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Katja Novitskova: EARTH POTENTIAL

Katja Novitskova: EARTH POTENTIAL

About the Exhibition

EARTH POTENTIAL is an exhibition of new works by artist Katja Novitskova (b. 1984 Tallinn, Estonia; works in Amsterdam and Berlin) that explores the relationships among science, technology, fiction, and our image-based culture.

Scattered throughout the park are seven large aluminum sculptures featuring online-sourced, digitally-printed images of the Earth, celestial objects, and enlarged, seemingly alien but terrestrial organisms. Sourced by the artist from the Internet, these striking images were originally created through advanced imaging techniques like a microscope that can magnify an organism by 10,000 times or a satellite orbiting the Earth. These new sculptures explore worlds unseen by the naked eye by employing photography, scale, and juxtaposition to transform the park into a seemingly Sci-Fi landscape.

The artist selected and combined these images — which range from Venus and Saturn’s moon to the common earthworm and Hydra — to question the dichotomies of reality and fiction. While appearing otherworldly and futuristic in their presentation, these organisms and bodies have significant research value within the scientific community for their potential to advance our understanding of our species and world. For example, the tiny freshwater Hydra is studied for its regenerative abilities, while the manipulated image of the cloudless Earth is used to monitor the continued growth of cities around the world.

Through both scientific and poetic lenses, Novitskova invites us to reflect on the ways in which we see—and comprehend—the potential of the Earth.


EARTH POTENTIAL is curated by Emma Enderby

Press Release

Location

City Hall Park

Broadway & Chambers Street

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About the Artist

Born in 1984, in Tallinn, Estonia, Katja Novitskova now lives and works in Amsterdam and Berlin. In 2017, she represented Estonia in the Venice Biennale, and recent solo exhibitions include Greene Naftali, New York (2016); Kunstverein Hamburg, Hamburg (2016); Kunsthalle Lisbon (2015); Mottahedan Projects, Dubai (2014), and CCS Bard, Annandale-on-Hudson (2012). Recent group exhibitions include Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany (2016); Okayama Art Summit, Okayama, Japan (2016); Bremen Art Prize, Kunsthalle Bremen (2016); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2016); 9th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2016); De Hallen Haarlem, Haarlem, Netherlands (2016); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2015); Le Museé d’art contemporain de Lyon (2015); Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2015); Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo (2014); and Fridericianum, Kassel (2013). She is presented by Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler in Berlin and Greene Naftali in New York.

Works

Earth Potential (C. elegans, Saturn’s Moon Titan), 2017
Digital print on aluminum, cut out display; steel and aluminum armature
Courtesy the artist; Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin; and Greene Naftali, New York

This rare composite image of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan — sourced online by the artist — was taken from a spacecraft using a visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS). The VIMS was able to capture the moon by taking thousands of pictures in 352 different colors, a range far greater than that of the human eye. The data documented a stable water surface and atmosphere, revealing Titan to have one of the most similar environments as those theorized for primordial Earth. While the C. elegans roundworm is a soil-based organism and only half an inch long, it is equally significant in the scientific study of life. It’s the first multicellular organism to have its genome digitized and is used as a model organism for research — from organ development to aging.

Earth Potential (Embryo), 2017
Digital print on aluminum, cut out display; steel and aluminum armature
Courtesy the artist; Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin; and Greene Naftali, New York

Novitskova sourced this image of embryo stem cells from an article about CRISPR, the radical new genome editing technology used to permanently modify genes within organisms. While the technology has many potential uses, from enhancing crops to medicines, the focus has centered on companies applying CRISPR technology to non-viable embryos. While current research is primarily concerned with how this might enable us to eliminate genetic mutations and diseases, it suggests a future use that has previously been reserved for the realm of Science Fiction — one where humans could be designed.

