Entanglements of Time and Tide | VITAL TO LIFE EXHIBITION

Entanglements of Time and Tide, is an artistic engagement, by India based artist Sonia Mehra Chawla, with the North Sea and its tidal zones, presented by ASCUS Art & Science as part of the 2021 Edinburgh Science Festival.

‘Vital to Life’ is an online exhibition of photomicrographs and digital prints by Sonia Mehra Chawla. The series of works explores and imagines an oceanic worldview of entangled histories and symbiotic relationships. The works are a result of the artists collaboration with ASCUS Art & Science and Marine Scotland from 2019-2021.

This project with Sonia is part of a broader programme of work which aims to highlight lab based science and artistic approaches as a lens through which to explore and investigate, the interconnectedness of all living things both human and non human.

Read more about Entanglements of Time and Tide here

VITAL TO LIFE

WHAT VALUES CAN EMERGE FROM RUINED LANDSCAPE?

Photomicrographs and digital prints

2020-21

‘Vital to Life’ is an online exhibition of photomicrographs and digital prints by Sonia Mehra Chawla. The series of works explores and imagines an oceanic worldview of entangled histories and symbiotic relationships. The works are a result of the artists collaboration with ASCUS Art & Science and Marine Scotland from 2019-2021

Our planet depends on the vitality of the ocean to support and sustain it. Polluted, overfished and threatened by extractive forces, the largest living space on Earth is rapidly declining. Human-induced environmental change threatens multi-species endurance, live-ability and continuity.

We are all interconnected by shared ecologies and entanglements with our other than human kin makes life possible. Working with archival historical slides and environmental samples from the North Sea and its tidal zones, imaged through microscopes, ‘Vital to Life’ make the invisible world of microorganisms visible, revealing hidden worlds lying beyond the scope of the human eye.

Online Exhibition

Viewer guidance: Please click on the text and images in the gallery below to view this online exhibition in full screen mode on your browser

Vital to Life, Drifters & Wanderers

Note: The historical diatom slides imaged for ‘Vital to Life’ are courtesy of Dr Colin Sanderson, Artscience Library, Summerhall Edinburgh.

Drifters & Wanderers, Plankton chronicles I

Note: The zooplankton sample (in sea water) for ‘Drifters & Wanderers: Plankton chronicles- I’, was provided by Marine Scotland from their coastal monitoring site in Stonehaven, on the east coast of Scotland. The sample was especially collected for the project and was un-preserved. The artist imaged the samples through microscopes over a period of ten days, which included a recording of various phases of decay in progress.

Drifters & Wanderers: Plankton chronicles- II

Note: The historical zooplankton slides for ‘Drifters & Wanderers: Plankton chronicles- II’, are courtesy of the Ecology and Conservation Group, Marine Scotland, Marine Laboratory Scottish Government Aberdeen.

Speculative Harbouring: Living Landscapes

Note: The environmental samples of soil and water for ‘Speculative Harbouring: Living Landscapes’ were collected by the artist and soil scientist and ASCUS laboratory technician Jiri Jirout from Cramond Island, Firth of Forth during a field visit in 2019.

Extended Exhibition Text

“As contamination changes world-making projects, mutual worlds—and new directions—may emerge.” – Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

Polluted, overfished and threatened by extractive forces, the largest living space on Earth is rapidly declining. Our planet depends on the vitality of the ocean to support and sustain it. Human-induced environmental change threatens multi-species endurance, live-ability and continuity. We are all interconnected by shared ecologies and entanglements with our other than human kin makes life possible.

Looking at the mysterious and enigmatic life of planktons provides several entry points to understanding larger global issues associated with the world’s oceans in these troubled times. Phytoplankton play an essential and integral role in moderating the Earth’s climate. Plankton form the basis of the marine food chain and provide fifty percent of the ocean’s oxygen. Variations and alterations in ocean circulation and water temperature both critically influence which phytoplankton survive, and which perish. Zooplankton are the animal component of the planktonic community. Through their consumption and processing of phytoplankton and other food sources, zooplankton play a role in aquatic food webs, as a resource for consumers on higher trophic levels (including fish). In addition to linking primary producers to higher trophic levels in marine food webs, zooplankton also play an important role as “recyclers” of carbon and other nutrients that significantly impact marine biogeochemical cycles, including the biological pump.

Similarly, human bodies are ‘nested’ ecosystems and should no longer be perceived as fortresses to shield and defend against microbial onslaught. In her photographic series ‘Speculative Harbouring’, Sonia Mehra Chawla advocates for live-able collaborations, and rethinking bacteria as partners in health, endurance and survival of all living beings. Working with living objects, archival historical slides and environmental samples from the North Sea and its tidal zones, ‘Vital to Life’ make the invisible world of microorganisms visible, revealing hidden worlds lying beyond the scope of the human eye.

Entanglement is a fundamental aspect of all life. In a time of urgency, we require cross-disciplinary inquiries about these endangered ecosystems and microbial worlds that will open up curiosities about the multispecies amalgamations that constitute our worlds. However, all symbiosis in nature whether obligatory or facultative is vulnerable, and symbiotic relations with others must be continually re-energized and negotiated within life’s entangled frameworks.

Drawing on the work of evolutionary theorist, biologist and science author Lynn Margulis and animal physiologist and biochemist Prof. Margaret McFall-Ngai, and working with environmental samples and living material from the North Sea and its tidal zones, as well as archival historical scientific material, the project explores and imagines an oceanic worldview of entangled histories, symbiotic relationships and contaminations, exploring creative tools for imaging collaborative survival in a more-than-human Anthropocene, and inspiring us to look at all life in novel and meaningful ways.

‘Entanglements of Time & Tide’, is a research based art-science engagement project by Sonia Mehra Chawla that explores the North Sea and its tidal zones in their ecological, cultural, political, economic, and poetic capacity. ‘Entanglements of Time & Tide’ is supported by Edinburgh printmakers, Marine Scotland, Marine Laboratory of the Scottish Government in Aberdeen, ASCUS Art & Science, Edinburgh and Creative Scotland.

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