Susanne Winterling: ›Planetary Opera In Three Acts, Divided By The Currents‹

(2018, CGI, 9 min)

Watch excerpt here!

The installation ›Planetary Opera In Three Acts, Divided By The Currents‹ (2018) is an immersive work that combines the natural and the synthetic, the documentary and the imaginary. The protagonists are mysterious aquatic microorganisms, the dinoflagellates, here shown in the guise of pulsating neon particles on a dark backdrop; these creatures play an invisible but crucial role for the maintenance and self-renewal of marine ecosystems, as they constitute a large share of the phytoplankton necessary for the survival of other species. The soundscape is a constellation of hydrophone recordings of algae photosynthesis, hatching turtles, crabs rubbing their claws together, and other sonic wonders of the sea. Through a dramatic reversal of scale and focus, the piece enacts a sensory inversion of conventional anthropocentric logics: the focus is all on the wealth and complexity of the marine seascape, brimming with a profusion of life forms.

Susanne Winterling’s interest lies not only in biological processes, but also in the collision between natural and digital environments: the unicellular algae are, in fact, digitally produced with the aid of Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) technology, whist the sounds are recorded from real; at the same time, the bioluminescent quality of the dinoflagellates, one of the earliest forms of life on earth, is linked to the advanced sensor technology of touch screens and algorithms. The tiny algae are also a reminder of the mutual dependency between living beings and their habitats: whenever the marine ecosystem is disturbed by unusually high temperatures or high concentrations of pollutants, the dinoflagellates bloom, altering the entire biological balance. In this installation, they act as symbols of a renewed sense of ›interspecies alliance‹, in which man, too, is invited to find its place.