a contribution within the group exhibition

Mud mother#1/Bathybius Haeckelii

developed in collaboration with
Laura Põld >> and Nika Kupyrova >>

Artist run space New Jörg >>

Photos@ Janine Schranz >>

Vienna, 2021

Installation with printed Yeast on Agar-Cultures (alive & preserved), Glass, Ventilation-System, Metal,remote controls made from experimental ceramics (Anthropogenite)

In 1868, while re-examining a sample of mud he collected several years before from the Atlantic seafloor, British biologist Thomas Henry Huxley noticed that it now contained an albuminous slime appearing to be criss-crossed with veins. Huxley thought he had discovered a new organic substance, which he named Bathybius haeckelii in honor of the German biologist Ernst Haeckel, who in his work theorised about Urschleim ("primordial slime"), a protoplasm from which all life had originated. Huxley believed Bathybius could be that protoplasm, a missing link between inorganic matter and organic life. He went on to assume that the substance formed a continuous mat of living protoplasm covering the whole ocean floor for thousands of square miles, probably a continuous sheet around the Earth. However the marine research of 1872 discovered no such thing and soon after Bathybius haeckelii was proven to be nothing more than a reaction of a calcium sulfate from the seawater to the alcohol used to preserve the original mud sample. The primordial slime concept remains a scientific curiosity, yet was one of the early strong cases in support of evolutionary origin of life from nonliving chemistry to biology.

When you would gently push the surface of your laptop-screen, you would feel the viscous consistency of crystalline slime. Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) are based on the work of physicist Otto Lehman and botanist Friedrich Reinitzer, who discovered the liquid crystalline nature of cholesterol extracted from carrots in 1888. As Reinitzer had no explanation for this aggregate state between liquid and hard, he involved Lehman, who worked on a pasty modification of silver iodide. In this fourth state of mesomorph matter a lot of different substances show a strong light refraction under the polarisation microscope. Lehmann called them liquid or runny crystals, a status he differentiated from a hard or colloidal form of crystals, last one famous as chromatic dazzling film on soap bubbles. Other well-known examples of liquid crystals are detergents, as well as the tobacco mosaic virus, and some clays. Lehmann was very attracted of Bathybius haeckelii and speculated about characteristics of his liquid crystals as indicators of life. It needed until the 1970s that companies filed different patents, which used liquid crystals for light-controlling, a technology which shaped the last decades of digital devices.