Maria Loboda - The Machine
31. March until 16. July 2023
The Senckenberg program for 2023 kicks off with Maria Loboda’s exhibition The Machine. At the center of the installation is the artist’s first film, The Machine. The lead role is played by an artesian well that gushes water without the aid of any technology. In the machine age these fountains attract enormous attention. They create quite naturally an “aquatic theatre” that would otherwise require a huge apparatus of machinery to stage. Strangely enough, such a well is also in the industrially reshaped landscape of the Messel pit. Loboda’s film describes a surreal journey from Messel and the Eocene Age 50 million years ago, known as the ‘new dawn’, to the machines of the 18th and 19th centuries and through to research labs.
During her visits to Messel and talking to the responsible scientists at the Senckenberg Society for Nature Research, Maria Loboda discovered an artesian well that gushes water without any technological aid. Of secondary interest for research on the pit, it represents a peculiar counterpoint to the site and the fossils. With her curiosity ignited, Loboda began to research more deeply into the history of the pit, its importance for paleontology, paleoecosystems, and paleoclimatology, and the history of water wells. The film is the result of this artistically creative research, combining all these areas into a fictional story that focuses attention on the human constructs of the world and its environment, of our science, technology, and art.
In the film Loboda, who describes herself as an archaeologist of the present, works through her experiences of and reflections on the fossil site of Messel and the Eocene, the age from which the worldwide famous Messel fossils date, such as the pygmy horse and scores of other primates, fish, insects, plants, and reptiles. A few of the excellently preserved fossils even reveal stomach contents and outlines of soft bodies as well as fur and feathers, making the site extraordinarily important. The site is unique worldwide, not only for the history and current state of paleontology but also for research into historical biodiversity. Political developments concerning the pit are also of significance, marked by the later aborted plans to turn it into a refuse dump through to its protection status as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995.
One important element in the video installation is the soundtrack by the composer Leona Jacewska. It escorts the viewers into these hidden worlds, emphasizes aspects, and creates combinations between the single elements.
The Machine by Maria Loboda will be shown in the cinema of the Senckenberg Naturmuseum. The cinema space itself is part of the installation. Viewers sit literally inside the machine, right in the middle of the technical drawing of a complex hydraulic construction.
The film and installation mark the start of a series of exhibitions and events showing the perspective of artists on nature and the natural sciences. “The exploration of the world by artists enables completely new approaches to themes and issues usually the preserve of the natural sciences and the varied research done at Senckenberg,” says museum director Dr Brigitte Franzen. “The powerful influence of artistic perceptions and perspectives, their investigations and images – these are an important reservoir of experimental thinking and, on a par with the knowledge of the natural sciences, a key factor for the natural museum of the future.” Bridging the gap is a focal point of the exhibitions in the Senckenberg Museum this year and will accompany museum work in the coming years. In 2023, Maria Loboda will be followed by further highlights from contemporary and historical artists, with projects by Pınar Yoldaş, Maria Sibylla Merian, Elisabeth Schultz, Ulrike Crespo, Linda Weiß, and Nina Queissner.
To open the exhibition on March 30, 2023, the film The Machine celebrates its international premiere and will be shown not only in the Senckenberg cinema but also amongst the dinosaurs in the atrium, accompanied by the live music of Leona Jacewska.
With this project Loboda is the first winner of the Ottilie-Roederstein fellowship offered by the Hesse Ministry of Science and Art.