"Planet A" is an artistic research on microalgae production and explores concepts for the transformation of urban spaces towards ecological food production.
As early as 1974, the microalgae "Spirulina" was acclaimed as the "best food of the future" at the United Nations' "World Food Conference." It boasts unmatched nutrient density and can be cultivated worldwide with relative ease. Apart from "spirulina," there exist thousands of other microalgae varieties, most of which serve as excellent sources of proteins, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. These microalgae are hailed as saviors in the global fight against hunger. Algae is particularly suitable for food production in urban areas due to its ability to thrive independently of fertile soil and its capacity to reduce CO2 emissions while simultaneously generating oxygen as a by-product.
ART MEETS PURPOSE
Planet A creates site-specific artworks in which microalgae are cultivated in hermetically protected environments. Opposed to the use of open ponds, the high-tech method produces in closed systems, where parameters can be optimized and contamination can be prevented for maximum quality and security. In this way, the Planet A artworks not only meet aesthetic demands, but also serve as long-term experiments that provide crucial insights for large-scale production.
AESTHETICAL EVOLUTION – PLANET A IN ARCHITECTURE
Art in Architecture frees art from the ivory tower of elite institutions and brings it into direct dialogue with people and the environment. After years of detailed studies of technology specification, concepts for modular algae photobioreactors were developed. The original building receives an attachment made from industrial norm steel elements, commonly referred to as a shell, that bears all the weight of the vertical algae farm. The works created in Planet A are designed in such a way that they can be attached to almost any existing building as outdoor modules. In doing so, the photobioreactors enhance the aesthetics of "uninspired architecture" or repurpose old industrial structures through a form of "aesthetic evolution."
VISION FOR THE FUTURE – INDOOR ART INSTALLATIONS
In addition to the art in architecture concepts, Planet A also includes a series of multimedia art installations that deal with microalgae in the context of space travel. After all, algae are among the most concentrated and oldest food sources on earth and are therefore also being researched by space agencies such as NASA. With minimal space, energy, and maintenance requirements the small organisms take a plethora of tasks in food supply and could be used as an oxygen source on long duration interplanetary missions. This theme is taken up by the artistic multimedia concept of Planet A, placing visitors in the environment of a spaceship on a journey to a distant planet. Pieces of video art reveal the mission: in an attempt to create life in space, the crew is sent to bring algae to Planet A. The clear cut atmosphere of a metallic room together with unusual layers of sound and projections of animated space images evoke the feeling of a lonesome travel in the endless space of the universe. The only connection to nature and the mother planet are the quietly bubbling microorganisms who once started life on earth.
The exhibition allows visitors access to the insights of a long-term experiment in a field, where no comparable scientific study has been conducted. The conjunction between sound and life is rendered visible by the means of art and promotes future investigations.
By projecting a futuristic vision, today’s feasible solutions are brought to light. With no need for fertile soil - algaes are not only a strong ally in defeating world hunger, but are an excellent choice for urban farming projects.
The algae installation "PLANET A" consists of several glass spheres that symbolically represent the solar system. Each glass sphere represents a planet and is constructed as a photobioreactor containing microalgae grown in water. Earth, along with all the other planets in our solar system, possesses a distinct resonance. This fact is incorporated in the installation, with each globe being subjected to specific sound waves that are transmitted to the water containing the algae. Guided by the principles of "cymatics," this process induces movement in the liquid, unveiling geometric patterns on the water's surface that are meticulously captured by cameras. Furthermore, algae exhibit rapid color changes when exposed to unfavorable conditions. The varying shades of color thus mirror the compatibility of living organisms with the corresponding frequencies, fostering an appreciation for the unparalleled uniqueness of our home planet.
Noted for being excellent sources of carbohydrates, protein, amino acids, minerals and vitamins algae are one of the most concentrated and ancient foods on earth. Since many years they are studied by space agencies like NASA in their research for sustainable life support systems. With minimal space, energy, and maintenance requirements the small organisms take a plethora of tasks in food supply and could be used as an oxygen source on long duration interplanetary missions.
In the exhibition, this setting is created by interplaying art practices. The visitors are placed in the environment of a spacecraft on its journey to a distant planet. Pieces of video art reveal the mission: in an attempt to create life in space, the crew is sent to bring algae to Planet A. Separate access to the installation, the unusual layers of sound together with projections of animated space images and the clear cut atmosphere of the metallic room, evoke the feeling of a lonesome travel in the endless space of the universe. The only connection to nature and the mother planet are the quietly bubbling microorganisms who once started life on earth.
Arranged in a spaceship-like room and sustained by sound and video installations the visitor
experiences an atmosphere of a sophisticated and highly developed future environment.
ART AS A SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENT
Planet A invites the audience to embark on a journey encompassing the shared essence of artists and scientists: the pursuit of curiosity, playfulness, and discovery. The clean environment of the spacecraft's interior meets the requirements of an experimental laboratory and the installation grants visitors access to the insights derived from a long-term experiment in an unexplored domain. The algae are cultivated in a controlled setting, shielded from natural influences and contaminants, with the only variable being the sound applied to them. Through observation, we aim to unravel the organisms' responses to different frequencies and harmonies. What effects will be observed when the algae receive the resonant frequencies of planet Earth, known as Schumann's frequency, in comparison to the vibrations of other celestial bodies? The aesthetic transformation of the algae, manifested through changes in color, will visually signify their health or deterioration. More nuanced outcomes will be analyzed by a team of specialized biologists and rendered visible to the public through data design incorporated in the installation. By uniting the realms of sound and life through artistic means, this project illuminates the connection between the two and encourages further exploration and investigation in the future.
In reference to various fields of research, ranging from medicine to agriculture, “Planet A”
explores the role frequencies and resonance play in creating and sustaining cells.
ART MEETS SCIENCE – AN INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACH
For the artistic-scientific experiment, Tito Lee, the creative director and project author, collaborates with dipl. biologist Jörg Ullmann and his experienced team of algae specialists. The team includes dipl. biologist Tilo Mottschall, the head of the laboratory, and dipl. engineer Jan-Christoph Bogner, the production manager and expert in algae reactors. Jörg Ullmann, a member of the German Botanical Society specializing in phycology (the study of algae), is the managing director of one of the world's largest indoor microalgae production plants and research facilities. The facility, built in Klötze, Germany in 1999, features a unique and patented photobioreactor technology developed by Prof. Steinberg, a former federal minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety in the GDR. This cultivation technique, developed in 1995, utilizes a closed system of glass tubes to maximize light exposure for the algae. The facility spans 1.2 hectares and consists of 20 separated units and 500 km of tubes. It represents a groundbreaking advancement in microalgal cultivation methods and remains at the forefront of cultivation techniques in terms of quality and monitoring. In 2004, Jörg Ullmann was entrusted by Prof. Steinberg to oversee the production plant and supervise the study of microalgae biodiversity, as well as the extraction and purification of nutritional compounds. Jörg Ullmann and his team have provided regular supervision for the project. Their extensive knowledge of microorganisms and their expertise in creating and maintaining closed algae cultivation systems contribute to the scientific partnership of Planet A.