Anne Duk Hee Jordan at Galerie Wedding / Berlin, Germany

Anne Duk Hee Jordan / Ziggy on the Land of Drunken Trees

Curated by Solvej Helweg Ovesen and Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung

14 September - 27 October 2018

Galerie Wedding
Raum für zeitgenössische Kunst
Müllerstr. 146/147
13353 Berlin

The title refers to the eponymous central installation piece in the exhibition that explores strange, peculiar and queer marine-related phenomena. It takes us into a post-human era after the Anthropocene, a world in which non-humans assume the central position of mankind.

With this exhibition Jordan aims to illuminate new perspectives and the tangible effects of climate change on sea and land. However, rather than showing catastrophic imagery, her approach is playful, humorous and full of wonder:

»I have exchanged extensively with marine biologists and geologists, but I make most of my discoveries during my many dives - in direct communication with the sea dwellers.«
Anne Duk Hee Jordan2
The main trait of the exhibition is a choir of approximately forty animated and singing mussel shells. In addition, Jordan presents the research project and audio-visual collage »Changing Sex in Ecology«, a collaboration with Pauline Doutreluingne that investigates current gender transformations of living marine and land organisms, both in terms of physical change and behavioural desire. The research also explores the impact of chemical pollutants on the environment, particularly the seas, and how this pollution disrupts the hormonal systems of animals, trees and humans. The exhibition Ziggy on the Land of Drunken Trees creates a space between land and ocean and thus reinforces their interrelation.

In an increasingly regimented world, the seas remain an outpost of anarchy and out-of-sight out-of-mind oblivion. In fact, the ocean is on the one hand side a space that enables the extreme consumerism of almost anything from everywhere by way of cargo, the space of potential deep sea metal mining and for the colonialization of tomorrow, but on the other hand side it also represents our future abyss as it rises with its own uncontrollable dynamics enforced by global warming
3. William Langewiesche, an anthropologist who has written extensively on shipwrekage, describes the role of the oceanic space in globalization in »The Atlantic Monthly«:

»Under its many names, and with variations in color and mood, this single ocean spreads across three fourths of the globe. Geographically it is not the exception to our world but by far its greatest defining feature. By social measures it is important too. At a time when every last patch of land is claimed by one government or another, and when citizenship is treated as an absolute condition of human existence, it is a place that remains radically free. Expressing that freedom are more than 40,000 large merchant ships that ply the open ocean (... that) between them carry nearly the full weight of international trade—almost all the raw materials and finished products on which our lives are built.«

The ocean is host and witness to key intertwined processes that connect material privilege and evolution - the deadly effects of chemical spills, large scale garbage dumping, plastic islands,  pirating, human trafficking, as well as the extinction of many impressive marine species such as the Blue Whale, the Hawksbill Turtle, or the Hammerhead Shark.

Jordan, however, has long stopped wondering who or what will persist in the long run. She is more interested in the way a post-human world will come about: Where will humans try to move before? Will they colonize space or even the sea? In the context of these questions Jordan, who apart from being an artist is a professional free diver and marine biology devotee, plunges into an imaginary ocean world. As a witness to the delicate and by far unexplored deep sea world, she mediates the logic, dynamics and ungrasaple materiality of the ocean. For most people - facing an ecosystem without oxygen - the first dive is a small death, which turns into an eye-opening experience in the face of the endless traffic of marine species subject to the mood of the water in the most anti-human space on earth. With a.o. references to the recent phenomenon of methane holes (from thawing permafrost), hydroid alien sounds, organic mechanic sea-shell sculptures, film recordings of vulnerable marine creatures, and even an oracularly singing saw, the exhibition explores a deep future and makes it momentarily imaginable, inhabitable.

Solvej Helweg Ovesen: How did you initially become fascinated with the sea and how have you explored it for yourself as a person and as an artist?

Anne Duk Hee Jordan: In order to answer this questions, we have to go way back in my past. I remember that even before I could swim I jumped into the water and my mother thought I had drowned. But I had only held my breath for as long as I could and was so fascinated by the reflections of the underwater lights that I did not want to come up, until suddenly a worried mother's arm pulled me back to reality.
I think it was in that moment under water that I first experienced a three-dimensional water world. What I mean by this, is that on land we only have a two-dimensional body perception (but a three-dimensional vision), while we feel the pressure on the organs under water and are immediately weightless. This is a completely different perception and world than we have on land. In addition, everything seems bigger and quieter. I think this experience was the beginning of my journey of getting to know the sea. I devoured books about fish, worms, shells, sharks ... and memorized all the names. I was obsessed with it. I went diving as often as I could until I started my dive training at the age of 12 to become a professional diver. I even became a trained rescue and free diver, at that time I was about 23 years old. Instead of becoming a professional diver and a marine biologist, I preferred to become an artist. My interest and passion for the natural sciences have never been lost though, and in contrast to the scientists I am free and can do what I want.

Ovesen: How would you describe the transforming state of the ocean discursively as a human and phenomenologically as a deep sea creature?

