The installation "Deepstar" is not fiction, but is rather based on a scientific discovery, which is also referred to in its title. "Deepstar 4000" was the name of a deep-submergence vehicle designed by the famous oceanographer and marine researcher Jacques Cousteau and built by Westinghouse in 1965. A year later, it was used to discover a previously unknown jellyfish at a depth of 723 meters off the coast of southern California. It was named "Deepstaria" after the boat whose technology had made the discovery of the deep-sea animal possible in the first place. And because it was so mysterious in appearance - a specimen sighted in 2012 by a diving robot at a depth of 1590 meters was initially thought to be the placenta of a whale - the jellyfish was given the additional adjective "enigmatica", Latin for enigmatic. What we see when we look at Christian Holl's "Deepstar" is a fluid and fragile, shimmering pink structure of delicate transparency and magical presence. It hangs from a metal rod attached to the ceiling of the exhibition space, so that the jellyfish floats in the air as if it were drifting through water. With a diameter of around 60 cm, it corresponds fairly closely to its natural counterpart, which has not been well researched because of its rare sightings. In scientific literature, the jellyfish is described as colorless, and a brownish specimen is also said to have been sighted, which Holl, with its rococo-like coloring, has clearly changed to an artificial beauty. On the left side, as solid bodies, we see the mouth and anus together with the four tentacles through which the jellyfish feeds, and above them its gonads, also in soft pink. On the right, on the other hand, a deep-sea isopod in metallic gray. It is the natural enemy of Deepstaria and maintains a parasitic relationship with it. It lives at least temporarily in the animal's bell and seems to feed on its organs. Holl has accentuated the dramatic confrontation between the two through color and texture. He modeled the jellyfish's organs freely on the computer based on images and then created them using a 3D printer. The isopod, on the other hand, is based on a slightly modified 3D scan of a real deep-sea isopod. But however minimal Holl's interventions may be, their effect is phenomenal. In the vulnerable web of the jellyfish, the isopod looks like a technoid foreign body, reminiscent of the shape of a hand grenade for a reason. The battle that nature wages against itself here in Holl's production in the form of two of her protagonists is reminiscent of the destructive relationship that today often prevails between nature and technology and between man and nature, and thus becomes an analogy for everyday conflicts. They are about how ruthlessly and hostile to life mankind treats nature with a focus on maximizing profit. And how his inventiveness, where it turns against it, could become the cause of his own downfall. Julian Charrière, an artist colleague of Holl's, has pointed out in this context that the worst erosive force in nature today is no longer nature, but man. But perhaps hope comes from the habitat of Christian Holl's protagonists. The seabed reliefs, which he also created in a symbolic manner for his installation, come from the western Pacific Ocean. This is where the Mariana Trench is located, 11,000 meters below sea level. It is one of the 300 million square kilometers of the Earth's seabed, of which just five percent has been explored. For a long time, the dark and cold water depths were considered just as hostile to life as outer space. But perhaps the sea and the moon will soon become what they have long been in science fiction novels set in the future: New homes for earth-weary humans.
Text: Michael Stoeber