Laura Bielau: TEST

144 pp.
104 b/w and color illustrations
thread-sewn brochure with gatefold cover

Leipzig February, 2024
ISBN: 9783959058421

Width: 19 cm
Length: 25 cm


Laura Bielau, Hannes Drißner

Laura Bielau

The starting point for TEST was a colony of ants that Bielau temporarily set up in her studio. In this experimental arrangement, she observed the hierarchical and state-building organisation of the insects, in which the altruistic workers support the queen, who passes on her genes to her offspring. Transferred to contexts outside the studio, her artistic research is concerned with the interconnectedness of all living things. To this end, she explores the common needs of humans and animals as well as the trade-offs between cooperation and self-interest. However, the human urge to control the animal and plant world and tilt the balance of power in their favour remains.

Bielau's research is wide-ranging: her photographs were taken at research facilities for behavioural biology, plant genetics and viral diseases. She travelled to the island in the Baltic Sea where the genetic material of the last, recently deceased northern white rhino bull is kept. She photographed a primate centre, where monkeys are used for research, and an institute for crop and plant genetics, where seedlings develop resistance to climate change under artificially difficult environmental conditions. She visited waste treatment plants, protest camps, and took many outdoor photographs, such as of nests and shelters in urban areas, or of summer fires near the A9 motorway in Brandenburg. Finally, she focused on the representation of creatures and habitats in literature, advertising and computer games, as well as in relation to political propaganda.

One of the reference images she cites is by John Vachon from 1941, showing the endless gates of the meatpacking industry at the Union Stock Yards in Chicago. Another image shows a poster campaign in the former East Germany in the 1950s, when the so-called “Amikäfer” [American bug] was blamed for a plague of pests. Alongside these are various depictions of animals with human attributes, such as Wilhelm Busch's clever rat or a sow wearing earrings and a short dress. Bielau's images, mostly taken with a smartphone or saved as screenshots, are an ongoing process of research and reflection on the extent to which ecological issues are permeated by social, economic and cultural contexts.

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