gREen | Sampling Color Farbe
Living Installations by Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Thomas Feuerstein, Adam Brown and Symposium
Tuesday, 07/09 until
What is ‘green’? Are we ‘green’? And is it the vegetative world at all? Do algae count as ‘superfoods’, environmental pests, or both? Is biofuel green? Through monumental biotechnical installations, artistic olfactory portraits of trees, and the chemical re-enactment of historical toxic pigments, Muffathalle initiates a series of eventsdubbed gREen that fosters debates in climate politics in the field of tension between art, nature and science.
Beyond the rampant ‘greenwashing’ of our times, the artistic positions get to the bottom of the increasingly uncritically accepted symbolism of ‘green’ - as a RE-mix and RE-evaluation of contradictions and paradoxes. Engineers praise ‘green’ chemistry or biotechnology as ecologically benign, while climate researchers, on the other hand, bemoan the ‘greening of the earth’ as an alarming sign of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, and toxic algal blooms discredit the overused association of ‘green’ with sustainability. Is ‘green’ perhaps so important to us because naturalness and artificiality, the healthy and the toxic, the hoped-for and the lost oscillate here?
Art on the threshold of the techno-sciences investigates and samples the material factors of what appears to us as ‘green’ – but no longer just metaphorically but above all metabolically! Is ‘green’ perhaps even itself a ous’ or ‘pretentious’ colour, whose casual symbolic use should be increasingly questioned?
Chlorella algae grow in the larger than life-sized photo-bioreactors and meandering hoses of Thomas Feuerstein’s expansive installations, involved in manifold metabolic processes. They are harvested to make beverages, paint pigments, bio-plastics, or even charcoal produced in an accelerated process.... is black the new green? In Agnes Meyer-Brandis’ work, trees are no longer just considered as green photosynthesizing carbon sinks, but as complex organisms with their own identities that communicate with each other thanks to their specific gas emissions – or even with visitors agreeing to experimentally put on an odour costume. Adam Brown, then, produces arsenic-based pigments in his neo-alchemical live laboratory: a reminder that in art ‘green’ often represented nature with the most poisonous of all colours.
Like humans, trees and plants have their individual scent. One Tree ID condenses the olfactive identity of a specific tree into a complex perfume which enables human visitors to apprehend the tree’s communication system at a biochemical level. By applying the perfume, the visitors do not only invisibly wear characteristics of the tree next to them, they also use parts of its communication system and possibly have a conversation that – although invisible and inaudible by nature – takes place at the biochemical level and thus in the way plants exchange information. The artist aims at creating empathy and suggests an exploration of how to question the way we use our senses to generate new connections and interactions between species. In this sense, the One Tree ID’s fragrances offer alternative ways of exchanging information with the plant kingdom which human existence ultimately depends on.
The piece is based on the fact that plants emit and communicate via Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) – gases and molecules that contribute to cloud formation which we recognise as the fragrance of a forest. These emissions are very specific for each individual plant. Each tree generates its own cloud. The roots and its bacteria, the tree stem and needles emit different VOCs which have been measured separately by Meyer-Brandis and her scientific partners. For the perfumes on display, the artist has collaborated with a professional perfumer to smell the tree, compare the collected machine data with the nose data which resulted in the creation of “Cloud of the Roots,” “Cloud of the Tree Stem,” and “Cloud of the Tree Crown”. The combination of all three fragrances created the synthesis of a singular One Tree ID perfume.
For this exhibition, the Norway Maple (Acer platanoides), a European tree, and the Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica), native to Northern Iran, have been selected. The ironwood tree inside the exhibition hall, equipped by its VOC sensor system, allows visitors to experience its volatile identity by applying the One Tree ID perfume to their bodies. In comparison, the Norway Maple is a common city tree that grows right outside Muffatwerk. You can pick up your own personal One Tree ID – Test Kit at the exhibition counter or purchase it online on onetreeid.de. The kit will enable you to visit and communicate with the city tree outside. For the full experience, the perfume should only be applied near the tree where our online platform will guide you through your very personal experiment.
With support from: Jörg-Peter Schnitzler and Andrea Ghirardo, Helmholtz Zentrum München, Research Unit Environmental Simulation (EUS), Stiftung Kunstfonds. In collaboration with Marc vom Ende, senior perfumer/Symrise AG.
With a background in sculpturing and new media, Berlin-based artist Agnes Meyer-Brandis hovers on the fringes of science, fiction and fabulation. After a brief stint in mineralogy, she studied at the art academies in Maastricht, Düsseldorf and Cologne and later founded the Research Raft - an Institute for Art and Subjective Science that “asks questions but doesn’t give answers” in fields such as climate research, environmental studies, meteorology, synthetic and artistic biology. Meyer-Brandis’ work has been exhibited around the world and received many prizes, including a Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction.