Thematic Panel and Featured Projects

Jan-Peter E.R. SONNTAG. GAMMAvert – “a green that no artist could ever obtain on his Palette”

GAMMAvert is a research carried out from 2006 to 2019 on physical properties of “”green ray”, inspired by Jule Verne’s story.
“Have you sometimes observed the sun set over the sea? Have you watched it until the upper rim of its disc, skimming the surface of the water, is just about to disappear? Very likely you have: but did you notice the phenomenon that occurs at the very instant the heavenly body sends forth its last ray, which, if the sky be cloudless, is of unparalleled beauty? No, perhaps not. Well, the first time you have the opportunity of making this observation, and it happens but rarely, it will not be, as one might think, a crimson ray that falls upon the retina. It will be green, a most wonderful green, a green that no artist could ever obtain on his palette, a green the likes of which neither the varied tints of vegetation nor the shades of the most limpid sea could ever produce!” (Jules Verne “The Green Ray“)

Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntag is an artist, composer & researcher. He studied fine arts, art history, music theory, composition, philosophy and cognitive science. His mostly spatial works are shown and performed worldwide. Since 2013 his one of the editors of Friedrich Kittler’s Gesammelte Schriften. In 2015 he was invited for his midcareer retrospective Rauschen at the Württembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart. In 2017 Rundfunk Aeterna – a radio opera was commissioned by the documenta 14.


Karin OHLENSCHLÄGER. Eco-Visionaries.
Emerging connections between biosphere and technosphere

Eco-Visionaries. Emerging connections between biosphere and technosphere, curated by Sabine Himmelsbach, Karin Ohlenschläger and Yvonne Volkart,
is part of an international project, co-organised by the Bildmuseet of Umeå (Sweden), House of Electronic Arts (HeK) of Basel (Switzerland), MAAT- Museum of Art and Architecture of Lisbon (Portugal) and LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial of Gijón (Spain). Conceived as a work in progress, this project has also been joined by new contributions from Matadero Madrid and the Royal Academy of Arts in London (England) to echo the new environmental challenges tackled by the most transversal contemporary artistic practices.

The results of the different exhibitions are shown in a catalogue Eco-Visionaries
Art, Architecture, and New Media after the Anthropocene published by the Hatje Cantz publishing house which, in addition to the essays by the curators, has contributions from experts in various disciplines such as Linda Weintraub, Amale Andraos, Matthew Fuller and T.J. Demos. (www.hatjecantz.de).

Karin Ohlenschläger is the artistic director of LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial in Gijon, Spain, as well as a historian, scholar and curator who has focused on media art, science and contemporary art. She has chaired the Banquet Foundation of Art, Science, Technology and Society (1998-2006) and the Institut of Contemporary Arts in Madrid (2011-2012), and co-founded and co-directed MediaLab Madrid (2002/2006), as well as festivals like Chips: Emerging Digital Culture at the Instituto Europeo de Diseño in Madrid (2001), the International Festival of Infoarchitecture, Ministerio de Fomento, Madrid (1997), IN ART –International Cybernetic Art Festival, Tenerife (1996), among others. She has curated numerous exhibitions of new media art, including Eco-Visionaries (2018/2019). Karin Ohlenschläger is an art critic and exhibition curator specialising in contemporary art and new technologies. From 2002 to 2006 she was the cofounder and co-director of the MediaLabMadrid programme at Centro Cultural CondeDuque in Madrid and is a founding member of Fundación Banquete. Ohlenschlägerhas directed, among other initiatives, the Chips Events: emerging Digital CultureCircuits at the Instituto Europeo de Diseño in Madrid (2001), the International Festival of Infoarchitecture, Ministerio de Fomento, Madrid (1997), IN ART –InternationalCybernetic Art Festival, Tenerife (1996), and the International Video Forum at the former Spanish Museum of Contemporary Art of Madrid (1986-88). She has curated countless exhibitions of new media art, including Eco-Visionaries (2019), which is currently on view at Laboral.


Adam BROWN. Bioremediating Greenness – Rethinking Human Exceptionalism

The Industrial Revolution, of the 18th and 19th centuries gave rise to modern cities removing humans from an entangled connection with nature. A growing body of genetic, physiological and psychological evidence suggests that hu- mans have evolved biologically and culturally to be attracted to greenness. It seems that our need for “green” was so strong that during the height of the Industrial Revolution we mass-produced arsenic laden synthetic green pigments that were used by artists, in garments, in printed wall paper and even as a colorant for candy. One of the most popular green pigments was invented in 1775 by the Swedish chemist Carl Scheele. Like many of the new synthetic pigments, “Scheele’s green”, as it was known, was composed of heavy metals that turned out to be highly toxic. Thus, the human drive to recreate greenness within cities led to a series of paradoxes and contradictions. The very chemical processes artificially employed to bring greenness back into people’s lives helped to contribute to the Anthropogenic destruction of the environment. Painters, such as the Impressionists, used these mass-produced toxic pigments to portray the very nature that the Industrial Revolution was eroding. And ironically, while these industrialized paints allowed painters to get more “in touch” with nature by painting en plein air for the first time, artists simultaneously lost touch with the materiality of producing their own paints. The further we re- moved ourselves from nature the more we tried to connect with it and the more our means of connecting led to its destruction. These speculations and scientific inquiries into humankind’s drive to artificially reconnect with ‘green’ are transposed into a series of artworks and experiments that investigate the various indexical relationships embedded in the production and use of Scheele’s green. I recreate the chemical processes by which the pigment is produced and transformed into paint, re-establishing the connection to materiality that industrialized tube paints destroyed. I produce Paris green wallpaper and recreate the moist conditions under which the paper becomes infested with fungus that breaks down the pigment into the gaseous arsenic compounds that poisoned Victorian households. I experiment with various bacterial ecologies that can metabolize and remediate the arsenic and transform it into safer compounds that can then be recycled with less toxicity thereby enlisting nature to rectify the very factors that threaten it.

Adam Brown (US) is an internationally recognized artist, scholar and educator whose work incorporates art and science hybrids including living and biological systems. Brown has exhibited in international venues including the Kapelica Gallery in Ljubljana, Slovenia; ZKM, the Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe; Ars Electronica, Linz; Synth-ethic, Vienna. His work has been written about widely in publications such as the New York Times, Wired, Nature, Sculpture Magazine, Washington Post, Forbes, PNAS, and Discover. Brown is currently an Associate Professor at Michigan State University, where he directs the BRIDGE Artist in Residency.