Digital Abysses in Aqua Planet by Miguel Chevalier

Digital Abysses

Digital Abysses in Aqua Planet Jeju is the first grand exhibition by Miguel Chevalier in South of Korea. The exhibition continues his explorations of nature through the theme of undersea flora and fauna. Miguel Chevalier imagined over 1,500 square meters, an artistic journey punctuated by 4 cabinets of curiosities containing more than 100 small artworks and 7 immersive media art installations. The exhibition proposes a descent into the unknown, just like with the great oceanic depths, 95 percent of which remain unexplored.

This stroll between dream and reality, immerses visitors in a recreated universe.
In a poetical and metaphorical way, the exhibition questions our relationship with visible and invisible living beings, as well as the notion of artificial life. They raise concerns about the fragility of these ecosystems and call out for the need to preserve biodiversity. They seek to recreate the conditions for a symbiotic relationship between human and nature.

Cabinets of Curiosities
Miguel Chevalier revisits in a contemporary way 16th and 17th-century cabinets of curiosities which designated places where one collected and presented a multitude of rare, novel, or strange objects, such as shells, skeletons, herbaria, fossils, or works of art. Miguel Chevalier proposes four different contemporary cabinets of curiosities, consisting of 3D-printed sculptures, videos, digital prints, Dacryl resin paintings, laser cutting…

These works are inspired by underwater flora and fauna, more specifically coral, jellyfish, and microscopic animal plankton such as radiolarian. Via ultraviolet lighting, these enlarged versions of living organisms become luminescent, just like various species in the ocean’s depths. These luminescent works, thrown into obscurity between reality and fiction, create a sort of imaginary travel diary. These “wonders” of all sorts provoke, here, a sense of surprise, fascination and meditation around a world reimagined from scratch.

Trans-Seaweeds presents a new generation of disproportionate artificial aquatic plants. The work explores the question of the link between nature and artifice in a poetry manner. According to an approach used in the late 90s this creation is based on the observation of the seaweed kingdom and of its imaginary transposition into the digital universe. This artificial aquatic universes combines different species of algae, with sometime corals, sea anemone.

The virtual barrier reef development and forms are inspired by the arborescences, organized systems of datas using the principle of roots and stem. The aquatic shapes appear randomly, grow and die according to different “morphogenetic codes”. The virtual barrier reef constantly renews and transforms itself. This work raise concerns about the fragility of these ecosystems and call out for the need to preserve biodiversity.

Digital Plankton
Digital Plankton is inspired by underwater fauna and flora, especially microscopic animal plankton, such as radiolarians. These marvels of nature composed of siliceous skeletons with sharp radially symmetric spines come in a variety of shapes. They fascinated scientists of the nineteenth century, such as Ernst Haeckel, who drew images of quite a number of their species. Miguel Chevalier transposes here the geometry of these extraordinary forms into the digital universe.

Digital Plankton is composed of 3 virtual water bubbles. Different organisms, with their varied shapes and luminescent colours, develop in real time on the surface of the bubbles. They develop, float, move and then disappear. These “living” organisms react according to the movements of visitors. Their movements modify the trajectory of the plankton. They move away beneath visitors’ feet, as if to emphasize man’s effect on nature.

Amphibolis relies on a process initiated at the end of the nineties, which is based on the observation of the plant kingdom and its imaginary transposition within a digital universe. Amphibolis is a lush virtual underwater meadows, which immerges visitors to a re-invented nature made up of varieties of imaginary algae and rhizomatic plants.

This work uses algorithms that create artificial life universes, with growth, proliferation and disappearance effects. Thanks to a generator from which gigantic plants and algae are produced ad infinitum. As viewers interact with the artwork, the algae incline to the left or right. The aquatic plants undulate creating a stylized organic ballet. The gently undulating forms build a poetic and meditative feel.

Liquid Pixels
Virtual painting flows permanently on the surface of the wall. This work represents a liquid environment that recalls marine currents. The spectator’s displacement creates a trail of color, that mixes itself and gush with the “painting” in plot of bottom, before fading away slowly until a visitor’s next passage.

Through this creation, Miguel Chevalier revisits the history of painting, particularly the gestural painting of the 1950s. Liquid Pixels are a homage to the painting of 1950’s, of Jackson Pollock, of Sam Francis, of Pierre Soulages and enroll in the continuity of “the action painting.”

The Origin of the World
The Origin of the World is composed by 4 magic carpets inspired by the world of biology and microorganisms. The algorithm of this work is inspired by the shapes and growth of fish skin pigments, some of which can be seen at Aqua Planet Jeju.Projected on the floor, cells multiply in abundance, divide, and merge in sometimes slow, sometimes rapid rhythm. Everything comes together, comes apart, and changes shape at top speed.

When the viewer moves, the trajectory of the cells is disrupted under their feet. These organic universes mingle sometimes with constructivist universes made up of pixels. These unstable, black-and-white megapixel tableaux gradually give way to vivid, color-saturated spirals. An organic world or a pixilated one, this artificial universe somehow seems to meet up with the universe of living beings.

Oscillations is a generative virtual-reality installation, interactive with music by Michel Redolfi, founder of Underwater Music in 1981. A spectral waveform of different shades of blue is animated by the sound of music. The wave is transformed according to the frequencies and amplitudes of the music.Oscillations presents natural polyphonies of the ocean recorded by the composer around the world.

According to the notes, curves are created one after the other, oscillating in a rhythm sometimes slow, sometimes fast. These floating sound spectra generate imaginary landscapes, universes of waves reminiscent of the flow and backflow of the sea. The landscapes generated are reminiscent of Korean sansuhwa landscape paintings. From music comes form, movement, life. Image and music respond to each other in a fusion of an emotional nature that participates in a synesthesia.

Complex Meshes
Complex Meshes plunges visitors in an universe of networks. Large raliolarians appear in a meshes aesthetic (a mesh is a three-dimensional object consisting of vertices, edges and faces which form polygons, used in 3D modeling or architecture). Different colored weaving patterns and raliolarians composed of polygons overlap, evolve and transform slowly in real time.

This work is interactive. When the viewer moves, raliolarians are disrupted. This huge virtual light curtain twists, moves and resizes to create diverse and complex shapes. Within this vital flow, everything floats about, branches out, always turning into something else. Elements are attracted and repelled by one another, creating a breathing-like rhythm of dilation and contraction. Source by Miguel Chevalier.

  • Location: Aqua Planet, Jeju Island, South Korea
  • Artist: Miguel Chevalier
  • Organisation: Hanwha and Ara Art Center (Seoul)
  • Coordination: TinLab
  • Scenography: Sylvie Jodar, Atelier Jodar
  • Technical direction: Voxels Productions
  • From: 8th of November 2021 to 6th of November 2022
  • Photographs: Courtesy of Miguel Chevalier