cala maris

calamaris

Jellyfish make a unique and fascinating impression on observers. Since they possess neither heart nor brain, they come across as innocent yet, at the same time, unpredictable. The way they float along with others of their kind and flow with the current seems to be purely arbitrary. When we compare them to human beings, interesting questions arise. Are there also people in our midst who let themselves be swept along by foreign mental currents? How does a human being turn into a faceless jellyfish who just might be following a power external to his own mind? Under what circumstances is ones own mentality replaced by alien thinking, and at what point does a person thus become a thing and, possibly, even a weapon?

Markus Huber’s film “cala maris” deals with power and the abuse that goes along with it. The setting is a factory constructed beneath the ocean floor by a bellicose regime. In this factory, jellyfish are being raised in deep breeding tanks. These specially bred bioluminescent jellyfish react to light reflexes causing them to swim towards a light source floating on the water surface. With light-bait, they’re lured out of the tanks and then, through the use of various machines and vats, transferred through the factory to a room in which explosive devices are attached to the underside of their “bell” (head). Armed with these warheads, they’re flushed out of the factory directly into the ocean. Due to their light reflexes (and not least of all, their own group dynamics) triggered by the explosions of ships (caused by previous jellyfish attacks), wave after wave of jellyfish swim to the surface to destroy yet more enemy ships (and themselves). This film is an account of the short life of a jellyfish that goes through this procedure: breeding in the factory, attachment of the warhead, being flushed down a sluice out to the sea, and then setting off of its journey to the surface. But this jellyfish turns out to be the only one of its kind that senses the impending doom—it reverses course and swims against the current back to the factory. Its intention, however, is recognized by the system, which dispatches a mechanical creature to intercept it.

About the elevator installation: Visitors are in a maintenance elevator in one of the breeding tanks. This tank holds various species of jellyfish, which are described on the touchscreen in the elevator car. The touchscreen provides technical information about the tank in general and about the different species of jellyfish. It also delivers an explanation of the connection between the animation in the elevator and the artist’s intention in making the actual film, which is being screened outside the elevator. During the elevator ride up or down, passengers pass through plankton swarms, and also encounter the machines that lure the jellyfish out of the water.

credit: Markus Huber