Grounded in a research-based practice, Ursula Biemann creates video essays and texts that address the interconnection of politics and the environment across local, global, and planetary contexts.
In her most recent work, Acoustic Ocean, Biemann combines scientific, personal, and phenomenological narratives in an exploration of oceanic depths and interspecies relations above and below the waterline of the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway. A piece of science-fiction poetry, this film intertwines new technological research with inherited knowledge, and the sounds of the submarine.
For the great majority of underwater beings, bioluminescent and sonic manifestations are the primary means of communication, due to poor visibility in the deep sea. The multitude of creatures that dwell here range from microscopic forms with transparent bodies and luminous organs, glowing wing-like fins and whiskers, to gargantuan mammals that speak in echoes and rise for air every hour. The female aquanaut and human protagonist of Acoustic Ocean therefore places sensing instruments such as hydrophones and parabolic microphones along the shore in order to detect, and connect with, the visual and acoustic forms of expression exchanged between these diverse organisms.
The watery world holds memories of evolution that span various different timescales and swirl with the possibility of dissolution, as beings with porous bodies vulnerable to the increasing acidification of their habitat, exist in a temporality whose future is unknown. The narrative takes on a personal dimension when the aquanaut, performed by singer and environmental activist Sofia Jannok, recounts the uneven effects of a shifting climate on the indigenous Sami community of which she is part, and the reindeer on which their economic and cultural sovereignty rely.
Depicting a post-human figure inextricably linked to her research subject, Acoustic Ocean provides a central example by which to develop a more intuitive and less anthropocentric understanding of ecological interdependency.
Ursula Biemann, born 1955 in Zurich, lives and works worldwide.