BioArt And Sustainability: Exploring Mediamatic's Unique Cultural Vision

Mediamatic's main building on Dijkgracht | © Mediamatic - Anisa Xhomaqi
Mediamatic's main building on Dijkgracht | © Mediamatic - Anisa Xhomaqi
Photo of Tom Coggins
6 December 2016

The northern facade of Mediamatic’s Dijkgracht building features an unusual installation called Pure Gold. This wall is lined with a row of video screens that are suspended above five functional urinals. Passersby are encouraged to relieve themselves into these toilets while enjoying audio-visual artwork from Kamiel Rongen.

The footage and toilets share a common theme, namely urine, or, more accurately, the possibility of repurposing bodily waste into useful material. To create these films Rongen poured his own frozen urine into a fishbowl containing several colored oils and then recorded the rapid changes that occurred after these substances collided. Fluorescent balls and tiny streams of bubbles gradually descend to the bottom of the bowl or levitate upwards, creating a beautiful medley of shapes that promptly transition into different forms or slowly dissipate altogether.

Kamiel Rongen: Pure Gold, 2016 | © Mediamatic - Liz Kunst

The lower part of the installation is hooked up to Mediamatic’s urine plant and collects fluid donations in order to produce high-quality fertilizer. The urine is treated inside Mediamatic and stripped of any harmful chemicals, leaving behind a nutrient-rich liquid that can be applied to soil. Mediamatic actually contains a greenhouse and regularly uses this renewable resource on their crops (while avoiding the plants’ leafs and fruit).

Mediamatic's aquaponics greenhouse | © Mediamatic Aquaponics - Liz Kunst

This intriguing installation simultaneously challenges the general public’s perception of urine while cleverly introducing Mediamatic’s unique cultural vision. At its core, the organization is dedicated to the development of smart, renewable solutions to contemporary problems and believes that experimental art and technology can help pave the way towards a greener future. To accomplish this Mediamatic frequently collaborates with designers and artists whose work employs unconventional methods.

In recent years Mediamatic has become an incubator for bioart and sustainable agriculture and its organizers regularly invite leading figures from these fields to give workshops or lectures. Its ongoing programs include a series of seminars on the potential uses of fungi within modern manufacture and lab sessions that investigate the effects of bodily odors on human behaviour.

Vases created by Margherita Soldati for Mediamatic's Odorama workshop series | © Mediamatic - Willem Velthoven

Mediamatic’s yearly calendar is marked by several temporary exhibitions and its main site usually features more than one installation. Currently, The Art of Deception by Isaac Monté and Toby Kiers is on display at Mediamatic and will be installed until February. Much like Pure Gold, this exhibition uses natural material for artistic effect, and its creators have carefully stripped 18 pig hearts of their cellular content, leaving behind sinewy canvases that they then decorated with elaborate motifs. Each heart possesses an unique design that draws out its natural beauty — subsequently breathing new life into this dead tissue.

Apart from installations and workshops, Mediamatic proves its commitment to sustainability by producing organic food onsite. Its greenhouse breeds plants and fish inside of a symbiotic environment that harnesses each organism’s natural processes. This closed ecosystem provides Mediamatic’s ETEN restaurant with fresh herbs and edible flowers that are cooked up alongside other locally sourced ingredients.

Mediamatic ETEN | © Mediamatic - Anisa Xhomaqi