Palace of Running Waters, Buenos Aires

Hanka, 2021 — still. Film and 3D animation, 8.12 minutes

Made for the exhibition Día Cero at the Palace of Running Waters, Buenos Aires, Argentina, the film follows two overlapping themes: algal blooms, and the Isaac Bashevis Singer story ‘Hanka’.

The footage was predominantly shot in the Paphos district of Cyprus, where I came across a large swimming pool housing the remnants of an algal bloom. Algal blooms are increasing in intensity, as they tend to occur when there is an excess of a pollutant, here likely produced as the pool lay unclean during Covid-19. My discovery of the algae came late — its rusted carpeting of the pool implying that either it had been targeted by some pesticidal attack, or, as is often the case in algal blooms, it had absorbed nutrients in such an opportunistic way that it had exhausted them entirely. An expansion into oblivion.

Isaac Bashevis Singer’s ‘Hanka’ focuses on a Yiddish writer who travels by boat to Buenos Aires. He describes an orgy-like fantasy of the sea, from microscopic algae to whales, where procreation and multiplying are overriding, inescapable desires, much like an algal bloom. When he arrives in Buenos Aires, he encounters an unknown cousin (Hanka), who recounts stories and characters from the past, and seems to have an indirect influence on the failures of the writer’s trip. In time, Hanka’s very being is questioned, her irregular behaviours nearing the supernatural. Reflecting on this, the writer concludes that all his experiences have been ambiguous, but his belief in spirits continues to strengthen.

Microscopic observation tends to exactitude, aimed at classification and understanding at a sub- cellular level. Yet the images produced — particularly when extracted from research and circulating freely on social media as translucent and otherworldly loops — can be ambiguous and open. Here, 3D computer animated cells, based on cyanobacteria, collide and interact using customised forces programmed into the software.

Día Cero was an exhibition by Cynthia Carllini featuring films by Alice Bucknell, Arieh Frosh, Dana Ferrari, Jamie Steedman, Léa Porré and Santiago Ortí.