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Algae Kin-Gatherer (ExhibitionsFeaturedFuturesWords)

Listen to the The Algae Kin-Gatherer
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Overview

Multispecies Inc. is a fictional organization through which we explore multispecies future imaginaries. Conceived as a group of ecologists creating and using tools for “multispecies living”, we manifest the objects and stories of Multispecies Inc. to examine and critique our desire to both convene with, and control “nature.”

With the The Algae Kin-Gatherer we imagine the future tools a member of Multispecies Inc. might use to commune with a changed planet including a flotation device used for surveying vast algae blooms on our waterways. Consisting of a raft and accompanying accessories The Algae Kin-Gatherer allows its user to “make kin with algae” and better understand their world as they float face-down on a body of water, attract, collect and view algae, feed them with exhaled carbon dioxide, and breathe the oxygen they produce.

Read The Algae Kin-Gatherer story below:

It’s 5.36am.

Soft waves lap against the belly of the kin-gatherer as a fleet of fulfillment e-barges drift past.

The sky is feathered with glowing strings of clouds signaling a change to come. The stretched light of morning shifts towards you in the distance.

You alight face-first over the water’s frigid surface, embracing the icy chill that licks your skin as your focus lands on the myriad detritus floating beneath you. 

Breathe in, breathe out.

The crisp morning air fills your lungs. 

With each stroke, you venture deeper into an otherworldly waterscape. Shaggy spirals of kelp sway on their cultivation lines, reaching toward you through the turbid saltwater.

As you reach the oyster reefs you check the coordinates The System has provided. 

Almost there.   

Splashing against the edge of the lab deck, you toss the red attractor beacon over the side and watch as it bobs gently along the waves.

As you drift further, the vivid glow of the submerged beacon bleeds red into the water surrounding the bow of the kin gatherer. You imagine the mass of lively organisms in a trance-like migration toward the crimson radiance.

Splash!

You release the water sampler into the cold, murky brine, watching the rope swirl and shrink as the chamber sinks deeper and deeper beneath you.

Slowly and carefully you reel it back in, raising the cylinder from the water, removing just enough for the feeder and microscope slide.

Sliding your goggles above your brow, you grab the woven ring of the kin-gatherer and shimmy forward to reach the microscope. 

“Are you there?” 

They gradually come into focus. Through the magnifier, you recognise the speckled, ovate cells  of bright green chlorella and the azure glow of cyanobacteria. 

The damp air moves, tickling the tiny hairs clustered at the edge of your nostrils. In less than an hour, the unrelenting heat will surge to an unbearable extreme. 

Average temperatures no longer exist. Amidst the latest global catastrophe and the chaos of constant change, your early-morning floating ritual has become a treasured period of serenity… an essential moment of stillness.

You take a deep breath in as the low hum of the Direct Air Carbon Capture pumps reverberates along the estuary.

With nose and mouth over the respirator you exhale, your warm breath fogging the glass beaker. The bellows along the beaker’s neck awaken expanding and contracting in tandem with the rhythm of your lungs setting the sensor-cycle in motion. You close your eyes and slowly relax your chest as the process begins. With the utmost care you exhale, nourishing the algae gathered below with carbon dioxide; and then inhale as the algae nourishes you with oxygen. 

You are once again struck by the beauty of this exchange, and revel in a rare moment of peace and security. The kin-gatherer creates a heightened sense of awareness and a corporeal connection with the algae- oxygen flows freely through the valve telling you the algae is healthy..  As the ritual lulls you into a state of pure calm, you forget for a moment the scientific objective of your outing. But your next breath in is met with resistance and you’re allowed only a shallow gulp of air.  The resistance intensifies with each breath until you begin to feel lightheaded with the effort. 

Reverie is quickly replaced with panic when suddenly your training comes flooding back.  

The kin-gatherer monitors the rate of algal growth in order to detect changes that signify impending eutrophication or mass interspecies die-off. And you remember that it flags any potentially catastrophic changes by restricting the flow of oxygen to the human user.  

The airway between you and the algae is now completely blocked and the mask sucks painfully against your face. Pulling it off, you gasp with relief  as once again air inflates your lungs.

Dread begins to fill your heart as you ponder the hypocrisy that permeates most modern  discussions of algae. Vilified for the destruction caused when at its most plentiful, algae has become a victim of its own biological success – and of careless disposal methods for human-made agricultural waste. When provided vastly more than enough to eat, it would go against any species’ very nature to hold back from such a feast. 

A westerly wind blows against your face, drying the sweat from your brow. 

You know what the kin gatherer has told you. 

You’ve been given a clear sign of ecological imbalance. 

Another omen of catastrophe.  

Another impending bloom.