Janis Polar

January-February 2024

The project is also supported by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia

mangan garden

The research project and planned multi-media installation «mangan garden» addresses (future) raw material extraction paradigms, which the work considers essential to discuss human- technology-socio-ecology intersections.

The Project

Manganese nodules found 3’000–5’000m down on the bottom of the deep-sea contains cobalt, copper, zinc, manganese and nickel, as well as rare-earth oxides. Elements which are functionalized in the devices I use for my artistic practice and sought after by industries for “green”, “intelligent” technologies. Hence, it’s not surprising that companies and states have long been invested in experiments to commercially mine these nodules from the deep-sea.

Producing media-art which intends to critically question socio-ecologies of our times, urgently makes me question the raw materials that enable my devices and put them in relation to past, present, and future extraction structures of broader geographies. The research project and later multi-media installation «mangan garden» explores and visually "surfaces" ecosystems and mining stories from the deep-sea to then engage in more-than-human perspectives. «mangan garden» starts from the historical perspective of the 1st deep-sea mining advancements in the 1970s to then investigate todays impacted deep-sea ecosystems through different media and medialities ranging from: audio-visual archival material from early explorations writing a history of (media) technology; found objects which produce their own alternative mediality through optical effects; and visual documents of long-term research on deep-sea mining and ecologies conducted by Geomar.

«mangan garden» intends to ask questions such as: How can we acknowledge and embrace planetary intelligence in a non-deterministic way and without having measured and understood – from our limited human perspective – ecosystems to the utmost detail? What are the implications of surfaced (hi)stories of the deep-sea, in thus shaping a visual culture and media aesthetic of the bottom of the ocean, a dark place without light, barely visible in the 1970s and highly visible with today’s media technology?

During my Fieldstadtion Residency in Berlin I visited the geological Archive in Berlin, the Geozentrum in BGR Hannover and Geomar to research audio-visual documents and build networks.

Research | References

See the document

Learn more


Janis Polar is a Basel based visual artist/researcher. He investigates disturbed socio-ecologies in anthropocentric systems and his own entanglements in them. His work engages at intersections of (media) technology, science and political ecology, trying to build relations to complex geographies and the more-than-human. He mainly works with image-based media, archives and found objects, combining (post-)documentarian and speculative approaches in installations and audiovisual performances. His works have been exhibited in Switzerland, Germany, USA, Estonia, China and he regularly collaborates with scientists and scientific institutions. Janis Polar has received various work, residency and research grants and he holds degrees with distinctions in Cultural Analysis, Film and Literature Studies (University of Zürich). His practice has been further influenced by working in curation and art mediation for innovative institutions in their fields (Fotomuseum Winterthur, Int. Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, Migros Cultural Percentage) as well as by various non-institutional projects.


Image Credits

Portrait: ©Cédrine Scheidig
Other: ©Janis Polar
Image with manganese nodule: ©Janis Polar / BGR

For his Residency project Janis Polar has benefited from the Research Trip supported by the Swiss Art Council ProHelvetia