Natural History Museum

Curator: Revital Ben-Asher Peretz 2.4.2009 - 8.10.2009
Algae Pool

In his work, artist Avital Geva combines science, art, nature, and life. The hothouse he set up in Kibbutz Ein Shemer in 1977 is underlain primarily by ecological research motivations. It is a place for interdisciplinary encounter; a "hothouse" for collaboration between plants and fish, zooplankton and newly hatched fry, between youth and scientists, between public figures and politicians, on the one hand, and artists and philosophers, on the other, and between people in general. The greenhouse, fed by water and moss, also "propagates" ideas and thoughts.
The algae pool was extracted from Geva's Greenhouse (studio) as a type of readymade (found object), which annexes everyday life objects into the art world. The pool elicits questions about the interrelations between life and art. It was set up several months before the opening of the show, thereby creating a living work of art based on biological processes. These occur along a lengthy temporal axis, across three seasons. The active materials in this system fuse the technological with the organic: weather, rain, sun, wind, light, microorganisms, algae, water, plants, people, and mainly—time. The pool's aesthetics is questionable. It does not exert itself to look beautiful. It generates green scum. Geva indeed creates a "staged platform," a type of readymade frame, but the processes taking place in it are spontaneous, dominated by time and the elements.
Most museums of natural history have an open-air botanical garden on the premises. Man allocates a restricted area where it allows nature to "grow and erupt," when, in fact, he prunes trees, mows the lawn, weeds and plants, creating a show of order and manicuring. Semantically, Geva's pool is the "botanical garden" of the exhibition; an initiative of nature fenced in a plastic pool. Materials, energies, animals, and organisms which preserve part of the natural energy, pass through Geva's systems.
Algae, as part of the food chain, develop and procreate, die and decompose. Reciprocity and symbiosis develop between constituent elements. The constant decomposition gives rise to invisible biological activities within the pool. The small fish eat the mosquito larva, which feed on the zooplankton, which is fed by the algae, which serves as food for bacteria in its decomposed form. One is dependent on the other, hence generating a cyclical process of interrelations between hunter and prey. Empowerment, growth, and expansion of communities result in radicalization and crises; an eco-culture of aggression. How does one regain reciprocity and balance?
Geva's pool laboratory is a utopian, experimental, constantly-renewed place. The contemporary museum is likewise a place which strives for innovation and lab-oriented thought. The location of Geva's pool in the unexpected context of the museum elicits contemplation about the human community in which we live.
The pool offers an ostensibly external reflection of the viewers, the museum building, and the trees. In fact, it is a reflection of silent, invisible processes at the core of human occurrences.