its fertility to survive – and yet, all too often, treating it as mere dirt. This neglect is more extreme in technological zones, not only in industrial areas, but in spaces of communication and transportation. In her new art project TERRA XENOBIOTICA Saša Spačal explores soil life at airports. “Toxins are seeping into the ground, creating unfamiliar lands that call for different kinds of stewards – the ones who navigate and nurture, rather than gatekeep or extract” states Spačal. “As humanity remains locked in an ongoing cycle, a holding pattern of take-offs and landings, the notion of a final landing lurks in an unimaginable distant future.”
The installation Eternity Scanner, based on a residency at the Rillig Lab for Plant Ecologies at Freie Universität Berlin, invites the public to explore how pollutants, especially Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) such as Teflon, so called ‘forever chemicals,’ permeate the soils of airports. Essential in the art piece are 85 soil chromatograms developed from earth gradually polluted by increasing amounts of PFAS, making up Gradients of Eternity, a database created as first of many to train an AI neural network to recognise PFAS pollution on soil chromatograms, and metaphorically symbolising the 85 years since PFAS were first accidentally discovered. Visitors are encouraged to choose a soil chromatogram and place it on the Eternity Scanner, which acts as a contemporary oracle. “The directive is clear and compelling; our only requisite action is to attune ourselves to the scanner’s perpetual soundscapes” remarks the artist. Powered by AI, the scanner reads the chromatogram, producing a sonification of the information it contains, acting as a clarion call for a new generation to come forward and regard the land not as dominion, but as kin.
The film Holding Patterns, written by Saša Spačal and cultural theorist Alison Sperling, creates a dystopian near future scenario where airports still exist but without function, exploring the matter of ground and soil pollution. Essential for Spačal is the “question of grounding, of being grounded, and of groundedness in the unique space of Berlin’s iconic defunct airport at Tempelhof Field”. The film examines the complex and varied epistemologies involved in modern concepts of travel and identity, proposing a new model of responsibility, care, and stewardship.
Art Laboratory Berlin has collaborated many times with Saša Spačal: The artist was present with several works at the exhibitions The Other Selves. On the Phenomenon of the Microbiome (2016), Nonhuman Networks (2017), presented her artistic research at the international conference Nonhuman Agents (2017) and had several artist residencies in 2019 and 2022 at Art Laboratory Berlin and the Rillig Lab | Ecology of Plants, Institut für Biologie, Freie Universität Berlin, which lead to the new project TERRA XENOBIOTICA.
Regine Rapp & Christian de Lutz
Saša Spačal (www.agapea.si) is an artist working at the intersection of living systems research, contemporary and sound art. Her artistic research focuses on the development of technological interfaces and relations with organic and mineral soil agents while trying to address the posthuman situation, that involves mechanical, digital and organic logic within contemporary biopolitics and necropolitics.
Her work was internationally exhibited and performed: Ars Electronica Festival (AT), Prix Cube Exhibition (FR), Transmediale Festival (DE), Athens Digital Arts Festival (GR), Perm Museum of Contemporary Art (RUS), Onassis Cultural Center Athens (GR), Chronos Art Center (CHN), Cynetart Festival (DE), National Art Museum of China (CHN), DaVinci Festival (KR), Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova (SI), Kapelica Gallery (SI), Device_art Festival (CRO), Extravagant Bodies Festival (CRO), Art Laboratory Berlin (DE), Museum of Contemporary Art Vojvodina (SRB), Lisboa Soa Festival (PT), Sonica Festival (SI). She was awarded the Prix Ars Electronica Honorary Mention, nominated for the Prix Cube and the New Technological Art Award.
Opening Day, 10 November 2023
Kunstprojekt über kontaminierte Böden: Vom Gift in Himmel und Erde, in Tagesspiegel by Martin Ballaschk (16 November 2023)
Sound of Soil – Was aus dem Boden spricht. Saša Spačal bei Art Laboratory Berlin, in art-in-berlin by Katja Hock (26 November 2023)
Insight: Saša Spačal’s TERRA XENOBIOTICA, delving into the soil life hidden beneath the ceaseless traffic of airports, in CLOT Magazine by Annique Cockerill (30 November 2024)