The film tells the story of a fungus called Claviceps Purpurea, also known as Bipolaris. This fungus lives on grain and has caused outbreaks of Ergotism in the past. This disease leads to cramps, hallucinations and madness in humans and animals, and in severe cases to death.
Using macro shots, the life cycle of the Claviceps is illustrated, interwoven with audio fragments of witnesses to the most recent outbreak of Ergotism, in the French village of Pont Saint-Esprit in 1951. Meanwhile, in a top floor apartment in a towerblock in an unknown city, an individual is silently constructing a 3D spatial model of a pollen of the fungus, which gradually takes on monstrous proportions, comes to life and eventually swallows the space and the character.
Short film (appr. 30 min), colour, sound
Marc Thelosen, seriousFilm: producer
Ingrid van Tol: script coach
Peter Mann: cinematography
Stephan Blumenschein: soundscape
Erika Roux: Research, assistance and translation
Nederlands Film Fonds, Mondriaan Fonds, Amsterdam Fonds voor de Kunst (AFK) & Amarte
In terms of form and content, the film is an interweaving of two narrative perspectives, based on how our brain hemispheres experience the world; on the one hand, the perspective of the Tower, which symbolises the ‘knowing’ of science, that of modern Enlightenment thinking, and on the other hand the perspective of the Earth, in which life emerges, where knowledge is embodied and where fungi dominate. But it soon becomes clear that these two perspectives are not fixed themselves either, that they shift and intertwine. The film, like the fungal world, is a place of paradoxes: Fungi are microscopic but can become overwhelmingly large; they are soft, but can force their way through asphalt; they are eaten, but also invade other organisms. In this symbiotic world, the boundaries of identity and the power relations of possessing and being possessed are blurred.
Technological progress alone is not going to save the world and I believe that art and science are a special pair in this respect; one that brings together knowledge and feeling, calculation and magic. We can learn how to fly and realise our ideas, but we also live in a body and stand with our feet in the mud; it is important to keep those two extremes in touch. This film is a plea for shifting the balance to the right hemisphere; for not recognising what you already know, for being surprised in a childlike way, for respecting the limits of human knowledge, for learning from other life forms. By placing the story in the kingdom of fungi, I deliberately cross the anthropocentric boundaries of place and time, of identity, and of truth and madness.
Maaike Anne Stevens is a visual artist based in Amsterdam and London. She works with text, image, installation and film. Her work has been shown at exhibitions and screenings worldwide, including at the Jerwood Space London (UK), the Austrian Filmmuseum (Vienna), Visions du Réel, Nyon (CH), IFFR Rotterdam (NL), The Art Gallery of Alberta (CA), and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Santiago (CL). Her work is part of the Victoria & Albert Museum permanent collection. Maaike is a graduate of Central St.Martins College of Art and Design (BA Fine Arts, 2008) and Goldsmiths College (MFA Fine Arts, 2012).
At the edge of the Moroccan Sahara a man contemplates his nomadic past and the turn his life has taken, whilst scientists in a German lab analyse deep-sea mud cores to unravel the Earth’s history. Scylos is a short film made in collaboration with Peter Mann. It premiered at Visions du Réel, Nyon (CH) and IFFR Rotterdam in 2021.
This contemplative film is composed from sequences shot in a small desert village on the edge of the Sahara in southeastern Morocco and at the IODP Bremen Core Repository, where thousands of deep-sea mud cores from all over the world are stored, sampled and analysed by scientists, who try to explain cycles of extinction and bloom in the history of the planet.
Silver cast made out of a 3D scan of a cyst in my left breast. This is a work in progress.
In January 2019 I participated in a 10-day research programme in Tiznit, Morocco, organised by Slow Research Lab. The programme was a collaboration between international artists and the local community. Tiznit is located on the Targua oasis, 90 kilometres south of Agadir. Today, much of the oasis is in a state of neglect. This programme was set up to create more awareness among the local population of the importance of the place and to give the oasis a new lease of life.
Text written as part of a creative workshop with Perdu, Amsterdam about my time working as an image editor for a multimedia tour guide company. Image drawn with graphite and pencil.
Curator Sasha Burkhanova-Khabadze: ‘The thought experiment in the exhibition Bodies of Water is not only to undo the idea that bodies have to be human; rather, it is to help our imagination to grasp that the human is always inevitably more-than-human…The three art projects, coincided in the exhibition, enable alternative ways of thinking about the ‘waterly ethics’, mutual responsibility, and developed practices of care — specific to the human-water relationships, explored by each artist.’
This work is based on the trilobite Calymene Siveter, which was found in 1996 in Herefordshire (UK). Trilobites constitute a class of extinct arthropods most of which lived in the sea. The installation was specially designed for Galería Tajamar, in downtown Santiago (Chile). The gallery space is in an old kiosk, which stands in a square between 4 towerblocks. These towers, the plaza and the surrounding shops were built in the distinctive concrete modernist architecture of the ‘60. For the space, a 3D scan of the trilobite was blown up to life-size proportions.
In The Minds of Others (Anonymous) is an ongoing collaboration with Chilean artist Maite Zabala in which we meet each other for short working periods in different parts of the world. Past residencies and exhibitions have included: The Banff Centre (CA), The Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton (CA), Arquetopia, Puebla (MX), and The Museum of Contemporary Art in Santiago (CL).
This public artwork is an integral part of the facade of a new construction project in the centre of London. An irregular pattern of lightboxes, made out of limestone, introduces a playful element in the classical, vertical order of the facade.
Esa Architects and Westminster City Council had expressed their wish for an artwork to be developed for the facade of 26-32 Oxford Street and for the art to be an integral part of the building fabric.
This work was developed during a work period in the desert village Tisserdmine, in the Tafilalet Region in Southeast Morocco. The sketches and sculptural forms arose from my experience in this environment, a landscape that hardly gives any sign of recognition to the human eye.
10 ceramic tablets made during a residency at the Banff Centre, Canada. They were based on the shapes of grave stones I had seen in a Norwegian village.
Almost Touching is a sculptural installation made on location at the Acme Project Space in London. It was selected by students from the Royal College of Art MA Curating programme to be part of the duo show Delve, together with artist Sarah Duffy.
This film brings together 3 narrative spaces: The mining network below the city of Odessa, The anoxic water of the Black Sea, and the (virtual) space inside a spiral shell.
On 12 December 1999 oil tanker Erika broke in two in a heavy storm off the coast of Brittany, and sank. One of the last images before she disappeared became the starting point for a series of material explorations.
200 days, 1065 readers, 912 eliminated phrases. One sentence remained.
This short film is the documentation of the systematic deconstruction of a 20-volume history encyclopaedia. The work shows various steps in the course of this process, while sounds in the background form a new story.