The city of Berlin is known for its great culture and music scene, but also as a city with an amazing history. Nonetheless, I discovered a big part that was unfamiliar to me and came to light in the first major solo exhibition of the Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen. Commissioned by LAS the beautiful location Halle am Berghain was transformed with a vast installation of natural worlds, presenting a combination of Berlin’s wetlands, its species, and ancient swamp mythologies.
Partnering with the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, the artist wove local specimens from their extensive archive into the visual and acoustic world of Berl-Berl. In the process, Steensen has been connecting technology with human language and sound landscape. He documented local wetlands using macro photogrammetry, allowing him to 3D scan flora, soil, and natural specimens in elaborate detail, otherwise invisible to the naked eye.
The immersive installation composed of large-scale LED screens displays a parallel world which is a mix of the past and the future translated into a fuse between nature and technology. The custom-built sound system is connected to a simulation of a virtual environment.
Musician Arcaand sound artist Matt McCorkle, a site-specific soundscape combine archival recordings of wetlands —recorded in Berlin between the 1960s and today—with samples of Arca’s voice and spoken examples of the various names by which Berlin has been called over the centuries.
“Berl-Berl is a song and an organ for swamps, mourning the lost and embracing the new (being in the moment of transition), reviving wetland sensibilities and perspectives, making people appreciate the complexities and beauties of swamps around Berlin”, said Jakob Kudsk Steensen.
The project aims to join perspectives on these landscapes throughout time and across disciplines, engage with local folklore and legends and incorporate current scientific findings on wetlands. Its showcase of the most forward-thinking technologies invite visitors to look to the future of these environments and the immediate need for their protection.