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Both as an artist and researcher, my hypothesis is that morphogenesis is first about appearing (self-presenting), and that cinematographic means of attention can access these bioaesthetic layers of worldly entanglements.

Counter illumination by the lantern shark, image by Jérôme Mallefet (UCL)

Denis Villeneuve, Arrival, 2016

Adolf Portmann, Animal Forms

JB, photoductility

Map of light pollution’s visual impact on the night sky

My research is an experiment conducted with marine biology and indigenous metaphysics. The ambition of this work is to render the full extent of our understanding of complex and often yet undiscovered ecosystems in the ocean. In continuity with my previous film work I aim to propose images made without external lighting, highly sensitive to feeble light forms. This challenge is both epistemic and technical: inventing the proper methodological framework and equipment in order to gather images of these organisms, and exploring open mind sets and affective qualities sensitive to near-invisible life forms.

In the ocean, the vast zone between approximately 200 meters and 1000 meters where sunlight progressively disappears and is replaced by biological light, is called the “twilight zone”.  Here the ocean is anything but dark, however the relation between bodies and light is radically other than that on land. Light doesn’t reveal, it involves.

The « Twilight Zone » is both a physical environment and an epistemological moment. Indeed with the growing concerns about climate change, biodiversity, global micro contaminations (be it plastics, pesticides, etc.), ocean acidification and stratification, but also sensory pollutions (a world that has become too noisy and too bright), many paradigmatic shifts are beginning to take root within the “soft” and “hard” sciences: from the “cosmobiopolitics” of renowned science philosophers such as Isabelle Stenghers, Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway, Stefan Helmreich – which have led to a discipline now coined “political ecology” (very different from ecology in politics) and to enriching dialogs between humanities and biologists – to the novel approaches in hard sciences, with strong figures such as Lynn Margulis, Natasha Myers, Francis Hallé, it seems that the understanding of our relationship to the planet and its other inhabitants is becoming gradually more concerned with the ways in which these “others” inhabit the world. Today, we are discovering new forms of interaction within and between species, whether in botanic, entomology, microbiology, or what I would call luminescent biology.

My project is focused on such “Twilight Zones” (or “contact zones”), and more specifically on these “zones” in the ocean where atmospheric light, biological light, and technological light interact. I am dedicated to the novel directions and inventions that biology and technology is forced to adopt in order to comprehend the most unknown regions of our planet (and even of our nearby galaxy): the ocean and its ecologies. It is obvious now that “soft” and “hard” sciences, but also arts, should be in close interaction, since they all complete each other as far as exploring our relations to ecosystems is concerned, just as it was before “hard” science was isolated during the 19th century. More specifically, the forms and patterns that living things express throughout ontogenesis and morphogenesis, is a subject both for biology, with its own methodology and focus point, and for other approaches committed to the appearances of the world. Appearance here should be taken in its strongest sense and not as a secondary illusory phenomenon, since ecosystems rely primarily on the way in which each being will manifest its singularity, at least as a species. This insistence on appearances and forms as being probably as fundamental as inner molecular dynamics, has been intuited by a famed German Zoologist of the mid twentieth century, Adolf Portmann. He noticed that the complexity and diversity of visible patterns, notably in ocean creatures, could not be explained only by conservation imperatives and functions, and that for the sake of humanity we also needed to elevate our assessment of the richness of animality.

By Jérémie Brugidou


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