Miriam Sentler     




Fish tank, Replica of a fossilized fish found in lignite site ‘Future-West’, water from the Blausteinsee. Photo credits: Miriam Sentler & Wouter Osterholt







Ancestors Rising


This work was made with Deep Time Agency and in the context of the Rheinische Braunkohlerevier. The work is part of the research project ‘Building an Archive of a Disappearing Landscape’.

Thanks to hobby archaeologist Uli Lieven, Elena Khurtova, Montei Di Matteo, Miriam van Rijsingen, Mona Steinhauesser, Albath Goldschmiede Aachen, family Draaisma, Syver Petersen, Sadie Hale, Erik Linden & Wiely Goorden



     

(2020-2021) In collaboration with artist Wouter Osterholt. Installation (fishtank, maps, picture) 185x50x50 cm (fishtank), 60x80x75 cm (map), 20x30 cm (print), video (18m30s, HD)



In North-Rhine Westphalia, a border region in the west of Germany, large landscapes are being excavated for lignite, a fuel used in the production of electricity. The practice leads to the largest excavation site in the world, unearthing many archaeological objects which are being archived in national museums.

The installation focuses on the discovery of a unique fossil from the “Zukunft-West” (Future-West) lignite quarry. During excavations in this quarry a fish fossil from the Miocene era was found. The discovery represents the only fossil of a fish found in the wider area and symbolizes the sacrifice of living ecosystems for fossil fuel, a natural product created through the dying of ancient ecosystems. In the Anthropogenic era in which the object surfaces, it provides unique insights into a non-human time period when this landscape was still covered with a prehistoric sea; thus closing a cycle, since the quarry was again filled with water after the excavations, turning it into the ‘Blausteinsee’.

The installation Descent into the Future (2020) shows a set-up for an underwater museum for divers, which functioned as a test for a later diving expedition into the lake. For this installation, the finding place of the fossil was retraced on old maps of the quarry, and the original fish fossil was
replicated using 3D-scan technology and clay, making it again fit for life underwater. In order to acquire a sense of place, an old map of the settlements excavated for lignite have been overlayed with a contemporary diver map of the Blausteinsee, creating a historical overlap wherein the location of the finding place of the fish-fossil is shown.

As final step in the project, the replica was brought to the original finding spot inside the Blausteinsee. Carried by two local divers, the fossil was brought 40 meter down in the lake. To our surprise, the only fish caught on video were Round Goby’s - the exact fish species which used to live here during the Pliocene and which ascended from the fossilized fish. On its way down, the divers filmed their encounters with these fish and the industrial remnants of the underwatermuseum which was placed here by the lignite industry, illustrating the idle hope to make this place into a new, bustling diving hotspot. Amongst ambivalent objects like sunken car tires, christmas trees and toilet seats, the fish fossil is permanently installed at the bottom of the lake as a valuable and meaningful object, showing the site-specific history and changing of this landscape to the divers visiting the lake.





Exhibition view Descent into the Future: ‘Ecotones - Bodies in Tension’ at Nieuw Dakota, Amsterdam (NL), July 2021




Exhibition view Descent into the Future: ‘Ecotones - Bodies in Tension’ at Nieuw Dakota, Amsterdam (NL), July 2021




Exhibition view Descent into the Future: Map of previous landscape (1904) and new diving map of the recultivated landscape (Blausteinsee), July 2021




Exhibition view Descent into the Future: Map of previous landscape (1904) and new diving map of the recultivated landscape (Blausteinsee), July 2021




Exhibition view Descent into the Future: Photograph of the Finder of the Fish fossil, credits: Uli Lieven




Exhibition view Descent into the Future: Visitors during ‘Ecotones - Bodies in Tension’, Nieuw Dakota, Amsterdam, July 2021




Exhibition view Descent into the Future: Detail ‘Descent into the Future’: Round Goby fish (ascended from fossilized fish species)




Descent into the Future: dive with the fish fossil to its original finding location in the Blausteinsee. Divers: Wiely Goorden & Erik Linden (camera)



Descent into the Future: dive with the fish fossil to its original finding location in the Blausteinsee. Divers: Wiely Goorden & Erik Linden (camera)





Descent into the Future: dive with the fish fossil to its original finding location in the Blausteinsee. Divers: Wiely Goorden & Erik Linden (camera)





© Miriam Sentler 2022