Earth Potential (E. coli), 2017
Digital print on aluminum, cut out display; steel and aluminum armature
Courtesy the artist; Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin; and Greene Naftali, New York

To create an image of the common bacteria E. coli requires the use of a scanning electron microscope that magnifies the minuscule organism by 10,000 times. In this work, Novitskova has enlarged the image even further to create an otherworldly sculpture. Like the roundworm — also sourced for this exhibition — E. coli is a model organism for genetic research, due to its small genome size. In recent years, E. coli has been at the center of groundbreaking research: genetic engineers have used new synthetic biological techniques to recode the bacteria’s genome, potentially changing the organism’s functionality and radically increasing the prospect that humans will have the ability to rewrite the codes for life.

Earth Potential (Earthworm, Earth), 2017
Digital print on aluminum, cut out display; steel and aluminum armature
Courtesy the artist; Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin; and Greene Naftali, New York

Novitskova combines the macro and the micro to consider the underlying functions of the Earth and how we comprehend it through image making. The artist's Internet-sourced image of Earth was originally rendered by compiling data from a number of satellites orbiting the planet, which were then translated by computer models into vibrant colors to make visible the unseen forces that sustain life on Earth. These invisible processes could never be seen by the naked eye and the images are a construction to aid our understanding of these systems. The common earthworm is a terrestrial organism that has a profound effect on soil, enhancing Earth’s overall functionality. Acting as organic waste management and fertilizer, it is researched for its potential in maintaining the Earth’s ecosystem.

Earth Potential (Lizard, Earth), 2017
Digital print on aluminum, cut out display; steel and aluminum armature
Courtesy the artist; Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin; and Greene Naftali, New York

This image of an archetypical Earth is one that has shaped our visual understanding of the planet. It is, however, a composite, constructed with various technologies — such as combining data from satellites collected at different times with astronaut photographs — which a team of NASA scientists and artists then use to craft the iconic image. Novitskova layers this collaboration of science and art with a photograph of a lizard’s leg. Biomimetics —the scientific study of how nature can be employed to solve complex human biological problems — researches how the lizard’s ability to regenerate can be utilized for the purpose of human limb regrowth. By enlarging the lizard’s leg so it clings to the Earth, Novitskova juxtaposes an other-worldly image with the very real possibilities of the future.

Earth Potential (Cuttlefish Love, Earth), 2017
Digital print on aluminum, cut out display; steel and aluminum armature
Courtesy the artist; Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin; and Greene Naftali, New York

Novitskova’s sourced image of Earth at night was constructed by NASA with data sourced from a satellite orbiting 312 times. Its manipulated, cloudless form reveals its purpose: a tool for scientists to monitor the continued growth of population and cities. The image is layered with two Cuttlefish, which Novitskova terms “aliens of the sea.” These creatures are considered among the most intelligent of invertebrates, researched to understand cognitive development. This is due to their evolution being completely independent from mammals, producing an incomparable nervous system resulting in their advanced intellectual capabilities — from communication to dexterity — functioning in ways we have yet to fully comprehend. By combining these images, Novitskova reflects on how — at the micro and macro levels — humans mine the planet for their potential progress and survival.

Earth Potential (Hydra, Venus), 2017
Digital print on aluminum, cut out display; steel and aluminum armature
Courtesy the artist; Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin; and Greene Naftali, New York

Less than a century ago, Venus was considered "Earth's sister planet.” Subsequent data has revealed a dense layer of sulphuric acid clouds, surface temperature of 900 F, and crushing atmospheric pressure. Now, scientists are studying this data with the hope of preventing our planet from becoming another Venus — ending all life as we know it. In this work, the Hydra clings to Venus. Normally only 0.4 inches long, here the terrestrial fresh-water animal has been enlarged to emphasize its alien-like appearance. Its otherworldly qualities are not limited to its form, for the Hydra is the only known animal able to constantly regenerate cells and even live forever. Like Venus, Hydra’s structure is completely different from our own but is being used to unlock the secrets of immortality.

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