Rijksakademie OPEN Studios 2017
2017 – handmade Winogradsky columns, cyanobacteria, osteological camel specimen, video, prints
There are two seemingly abstract, black and white salt prints next to each other in Femke Herregraven’s studio. Yet while the two images are at first glance comparable, they are literally worlds apart. In one we see the view of starts stars from Danakil Depression taken by the Ethiopian observatory, the other a satellite composite image shows the same location from above. In between these two counter images lies a whole spectrum of scientific exploration, capitalist exploitation, the collapse of cosmic, geological, human and machine temporalities, over a location that is deemed the hottest, and with 100 meters below sea level, one of the lowest place on earth. Sulphur, potassium salts, and metal oxides create multi-color crystals that crack into large tablets and melt into a cluster of small volcanoes that erupt where three tectonic plates come together. For centuries Afar people have been cutting the salt slabs that used to be an ancient form of currency; the fossils in the region prompts some paleontologists to deem it the “cradle of humanity;” due to its unique conditions scientists use it to explore how life might evolve on other planets; investors surveil the area to speculate on the mineral and precious metals markets so on and so forth. Employing a strategic porosity, Herregraven’s work lies at the intersection of these various disciplines, analyzing the data and images, speculating on how one form of inquiry informs the other, how the scientific investigations yield financial accumulation, how the narrative of the unexplored frontiers feeds into the imaginary and prediction of the future.
– Text by Sohrab Mohebbi