Oracle, Alice Wang / Ben Tong (9:56, 2017)
The Biosphere 2 Project is a magnificent laboratory for the study of global ecology. This miniature airtight world is sealed on the bottom by a stainless steel liner and on the top by a steel and glass space frame structure. Inside the laboratory is a 850 square mile coral reef, a 450 square mile mangrove marsh, a 1,900 square mile Amazonian rainforest, a 1,300 square mile savannah grassland, a 1,400 square mile fog desert, a 2,500 square mile tropical agriculture system with farm, a human habitat with living quarters, offices, and recreational spaces. Heating and cooling water circulated through the biosphere in independent piping systems, and electrical power was supplied to the Biosphere 2 from a natural gas energy center, located outside Biosphere 2, through airtight penetrations.
Oracle is a meditation on the relationship between plants, humans, and technology. Filmed collaboratively by Ben Tong and Alice Wang at Biosphere 2 — a self-contained ecosystem enclosed in a 3.14 acre glass and steel structure, the work defamiliarizes the synthetic structure and the organisms living within it. In the age of the Holocene, the space of Biosphere 2 becomes an allegory for our entanglement with the world.
Despite our technological interventions, we find that it is no longer the case that we can disregard the noumenal world. Forces and substances like CO2, bacteria, UV rays, the weather and viruses exert their own presence. What is at stake is another way of relating to our mediated environment, our place within it, and death. The end, however, might not be as instantly catastrophic as our movies predict. Evil, as Hannah Arendt said, might be more akin to the banal. It is what we see, and what we have become normalized to — in the everyday reports of rising sea levels and destructive weather patterns. Not merely conceptualizing these threats, Oracle seeks to generate an emotional and aesthetic relationship to the world we live in, and to build complex intra-actions within our space.
Alice Wang / Ben Tong
Bringing together physics, geology, astronomy, and ecology with phenomenology, Eastern metaphysics, and the practice of meditation and yoga, visual artist Alice Wang investigates the material consciousness of matter in sculptural form. As someone who grew up between China, Canada, and the U.S., and having lived in Paris, Berlin, Japan, and Taiwan, Wang combines scientific, technological, mythical, and spiritual perspectives to see how matter can be understood to embody existential qualities. Wang chooses materials that convey the sentient universe through sensual, tactile, and metaphoric means, and imagines how the nature of reality can be expressed through the language of sculpture and film. Wang is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor of Arts at NYU Shanghai. She holds a BSc in Computer Science and International Relations from the University of Toronto, BFA from the California Institute of the Arts, and MFA from New York University.
Ben Tong is visual artist, born in Toronto in 1981 and currently living and working in Los Angeles. Tong obtained his BSc in Computer Science from the University of Toronto, BFA in Photography from the California Institute of the Arts in 2010, and MFA in Art from the California Institute of the Arts in 2012. His practice includes video, photography, and mixed-media installation. Tong’s works have been exhibited at, among others, Hammer Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, ltd los angeles, REDCAT, Night Gallery, Commonwealth and Council, Golden Spike Press, and Underground Museum, all in Los Angeles; Capsule Shanghai; Practice, New York; Toronto Images Festival, Toronto; University of California Santa Barbara; and Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig. He was an artist-in-residence at SOMA Summer in Mexico City, a Villa Aurora fellow in Berlin, a recipient of a DAAD Academic Research Grant, and a recipient of an Ontario Arts Council Grant.