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“I built a world that everybody could feel connected to.”
Welcome to one of the most interesting artworks of 2021 – Jakob Kudsk Steensen’s Berl-Berl at the iconic Halle am Berghain in Berlin. “Every loop will always be different. Repetition and change. Like hypnosis. I want to get into people’s minds.”
For many years Jacob Kudsk Steensen has built virtual environments. This time he has re-created the wetlands around the city of Berlin. “I grew up in the digital age that felt very fractured. You have the internet; you have video games; you can connect with everybody everywhere. But during covid and the lockdown, I was retained to one location. So I rediscovered a kind of emotional reconnection to what is hyper-local. For the past two years, I have been exploring formations of nature that were right in front of me but that you rarely think about. I have chosen to look at the overlooked landscape. Suddenly you can show a tiny mushroom on a screen that is 14 m large. You create new perspectives on nature.”
“All my work is connected by an interest in landscapes and how we can use technology to experience them in new ways,” Steensen says, adding that he is particularly interested in the smaller ecosystems “in different parts of the world that are changing because of a general climate change.” In these places, specialized biologists research one specific thing, and Kudsk Steensen spends 3-6 months in a given landscape, talking to them, taking photographs, collecting soil, leaves etc. He then returns to his studio, where he creates digital creatures and locations based on his expedition: “I transform it a bit, and enable new ways of sensing and perceiving, for example, the leaf of a tree. So a leaf would be on a gigantic scale, and the veins are like two meters wide, and you can see everything pulsating, you can touch it and move around it.”
“There are a lot of natural histories that we have forgotten”, Jakob Kudsk Steensen goes on telling. “All of the different cultures in Europe are founded on wetlands and swamps. Berlin actually means swamp. But we have forgotten this history. We have ruined the thing we are originated from.”
Though the landscape lives digitally, Kudsk Steensen continuously adapts the piece to the architecture of the exhibition because it creates a new world: “It’s like a friction space between this cultivated museum space and the remote ecosystem that I had to go to… and then the exhibition itself is this fractured space or this middle existence that I think we all live in right now.” It is precisely this meeting point, this “middle existence”, which makes up our perception of reality, that Kudsk Steensen seeks to play with.
Thus, Berl-Berl is not only a virtual environment and a digital swamp. At the same time, it is an instrument and a song. “A living digital environment that is evolving all the time and is changing the building resulting in the building becoming one big instrument. A bit like a cathedral that tells a story about the heavens, about nature and the world where human voice can occupy the whole space.”
Jakob Kudsk Steensen (b. 1987) is a Danish artist and art director based in Berlin. He is working with environmental storytelling through 3d animation, sound and immersive installations.
Key collaborators include Musician ARCA, Composer and Musical Director for the Philip Glass Ensemble Michael Riesman, Ornithologist and author Dr Douglas H. Pratt, Architect Sir David Adjaye OBE RA, BTS, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the Natural History Museum Berlin, among others.
Jakob has recently exhibited with his major solo exhibition “Berl-Berl” in Berlin at Halle am Berghain, commissioned by LAS, and at Luma Arles with “Liminal Lands” for the “Prelude” exhibition. He was a finalist for the Future Generation Art Prize at the 2019 Venice Biennale. He is the recipient of the best VR graphics for RE-ANIMATED (2019) at the Cinequest Festival for Technology and Cinema, among others. For more see: http://www.jakobsteensen.com/
Jakob Kudsk Steensen was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner in Halle am Berghain, Berlin in September 2021.
Camera: Mark Nickels
Edited by: Jarl Therkelsen Kaldan
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Additional material documenting Jakob’s fieldwork:
DOP: Melih Akya
Gimbal: Mario Hegewald
Sound: Kaya Schwarz
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2021
Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet and C.L. Davids Fond og Samling.
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