Kontakt (simultan) (2021)

A piece on observation, waiting, and extremely slow organic growth, a hybrid between social media bot and physical installation.

Kontakt is an open-ended project about making contact with surfaces and organisms, with Kontakt (simultan) taking the specific form of a hybrid textual-visual piece between online presence and physical installation. Both connect to an experimental observation process permanently taking place inside the studio space of Reagenz, Graz. Here, a glass plate with collected lichen fragments is irrigated and photographed four times a day, perhaps producing an extremely slow growth, that is revealed as a time series of the photographs. The recordings began in April 2021, and continue throughout the year. The process can be followed online, as a bot posts the photographs on a social media account. The second form is a physical installation, using a suspended screen in front of which stereoscopic lenses are mounted. In this view, the most recent photo is superimposed with a photo that was taken a month ago. The photographs are augmented by text lines contributed by people reacting to an ongoing open call, reflecting on waiting and on making contact.

Opinions are diverging on whether it is possible at all to transplant lichens, and whether they would grow anywhere outside their original habitat. The more biologically versed tend to say that nothing will ever come out of this. But observing the time series of images, already something is happening. The situation is creating a trace of itself. Fixed exposure times are chosen, so one can see how the light conditions change depending on the weather. When passing by Reagenz at midnight, one can see the studio illuminated for a few minutes. Sometimes, the lichens are fed with xylitole and spirulina, leaving a vanishing layer of white dots and green background. One comparing the same time of the day, but spaced weeks apart, the images differ. A topography of the plate emerges, there are prominent fragments and constellations. Perhaps the lichen fragments open up? Or they move slowly by the impact of the water drops? Or they really grow by fractions of millimetres?

The piece is about waiting. Will anything happen? If so, what? If not, what else happened in the mean time? Will this simple irrigation and observation procedure make contact to the lichen species? What happens with that ultra-slow rhythm, with that time series? People are asked for their text contributions: Perhaps they have a personal experience or memory in which a form of waiting became a particular element or focus. Or they would like to draw attention to an aspect of waiting that is important to them or that they would like to explore. Or they want to make a poetic speculation.

The title refers to the fact that we can contract the process by comparing photographs (and text fragments) side by side. I am interested in stereo vision. Unlike a “normal” stereoscopic photography that is taken at the same moment from two slightly different viewing positions, here the photographies are taken from the same viewing position, but at different moments, revealing thus as “spatial expression” what has changed over a period of time. Online, you can create these stereoscopic images by crossing your eyes. In the physical installation, this is provided by the optical lenses: You have to face the look straight through the two optical lenses, relaxing your eyes to stare parallelly into an infinite distance, thereby making two white cross-hairs move towards each other. When they eventually coincide, a sharp synthetic image with spatial depth is revealed. It can take time until one develops the right approach to put the two images together. Sometimes stepping slightly back helps, or focusing on the individual lichen fragments in the top part of the image instead of the cross-hairs.