In Paula Humberg’s exhibition Dispersal, biology bends to aesthetic expression—where picturesque images of mountain avens patches simultaneously signal climatic distress. Humberg’s series of photographs and a bio-art project visualise the impact of climate crises and the decrease of pollinators in nature.
The title of Humberg’s exhibition, Dispersal, refers to the spread of pollen, which occurs, for example, through wind or by pollinator-animals. Humberg shot the series of works on view at Hippolyte Studio in the summer of 2018 at Zackenberg research station in Greenland, where she experimented with local pollinators and mountain avens. In Greenland, mountain avens is an abundant species that provides nutrition, for example, for Muscid flies which pollinate it. Documented at the research station is the decline of up to 80% of that area’s number of Muscid flies, in only a few decades, and the most significant reason for the decrease is presumably climate crisis.
At the station, Humberg collaborated with Riikka Kaartinen, a biologist studying plant-pollinator communities. The experiment made use of a fluorescent pigment which glows brightly under ultraviolet light. The aim was to find out how well the different pollinator colonies distribute this substance from one flower to another—determining how well the pollination had succeeded. Humberg photographed the mountain avens patches in a studio solely lit by ultraviolet lamps. After filming, the vegetation was covered with veil tents, and for 72 hours pollinators were left alone to frolic in the fabricated environment. After the insects were collected, Humberg photographed the growth again. The pictures show that pollination has been less successful in group B’s tents with fewer flies.
The artworks on view at Hippolyte Studio and gallery foyer reflect the dire situation in the polar regions. As a result of climate breakdown, these areas are projected to warm faster than the rest of the world. Climate change will also increase precipitation and extreme weather conditions. Greenland functions as a kind of nature’s laboratory, where ecological communities are usually pristine and sensitive to change. The year 2018 was exceptionally snowy in the northeast region of Zackenberg. For animals and plants, it was the most challenging year in the station’s measurement history. The reproduction of different species failed widely due to the ground’s lingering snow. There are only two species of bumble-bees naturally living in the area, and in the absence of bees, Muscid flies have become vital pollinators. The drop in their numbers can have catastrophic effects on the entire ecosystem.
Paula Humberg is a photographer and bio-artist living in Jyväskylä. Her practice journeys between art and science. Humberg became interested in bio-art and collaborative projects combining art and science while studying fine arts and biology. Often, Humberg finds science at the core of her pursuits. She is currently completing her biology studies at the University of Eastern Finland. In her artistic work, Humberg uses pinhole photography, cameraless imaging techniques, and unconventional light sources. Humberg’ printmaking studies are reflected in her fascination with spare and graphic expression. Humberg’s photographs have been on display, for example, at the Finnish Museum of Photography. www.paulahumberg.com
The project and the exhibition are kindly supported by the Arts Promotion Centre Finland, Finnish Cultural Foundation, and Finnish Art Society.
Open: Tue-Fri 12-17, Sat-Sun 12-16
image: Paula Humberg, Slot A1 at 72h, 2018
exhibition images: Milla Talassalo