The art installation Relationscape connected many Berlin commuters with the future of biology at the capital’s central station. 

This week, the daily commuters of the German capital got a chance to come face to face with the world of biology. At the entrance of the Berlin Central Station, a huge building made of steel, glass and concrete, an art exhibition zoomed in on the ubiquity of biology and its growing role as an essential element to transition towards a sustainable future.

When I got off the train on Monday and stepped down the stairs, I could spot several big discs hanging from a wooden structure. Though huge, they were dwarfed by the sheer height and size of the station’s main entrance. Visitors of all backgrounds and ages were peeking and taking pictures of the beautiful artwork.

The first disc was a huge petri dish containing fungi of all shapes, sizes and colors. “It’s a dialog between the human and non-human,” explained artist Rhoda Ting from Studio ThinkingHand during the exhibition’s opening. “We planted the seeds, but it was up to nature to battle it out without human interference.”

The result is a beautiful landscape of complex interactions between multiple organisms that drives our attention to those tiny living beings that are always in and around us despite we’re not conscious of it most of the time. The particular fungi used in this piece came from Novozymes, a Danish company that uses microorganisms to produce products ranging from food and drinks to paper, textiles, biofuel and wastewater treatment.

Novozymes, which funded and organized the installation as part of its initiative Age of Biology, seeks to start a conversation about how biology can help us solve global problems and transition towards sustainability.

A second disc in the installation shifted our attention away from the busy capital and into the forest nature. In a resin cast lay a collection of seaweed, moss, mushrooms and other flora that the artists picked up from under the snow in Skåne, Sweden, and Sjælland, Denmark. “It’s a celebration of nature,” said the artists. “The natural elements transform in the process resulting in a preserved archive of struggle, decay and ultimately death – in a new, long-preserved life of its own.”

The third disc stands out among the others, as it seems lifeless compared to the collection of fungi and plants filling the other two. But in reality, it represents one of our closests relationships with biology: our own bodies. Using a 3D printer, the artists recreated the internal three-dimensional structure of a human bone, blown up in size multiple times.

This piece was inspired by a very new field that aims to make use of the billions of years of advantage that evolution has over us. The field of biomimicry investigates how biology works, from the tiniest molecules to collective animal behaviour, in order to apply those principles to finding solutions in many fields, such as design, architecture, robotics, and medicine.

A fourth disc acts as a mirror from which all the others can be seen along with the visitor. The artists intend it to represent the different aspects of life merging and coming together to start walking towards the future of biology.

Their intention to start a conversation was definitely fulfulled that night. The visitors gathered around the artwork included all sort of background, from artists to architects, designers, historians and mathematicians. With glasses in our hands, we cheered for a sustainable future and discussed how we envision the transition to the future of biology will take place.

It will be the age of biology. The end of fossil fuels. The era of biomaterials, of food alternatives, of textiles no longer made of plastic. And it’s time to talk about it.”
— Christine Lang, Novozymes

The artists: Mikkel Dahlin Bojesen and Rhoda Ting from Studio ThinkingHand (left) and Nana-Francisca Schottländer (right)


Pictures by Nicklas Nagel

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