Biennale of Electronic Arts in Perth, BEAP 04, 10 Sept-12 Nov, Presseartikel: www.realtimearts.net
Subterranean other(ed) worlds: Elf Scan
Both playful and challenging Agnes Meyer-Brandis' Elf-Scan is an installation that literally takes us beneath the surface. Several core earth samples are placed in a row along a bench, about 50 centimetres high. They contain tiny "life forms" (exhibition catalogue) found in many different areas because their particular form, "accumulations of coelenterate with calcium carbonate", allows them to move and settle in subterranean locations where there are bodies of water. To discover what's inside them I put on headphones and insert my finger into a small, orange daffodil-shaped device attached to a larger, soft funnel-like extension which is an earth core scanner. By running this along the samples and simultaneously looking into an orange viewer I am able to see into subterranean worlds otherwise hidden from view.
As I scan the sample, images appear in the viewer. Tiny elves run about, transporting building materials from one place to another while others tunnel. I've stumbled on a new miniature world which appears, as I 'discover' it, on the television screen behind the bench. It's quite easy (for me) to believe that these intricate creatures actually exist within delicate caves, reefs and plateaus studded with crystals and diamond-shaped rock forms. I move the scanner a little further and a creature with a lamp appears, surrounded by glowing cave walls. Quite soon I return to the earlier scene of busy elves; since I can't seem to find any more life forms in this sample and all the other samples are being explored I detach myself and return to reality.
Elf Scan alludes to similar work done 350 years ago by Athaenasius Kircher who searched for an underground world in a spatial triangle formed by 3 volcanoes. It's interestingly too that the soft device Meyer-Brandis uses refer to the ear trumpets Kircher used in his attempts to discover this world ( www.blubblubb.net ). From this perspective the scanner could be viewed as a surveillance device, intent on uncovering what really goes on behind these granite like walls. Western society's capacity for appropriating and absorbing difference has evolved into ecological and cultural interventions that destroy of habitat and ways of life. Is this a well-meaning form of voyeuristic colonisation then?
The work immediately positions itself, however, as being aware of this problematic aspect of western exploration. The technology is as non-invasive as possible, in order that (so the gentle voice in the earphones tells me) the tiny creatures are not disturbed. Soft, orange and rubber-like, the scanner appears more a finger extension than an invasive technological instrument. As a bodily augmentation, Elf Scan whimsically examines how enhancing human capabilities could allow alternate interactions with and perceptions of the environment we inhabit.
The work is presented as the culmination of research done by (the fictional) Earth Core Laboratory who search for subterranean life forms as they drill core earth samples from different regions. The 'laboratory' can be found on the internet ( www.blubblubb.net ) where the processes of drilling, discovering and documenting the findings can be viewed by all. On the net, as in the exhibition the technological hardware is hidden and unmentioned, the viewer unable to 'see' how these discoveries are made. Rather than an omission, the sense of secrecy adds to the multiple perspectives offered by Elf Scanner . For a moment we return to a child's world of make-believe, where finding elves is not implausible. Concurrently the fantastical aspect of the work is challenged by its apparently scientific methodology. Elf-Scan alludes to geology, anthropology and archaeology and the findings can be seen with the naked eye. If seeing is believing, if observation is the basis of any rational scientific methodology then how can this subterranean world not be real?
By light-heartedly manipulating science Meyer-Brendis she directly references notions of hyperreality and the subjectivity of scientific (and artistic) data/information. The idea of discovery is a basis of much artistic endeavour, thus she also reveals the inherently creative and artistic nature of science itself. This playful paradox examines through an interactive moment how we may move beyond a limited vision to 'see' things from different positions. This fits seamlessly into the DistributedDiffer
ence exhibition's focus on "challenging how we ... may interpret ... notions of reality" (BEAP catalogue).
Other quotations from: www.aec.at/enarchives/prix_archive/
Agnes Meyer-Brendis, Elf Scan , curator Jeremy Blank, DistributedDifference: Cultures of Conflict, The Bank, Midland, BEAP 04, 10 Sept-12 Nov , *copyright RealTime; www.realtimearts.net *