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…After and Before

localStyle (Marlena Novak & Jay Alan Yim)

single-channel video, stereo sound, 2:37
3D animation - Marlena Novak
sound - Jay Alan Yim


The scene could be from the dystopic future: an expeditionary school of five survivors in the post-Anthropocene display social behavior and conduct a leisurely patrol of their toxic, acidified habitat. As the alpha directly confronts our interloper’s gaze with its own unblinking, compound eye, the weakness of our position becomes glaringly obvious. In this domain, we are not the masters: they are. If the saline ocean was the wrong water for animals, fungi, and plants that live on land, this sea of nitro-phosphoric acid is the wrong water for anything except these gene-drive-enabled CRISPR-ed critters. We don’t know how they got loose from the research facility, we don’t know how a glitch in their genomes gives them the longevity of hexactinellid sponges (which live for thousands of years), and we don’t know how they evolved a way to live as corals do, symbiotically nourished by algae living inside their eyes, but it is clear that their particular abilities have given them unique advantages to adapt and thrive in water that would strip the paint off the hull of our ship.