Heavens – A myth, survivalist dream, and the end of (this) history

As part of Serpentine’s 50 year anniversary exhibition project Back to Earth, Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen (Cohen van Balen) created Heavens, a moving-image work and installation created using planetarium projection methods to overlay planetary footage with deep sea imagery. Heavens looks at deep space to see deep into the ocean, or perhaps the other way around – a multi-channel sound installation forms a choir of voices (human and non), unraveling a creation myth based on the hypothesis of a cosmic cause to the Cambrian explosion (i).

Heavens starts from the theory that the octopus evolved from a virus originating in outer space, expanding our perception of ecology as a network of interplanetary relationships. Echoing the multiple-brained biology of the octopus, the work emerged through conversations with Philosopher Amia Srinivasan, writer and artist James Bridle, psychiatrist Estela Welldon, astrobiologist Chandra Wickramasinghe and escape artist Dave Diamond, to form a libretto, set to music by Pan Daijing.

On the other hand, if all ecology is interplanetary, then there is no outside, the virus didn’t come from anywhere, there’s nowhere to escape to, and the colonial, survivalist dream of resettlement is nothing but a suicide cult at the end of history – of this history.

Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen

Heavens is dedicated to that cosmic trance, and to the peculiar and otherworldly behaviour and biology of the octopus, that age-old oracle, a being perhaps too alien to turn out to be alien, and yet might just turn out to be an alien – as a scientific paper suggests, hypothesising that the mass increase in biodiversity that occurred on Earth some 500 million years ago may have been due to extra-terrestrial DNA. Given a potential cosmic origin to the octopus’s secret history, the artists work their way back from the animal’s odd properties to a vast, cosmic state, an obsessive perception of interconnections, an apophenia delirious enough one might lose oneself in it.

Project Page | Cohen van Balen