Jordan: About 3.6 billion years ago, the first bacteria and single-celled organisms changed the world dramatically. They emanated from the deep sea, the cradle of life. Prior to that there was the »Hades« a dark and overheated mythical underworld without life. Oxygen, a waste product at the time, enabled the emergence of life as we know it today.  The deep sea has been researched very little until today, it is a place of darkness and coldness. Every organism has to face and adapt to extreme conditions such as the high pressure or lack of food that prevails down there. The light reaches a maximum depth of 100 meters and then everything turns black, that's why you no longer perceive colors in these depths. Most of these sea creatures are colorless or translucent because it is not worthwhile to spend energy on pigmentation. Why should they, anyhow? One does not see anything down there. However, due to their enormous adaptability, some sea creatures are able to produce their own light in the darkness. Bioluminescence can be found mostly in crabs, cuttlefish, prawns and fish. On the one hand it helps to identify the gender and makes it easier to reproduce, but it also attracts prey and occasionally serves as a self defense.
The universe is better explored than the deep sea and when decolonization of the earth should occur, people will certainly not go into the deep sea, but rather into space. In his 1797 poem »The Diver« Friedrich Schiller illuminated the limitations of human conceptions of the sea:

»Let all those be glad
Who breathe in the light of the sky!
For below all is fearful, of moment sad;
Let not man to tempt the immortals e'er try,
Let him never desire the thing to see
That with terror and night they veil graciously.«
Ovesen: How do you approach the making of an exhibition like Ziggy on the Land of Drunken Trees? What kind of space do you imagine will exist after humans have left the earth? What are the non-human creatures that will inhabit it after us?

Jordan: Ziggy on the Land of Drunken Trees is a speculative expedition to the Land of Drunken Trees in the tundra region of the northern hemisphere, but at the same time it creates a direct connection to Central Europe.
The space of Galerie Wedding will be transformed into an immersive landscape consisting of amorphous organic sculptures that move in space. The sculptures are motorized and oscillate between a fixed and a movable sculpture. The surface of the sculptures consists of latex, plaster and natural resin. The sculptures share a sinister and curious beauty with deep-sea creatures, an unknown texture and origin that reminds us of what we do not know about the marine world. The ocean is another universe full of beauty and strangeness, of change and adaptation. The exhibition explores, in the literal meaning of the word, which hybrid mutations will occur in the near future and which species will be efficient in the context of a changing global ecology.

Ovesen: You are also exploring the ecological phenomenon of escaping methane gas (and the resulting methane bubbles), the methane craters, and the so-called »drunken trees«, i.e. Forests, which have been displaced from their normal vertical alignment due to thawing permafrost. As a result of global warming methane bubbles create immense craters and fires for example in the Siberian Tundra at the moment, but in other parts of the world as well. When permafrost thaws, it releases large amounts of methane, which seems to lead to these explosions. What is your artistic take on methane craters and drunken trees in the exhibition? 

Jordan: My artistic research explores the grim side of ecology and the present conditions of life on earth: Will humans go extinct? The strong image of the drunken trees and the methane craters inspired me because although the term »drunken trees« is very humorous, the reality behind it is quite tragic. We are facing the collapse of millions of years of organic matter. In this work, I try to express man-made phenomena such as time, mineral exhaustion, and the supposed superiority of man over other species by using an unusual materiality.

Ovesen: Today, Donna J. Haraway, mother of the »Cyborg Manifesto« (1984), emphasizes the importance of the way we connect material, and ourselves to each other and to things as she states in »Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene«:

»It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what descriptions describe descriptions, what ties tie ties. It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories«6

What is your take on this, how should we tie to each other and technology today? 

Jordan: I juxtapose robotic consciousness with organic cyclic decay and life. In this constellation, I ask myself questions about an »agency« and promote a change of perspective. I think that machines will take over our lives and determine our thinking and acting. We are no longer free people anyways: These technologies determine us via apps, controls, surveillance cameras, border controls, ATMs, etc. But I'm very fascinated by the »old school robots« that do not necessarily have artificial intelligence because they do not mimic humans but rather other living organisms. We orient ourselves by nature, and bionics is the result of this. I think that one should move the focus away from humans and towards the entire ecology, involving everyone. My work tries to realize this in different ways. If you are allowed to eat a whole table of greens in its entirety, much like a goat grazing the pasture, as alluded to in my performative work »Into the Wild«, 2017-2018, then maybe you will also be able to think like a goat again?

Text: Solvej Helweg Ovesen
Translation and editing: Saskia Köbschall

1 Conversation Anne Duk Hee Jordan and Solvej Helweg Ovesen, written exchange, Berlin 7-16.7.2018. 
2 Ebd. 
3 Yearly we produce 78 million tonnes of plastic and almost a third of that ends up in the environment and up to 8 million tonnes end up in the ocean (equals one truck a minute) creating plastic islands and this amount is bound to increase so we in 2050 face a situation, where more plastic than fish is in the ocean as the preventive rapport. »The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics,« 2016, authored by World Economic Forum, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, McKinsey & Company (research team), p. 27 (Graphic 4, Figure 4: GLOBAL FLOWS OF PLASTIC PACKAGING MATERIALS IN 2013): Available via: (retrieved 17.7.2018). 
4 William Langewiesche: The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime, published in »The Atlantic Magazine«, 2003. Available via: (retrieved 4.7.2018).
5 Friedrich Schiller: Der Taucher , 1797. Available via:, Translation anonymous 1902 (retrieved 17.7.2018).
6 Haraway, Donna J.: Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. p. 12.