©Christian Kain

Robertina Šebjanič (SI) and Gjino Šutić (HR)

Curatorial Context

Water carries all sorts of information about human presence; and, in turn, humans have a major impact on aquatic environments. Anyone observing the movements of microorganisms in water will see a clear contrast between samples from areas heavily populated by humans and those from uninhabited areas. This video essay and book showcase recent art-science research: discover rarely seen worlds in water and the ‘monsters’ that inhabit them, as well as the connection between these habitats and our daily lives.

Artwork Statement

aqua_forensic reveals how aquatic ecosystems are impacted by anthropogenic chemical pollutants that are invisible to the naked eye. Through a combination of art, science and citizen science, the multimedia work opens a discussion on the scope of human solidarity and empathy with aquatic environments. It draws on in vitro experiments conducted in 2018 on the banks of the Danube in Linz and the shores of the Adriatic Sea in Dubrovnik. The research and fieldwork show how traces of pharmaceutical products – including mood stabilisers, antibiotics, painkillers and hormone pills – can be seen to affect the behaviour of microorganisms in water samples.

The complexity of marine and other aquatic ecosystems, which cover over 70% of the planet and are responsible for producing up to 80% of atmospheric oxygen, remains mysterious. Moreover, as anthropogenic pollution alters oceans, evolution is becoming irrevocably entangled with a global socio-technological system, shaped by (geo)political and economic interests in world waters. aqua_forensic explores the relationship between microbial life and the human ‘aquaforming’ of aquatic habitats, posing the question: How do rivers and oceans feel our impact?

Artist Bios

Robertina Šebjanič (SI) is an internationally exhibited artist. Her work explores the biological, chemical, (geo)political and cultural realities of aquatic environments. In her analysis of the Anthropocene, Robertina uses the terms ‘aquatocene’ and ‘aquaforming’ to describe human impacts on marine environments. Her works have received awards and nominations at Prix Ars Electronica, Starts Prize, Falling Walls and RE:Humanism.

Gjino Šutić (HR) is a biotechnologist, post-modern intermedia artist, innovator and educator. He is the founder and director of Universal Research Institute & Gen0 Industries. Gjino's research spans biotechnology, bioelectronics, experimental electronics and ecological engineering. As an artist, he specialises in bio, digital, installation and hybrid art. He was awarded the gold prize for his work in synthetic chemistry and pharmacology at ARCA 2022 (the 20th edition of the International Exhibition of Inventions).

Artwork Credits & Acknowledgement

  • Artists (research & development): Robertina Šebjanič (SI) and Gjino Šutić (HR)
  • Project supported by: Ars Electronica within the EMAP/EMARE
  • Co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union
  • Partners: UR Institute (HR), Sektor Institute (SI), Projekt Atol Institute (SI), Čistoća Dubrovnik (HR), The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia