Critical Zones Podcast: The Thin Skin of Civilisation

A contribution by Francesca Romana Audretsch

The Photo shows the arist and hydroecologist Christina Gruber infront of an art installation of hers.
Photo of the NASA Space Center in the swamps of the Mississippi

01 Christina Gruber: From Mud to Outer Space

/ Credit

© Francesca Romana Audretsch

»The Thin Skin of Civilization« – a title chosen in reference to the exhibition catalogue title »The Thin Ice of Civilization« of the Alexander Kluge exhibition of the Württembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart in May 2020. A time when we humans were slowly discovering that a new companion, for an uncertain time, had joined our everyday lives: the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Since then, various art institutions have increasingly been negotiating whether exhibition spaces can function as potential spaces for the deconstruction, transformation and shifting of hegemonic knowledge formations. The habitability of our earth is a question that has been necessary not only since the beginning of the corona pandemic, but also since the beginning of industrialisation and the resulting global warming. How far must the ground under our feet melt to show responsibility and act in accordance with it? In a supposedly technical-innovative and scientifically advanced society, it seems to be normal to live in 'harmony with nature and culture' parallel to genocides and wars on a daily basis. We cannot continue to narrow humanity down to a privileged group, because the critical zone – our so called home – is not only inhabited by us humans, but also by non-human beings. The habitability of the critical zone demands a community of all companions existing in equal measure in our living environments. But how do we learn to bear encounters with living beings of all kinds with care?

Christina Gruber dedicated her time and energy to 'the giants' among these companion species: the socalled »Water Bodies«. In Christina Gruber's artistic practice, this does not only mean water bodies like rivers, but also all organisms and creatures living in them, such as water fleas or primeval fish like sturgeons. The fact that all rivers flow into the sea is so fascinating for Christina Gruber that she scientifically researches exactly these boundless relationships and their cycles and by always taking care of them. In this podcast we travel together with the artist across the uninhabited swamps of the Mississippi and the diverse neighborhood of the Danube waters.


Special thanks to Nena Wagner and Erich Maier.


A contribution by Francesca Romana Audretsch.


further »Critical Zones« reading:
• Anuradha Mathur's and Dilip da Dacunha's »Mississipi Floods«

Christina Gruber is an artist and freshwater ecologist living and working in Vienna, Austria. She works at the intersection of art and science; her work deals with societal phenomena that shape our world. These relate to the Anthropocene, a concept that describes human beings as the main force changing the earth’s surface. Christina Gruber investigates the effects humans have and had on the landscape and how they’ve shaped the earth’s surface. In the last years water is of special interest to her. She sees it as the element that all things on earth, including humans, have in common. It is the connector between stories of different places and layers, running through everything that exists on this earth, from clouds to datacenters.