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21% by Ursula Biemann

Twenty One Percent by Ursula Biemann, 2016
18 minutes, Colour, Stereo
Courtesy of the artist

In this small pocket of atmospheric chemistry, flying and thinking beings emerge as the result of high oxygen levels in the air which is owed to earth’s forest and plant cover. In the midst of the oxygenic forest, a science-fictional performer manipulates a multitude of ingredients–minerals, forest fruits, liquids and substances–some of which are recognized as potential human foods, others not. Ranging in scale from the cosmos to the kitchen, the video undertakes an empirical inquiry into the capacity of chemical elements.

The video foregrounds the materialities and processes by which human and other organic bodies are kept alive, intensifying the relations to the subtle, multiple, living world. This happens in full awareness of the fact that it is the chemical composition of the universe that constitutes materiality on earth. Tinkering with the chemical composition of the atmosphere is not only impacting the climate on Earth, it directly affects the capacity to think which has originally enabled the conception of technologies that changed planetary chemistry.

Twenty One Percent is a collaboration with Swiss performance artist Mo Diener.

Ursula Biemann is an artist, author, and video essayist. Her artistic practice is strongly research-oriented and involves fieldwork in remote locations from Greenland to Amazonia, where she investigates climate change and the ecologies of oil, ice, forests, and water. In her multi-layered videos, the artist interweaves vast cinematic landscapes with documentary footage, SF poetry, and academic findings to narrate a changing planetary reality. Biemann’s pluralistic practice spans a range of media including experimental video, interview, text, performance, photography, cartography, props, and materials, which converge in formalized spatial installations. Recent field trips have taken her to the Amazonian rainforest and the Arctic region where she engages the larger temporalities of climate change with the project Forest Law, Deep Weather, Subatlantic and Acoustic Ocean, amplifying current discussions around ecology, multispecies communication, and videographic worldmaking. The main protagonist in these recent narratives, and particularly in her latest work Forest Mind, is the figure of the indigenous scientist who emerges from a shared history of colonialism and modern science.