Thomas Feuerstein


The stone sculpture Komposition (1971) by Tyrolean sculptor Franz Xaver Hauser, who died in 1999, becomes the support for a structure of transparent pipes inside which freshwater algae circulate. Barely noticed for the longest time, Komposition has undergone an aesthetic shift in perspective thanks to Thomas Feuerstein’s contemporary intervention. The water, tinted green by the floating algae, flows through a convoluted system as it meanders its way around the stone sculpture. As a result, the algae are evenly exposed to the daylight needed for photosynthesis, stimulating cell growth in the process.

"Epiphytes" are plants that grow on other plants. Aquatic epiphytes such as algae are not parasites; rather, they support and are a source of nutrients for many species. For the artist, considerations of self-sufficiency as well as nutritional facts were key in deciding what species of algae to choose. "Chlorella vulgaris" is characterised by a high mineral and protein content, one of the reasons why it has also become increasingly significant in economic terms. The unicellular spherical green alga is found around the world, occurs in freshwater and brackish water, in stagnant and flowing waters, and can be grown in large quantities. Supplying a growing global population with sufficient protein, fibre and minerals from microalgae such as these in the future is no longer the stuff of water-borne science fiction.

Thomas Feuerstein’s ‘molecular and process-related sculptures’ are characterised by an exploration of chemical and biotech processes with which he tells the stories of animate and inanimate matter. Komposition and Epiphyt create a transient narrative node that is rather intimate and (literally) touching. In their search for an elemental order, they explore the Other and themselves, but also material processes that fundamentally describe humankind in its existence. The humanity from the stone becomes a co-operation partner, and green is the future!

* 1968 in Innsbruck, lives and works in Innsbruck and Vienna.

With his artistic intervention "Epiphyt", Thomas Feuerstein recontextualises Franz Xaver Hauser's stone sculpture "Composition" (1971) in Untere Weißgerberstraße. The sculpture temporarily becomes the support for a structure of transparent pipelines in which freshwater algae circulate and grow. As part of his MANNA-Maschine series of works, the artist ponders the role of freshwater algae as food and also explores its scientific, social and futurological aspects.

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