How cyanobacteria shed light on coloniality
The research I did during the last year - or 'the path I walked', as I prefer to call it - started from a question that has accompanied me for quite some time: “How do I sense and feel a practice of precariousness?”
Introducing precariousness as the central position into my artistic practice means I must first question its very foundation, which is the medium of analog photography. Delinking from my basis includes not only acknowledging the toxicity of photographic chemicals, but also facing the racist implications of the medium itself; from the reason why photographic emulsions cannot register dark tones the same way as light tones, to the fact that photography was shaped by and in a world in which imperial rights prevailed over others. Over the last year I investigated the connection between the process of photosynthesis and analog photography, thereby trying to relate the ancient wisdom of cyanobacteria, the first beings to produce oxygen in the atmosphere, to my own artistic practice. Nowadays, cyanobacteria are mostly seen as a threat to the environment. They are accused of being toxic algae, depicted as suffocating and judged because of their expansive growth (mostly caused by human interference). The way cyanobacteria turned from source of life to something toxic could provide profound insight about coloniality.
In March 2020, when many European countries took their first measures to control the outbreak of the coronavirus, I became the caretaker of two cultures of cyanobacteria. In two weeks time, one of the cultures lost all its color and went from bright fluorescent green to a milky white fluid. How is it possible that I had no idea how to take care of my most ancient ancestor?
At the same time, I began experimenting with organic photography. I made photosensitive emulsions from all sorts of flower petals, leaves or roots found in parks, my mother’s garden or at the local grocery stores. Organically produced photographic images take from a few days to a few months to appear and when the image is revealed, it immediately starts to fade again. The image will take approximately the same amount of sun-time to disappear as it does to be produced. This type of image production, or non-image production, not only fundamentally challenges contemporary art (market) conditions, but also contemporary publication reproduction methodologies, which are completely focused towards the anti-disappearance of reproduction. Ariella Azoulay states that “imperialism is not going to disappear without us unlearning our scripted roles as the operators of imperialism." I embrace this challenge: it is time to unlearn that the contemporary is the only possible present.
- A cyanobacteria culture gets a few drops of my blood. I think about the violence of this gesture and about contamination.
- Insemination, Contamination
- Colour and form experiment with wet (chemical) cyanotype developing processes.
- Dear Cyanobacteria
- A love letter to cyanobacteria.
- Communication Experiment
- Experimental setup with cyanobacteria in petridishes, transparent sheet and a 200W LED growth light.
- Sit with the Contradiction: Fuck Trump!
- Organic photography experiment with emulsion made from cyanobacteria. Developing time: one afternoon in bright sunlight.
- Cyanobacteria in need of dilution and the residue of an organic photo emulsion from stinging nettle picked at the American Embassy in The Hague.
- Staying with the Trouble
- Sea foam at the beach of The Hague produced through the albuminous remains of the bloom of a single celled organism.
- Video presentation for Sharing Event AdMa, September 2020
Risk Hazekamp is an inter-dependent visual artist and an art educator.
Risk Hazekamp is also a trans-person, white, and born in The Hague (NL) and raised both in The Hague (NL) and in the Ardennes (BE).
Their work was long centered around gender, not only as a subject, but also as a theoretical framework. The questions formulated on the theme of gender were later applied to other social-political issues. Risk’s practice is project-based and consists of visual thinking processes to change systems through a combination of personal activism, intersectional thinking and analogue (currently organic) photography.
After studying at Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam (NL) and Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht (NL), Risk worked and lived in Berlin for 11 years. They showed work at many international art fairs until deciding in 2010 to no longer participate in commercial art contexts. In that same year Risk started lecturing at different art academies and is now tutor and academic advisor at AKV|StJoost Art Academy in Breda (NL).
Most recently, Risk participated in the Advanced Master at Sint Lucas School of Arts in Antwerp and in the Decolonial Summer School 2020, a collaboration between the Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven (NL) and the University College Roosevelt, Utrecht University (NL).