Sounding The Sea: An Interview w/ Mariele Neudecker

Posted on 31.05.2017

On June 15th & 16th Invisible Dust will be hosting a symposium, Sounding The Sea, with artists, activists and scientists all delivering talks on their work and discussing the ever worsening issues affecting the world’s oceans. Visit the project page here for information and tickets.

In the lead up to the symposium, we are asking some of the speakers a few questions. Today, its multifaceted and internationally acclaimed artist Mariele Neudecker who has two pieces of work at our exhibition Offshore: artists explore the sea in Hull.

ID: In the past, your work that considers the natural world, has a prominent mysterious quality and power as a result. Is the sea, especially the deep sea, a perfect source of these qualities to you as an artist?

MN: In my work, I tend to consider landscapes as cultural constructs, and use technology’s virtual capabilities in order to reproduce a heightened experience of terrains and environments. I am often looking at physical implications or manifestations of the unknown and the invisible, by using fogs and mists or more generally ‘obscured visual access’. The deep sea is full of such sublime imagery, a pertinent metaphor for our limited perception, comprehension and subjective experience. I am exploring how technology both enables and limits our perception and knowledge of the worlds we inhabit. I am interested in ‘the frame’, both optically and metaphorically. The more infinite space appears, the more mysterious can frames of such appear.

ID: How did your piece in the Ferens Art Gallery and the Maritime Museum Hull come about?

MN: The work at the Ferens “One More Time – The Architeuthis Dux Phenomenon” started developing several years ago, when Bergit Arends [then curator at NHM] showed me the Giant Squid in the basement ‘tank room’ of London’s Natural History Museum. When it became clear that the Hull exhibition was going to deal with the oceans and deep-sea subject and questions, I had an immediate sense that this was ‘the moment’ for the squid to become the protagonist of a piece, a moving image, somehow. Having recently worked with a vertical tracking shot through a rainforest for an installation in three lifts [in the the New Cancer Centre, Guys Hospital, London], I found the horizontal tracking of the oversized squid tank a compelling proposal for Hull. The pan along its lengths diffuses it’s scale and provokes slower and more lingering thoughts about the Deep and the Kraken’s mysterious presence there and in our minds. There were only rare sightings of these precious, creatures with their octuple intelligence in all of international deep-sea observation over many years now, most often washed ashore.

For the Maritime Museum Hull I made a piece called “The Improbable Always Happens Sometimes [1&2]”, multichannel GoPro HD video on 6 monitors and “Sediment [The Improbable Always Happens Sometimes No 3]”, mixed media installation, including ink, paint, paper, giclée prints, digital screens and two display boxes. This work was enabled by having worked with Alex Rogers, who is Professor of Conservation Biology at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford – as well as Oliver Steeds and his team; Oliver Steeds directs Deep Ocean Exploration oranisation NEKTON. Last year they both went to Bermuda with their teams.

The main installation for Hull was developed with their 360° GoPro video footage going down to the 300-meter deep seabed in TRITON submersibles, some of the still images taken by the scientific team, as well as a group of my paintings on paper and board, some glass objects, all displayed in a sediment-like installation in display cases. This is a three-space installation that is looking at, and re-frames research conducted in the deep ocean, offshore Bermuda. The installation is a hybrid of visual information taken from a specific scientific expedition and my exploration and extension of the material. The dive documentation goes down to 300m below the water surface and is ‘re-constructed’ in two circular spaces above each other, with the RAW footage of the six GoPro videos per space [round-level = seabed and first floor = above and below water’s surface, the first 12 minutes of the dive].

ID: Have you made artwork that deals with the seas before this Offshore commission?

MN: I have worked with Dr Alex Rogers in the past, when he also had generously given me a lot of imagery from his research, both still and moving images. This was also enabled by Invisible Dust and was shown in the UK, Denmark, Germany and the US on various occasions, some of which were attached to International Science Festivals. I was looking specifically at residues of human fishing industries on the very deep see-floor in the South Indian Ocean, near Antarctica, where Alex Rogers and his team were mapping an underwater mountain range, documenting with cameras mounted onto ROVs [Remotely Operated Vehicles].

For a long time, the notion of the Deep, the Abyss and the the Invisible, has inspired more fiction- than fact-finding, even though increasingly do the oceans represent the ‘frontier’ and key indicator of environmental changes. My various deep sea works taking the above on board and stem from a long-standing interest in the invisible and the polarity of empirical truth and the imagination, that can and cannot be accessed via technologies. Our perception remains very fragmented and distorted.

My projects have been looking at different ways of how a Contemporary Sublime is communicated today – and has been seeking out ‘samples’ to investigate the world around us, often at the extremities of human experience. Deep-sea exploration works at the margins of technology’s and perception’s possibilities – something that is very tangible via 360° GoPro footage. Our horizons are cropped and mapped out wherever we look: we know the six monitors are forming a circle – however we cannot ever look at their screens all at once. We also know there are a lot of drawings and photos in the ‘sediment’ vitrines, nonetheless: we only can see the upper layers.

Thanks go to Jon Ablett and James McNish at the Natural History Museum, London, Alex Rogers, Oliver Steeds and Anna Wharton at the NEKTON MISSION, and for the overall coordination Gemma Lloyd and Alice Sharp at the Arts/Science organization Invisible Dust, London.

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