Zwischen Erde und Himmel / Between Earth and Sky
On interdependence and interconnectivity among beings
Life begins with death. Microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria break down organic substances and, in doing so, they create life. By eating organic matter, they release nutrients available for plants and other beings to continue growing. In this way, everything is reborn, and the whole web of life is interconnected. The idea of the Earth as an integrated whole and a self-regulating system is known as Gaia.
What is life? What does it mean to be living on this planet, and what is our relationship to all beings?
Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, we became more aware and vigilant of our bodies – as home to trillions of tiny invisible organisms, with the potential for horrendous consequences when in contact with an infectious virus. In the most brutal way, we evidenced the dense tangle and interconnectedness on our planet, where one event on one side of the globe, however small, ruthlessly affects all continents. The many consequences of this pandemic will be felt for a long time to come, especially the immeasurable void over the loss of loved ones.
Here you see the evolving patterns of colonies of beings from the burial grounds of the complex of five cemeteries at Hallesches Tor in Berlin, including Jerusalem und Neue Kirche I, Jerusalem II, Jerusalem III, Dreifaltigkeit I, and Bethlehem I und Böhmischer Gottesacker. Soil samples were collected on 23.11.2021, and the organisms found there have been growing and developing ever since.
Display case, biological growth medium, living microorganisms and LED lights
The installation Zwischen Erde und Himmel / Between Earth and Sky consists of an illuminated display case, holding inside living microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria found in the soil of Berlin cemeteries. Although invisible to the human eye, these organisms will grow and multiply within these containers, forming their own evolving and unpredictable patterns, thus becoming visible to the viewer. The work proposes a reflection on life and death, the transience of our existence, and the interdependence among all beings.
This work emerged from Bruna Mayer's research as part of her master's thesis on concepts such as symbiosis, Gaia, and the interconnectivity of the world. It draws on feminist standpoints with the theory of affective ecologies and indigenous worldviews and kincentric ecologies with the premise that everything in the universe is infused with life. Although serving as a model for the new sciences that are emerging with a more integrated view, indigenous epistemologies have not been properly recognized by western cultures.
Bruna Mayer is a Brazilian visual artist living and working in Berlin since 2018. She develops her work through an interdisciplinary praxis that includes video and installation. In her most recent production, she investigates symbiotic relationships between fungi, bacteria, and humans that transcend the boundaries between life and death, human and nature, human and non-human. In doing so, she seeks a broader, more holistic vision of life, self, and environment.