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10 July – 26 September 2021 Exhibition Venue: Halle am Berghain, Berlin
— Jakob Kudsk Steensen
Jakob Kudsk Steensen (b. 1987, Køge, Denmark) works at the vanguard of art and technology, utilising advancements in photography and gaming platforms to create immersive, three-dimensional worlds in direct relation to our natural world. The exhibition and online world Berl-Berl starts with a swamp as its protagonist – its ecosystem, history and mythologies – and pays tribute to Berlin's origin as a wetland that formed over 10,000 years ago, and was drained in the 1700s. ‘Berl’, the ancient Slavic word for swamp, is thought to be the origin of ‘Berlin’ and gives the exhibition its name.
The artist spent months researching the remaining wetlands of Berlin-Brandenburg, creating an archive of images using a method of macro photogrammetry in which he takes hundreds of images of a single object such as a leaf or patch of mud. Kudsk Steensen renders his findings in a 3D plan to create an immersive, absolute landscape using the video game platform Unreal Engine, a constant within his practice. Partnering with the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, he also wove local specimens from their extensive archive into the visual and acoustic world of Berl-Berl. As songs were essential to ancient wetland culture and used to navigate the swamp and to share its mythologies, Kudsk Steensen collaborated with sound artist Matt McCorkle and singer Arca to create the world’s soundscape. Arca’s voice morphs with environmental sounds that include those made by local amphibians and birds.
Berl-Berl is not only an image of the wetlands – it holds the memories of its past mythologies. Before it was drained, this saturated landscape proved ideal for the settlement of Slavic communities. Sorbian folklore, permeates the work’s narrative wherein a Triglav, a deity, appears as a great tree. The artist connects the mythology of this three-headed deity representing three dimensions of Slavic cosmology –Prav (Heaven), Yav (Earth) and Nav (Underworld) – to his understanding of the swamp. In Berl-Berl, the ecology is also a Triglav, it moves from undergrowth and fungi to water, leaves, and trees and sky – an entire, holistic landscape.
In combining his images and recordings from the wetlands with research on ecosystems, the artist builds a bridge between us and the history beneath our feet. Halle am Berghain becomes a gateway in which relics of the Ice Age connect to present-day wetlands, drawing attention to our current environmental reality. Kudsk Steensen reveals a perspective that would otherwise be impossible to see or experience with the hope of sparking a newfound appreciation for the swamp and to reimagine our role within this ecosystem that sustains us.
Curated by Emma Enderby Assistant Curator: Liz Stumpf
Jakob Kudsk Steensen invited Johannes Heldén and Precious Okoyomon to respond to the world of Berl-Berl.
Channelling Astroecology: Poems for Berl-Berl by Johannes Heldén
Johannes Heldén is a visual artist, writer and musician. He created six poems in response to six elements within Berl-Berl: fluorescent mushrooms, mangrove sedges, the water strider, a thunderstorm, ferns, and the unknown. To form his poems, Heldén used his method of astroecology, the study of biological life interacting with non-terrestrial conditions – in space, meteorites and other planets.
Precious Okoyomon is a poet, chef and artist living in New York City. Their poem is an ode to the sky and clouds of Berl-Berl. To create the work, Kudsk Steensen shared videos of the transforming sky with Okoyomonn and they replied with these words.
Jakob Kudsk Steensen is an artist working with environmental storytelling through 3D animation, sound and immersive installations. He creates poetic interpretations about overlooked natural phenomena through collaborations with field biologists, composers and writers. His projects are based on extensive fieldwork several months-long in duration. Key collaborators include composer Michael Riesman, ornithologist Dr H. Douglas Pratt, architect Sir David Adjaye, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, NY and the Natural History Museum in London among others. He was the inaugural recipient of the Serpentine Galleries’ Augmented Architecture Commission, which was established with Google Arts & Culture and Sir David Adjaye in 2019. Kudsk Steensen was shortlisted for the Future Generation Art Prize 2019, for his work RE-ANIMATED (2018–19) in Kiev and the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019.
LAS is a Berlin-based art foundation that brings together art, technology and science. Committed to new ways of presenting art, LAS commissions experimental projects, both physical and digital, in unconventional spaces. LAS is dedicated to future thinking and light is the foundation’s guiding principle—a symbol of imagination, discovery and innovation.
Unless otherwise stated, all images © Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Berl-Berl (2021). Live simulation (stills). Commissioned by Light Art Space (LAS). Courtesy the artist.
Creator and Artist
3D development and technology design
Spatial sound design
Point cloud animation
Jan Fischer, Founder
Dr Bettina Kames, Director
Kristina Leipold, Commercial Director
Amira Gad, Head of Programmes
Felix Thon, Head of Marketing and Communications
Monika Kerkmann, Project Manager
Ruth Kißling, Curator
Liz Stumpf, Assistant Curator
Sophie Korschildgen, Curatorial Assistant
Selin Şahin, Communications Manager
Tilman Hatje, Exhibition Manager
Flinder Zuyderhoff-Gray, Production Manager
Jasna Kohnert Stavenhagen, Office Manager
Cornelia Riebe and Maria Janus, Location Managers
Adam Rodgers, Creative Director
Ben McKinnon, Creative Producer
Agnete Morell, Designer
Jack Wild, WebGL Developer
Niklas May, Developer
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