Vertical Migration
September 21 – September 24, 2021
New York City, United States

Photo: Lance Gerber, courtesy of SUPERFLEX
Photo: Lance Gerber, courtesy of SUPERFLEX

From September 21–21, 2021, every night at 8–11 pm EST, the artist collective SUPERFLEX projected the film Vertical Migration onto the facade of the United Nations Secretariat Building, the UN’s signature 39-story tower. Coinciding with the 76th UN General Assembly, Vertical Migration was a dramatic 154-meter video installation that drew attention to the role that the ocean—particularly the little-explored region known as the ocean twilight zone—plays in global climate. 

The installation was developed by TBA21–Academy and ART 2030, supported by Avatar Alliance Foundation, Dalio Philanthropies, and OceanX, in partnership with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). 

Vertical Migration focuses on a siphonophore: a symbol of the many working as one. A siphonophore is not a single animal but a colony of specialized marine organisms that work together to enhance group survival. These amazing colonies can grow to immense sizes: some longer than the largest blue whale. This particular siphonophore is a creature of the ocean twilight zone, the “mesopelagic” or midwater region just below the ocean’s sunlit surface zone. This global swath of water extends hundreds of meters into the deep and plays a critical role in ocean food webs.
Following an exploratory trip hosted by TBA21–Academy to the Louisiade Islands in Papua New Guinea as part of the second cycle of The Current fellowship program, SUPERFLEX designed a computer-generated siphonophore and created the animated film, Vertical Migration, depicting its ascent. At first, the film mechanically circles the creature, getting closer and closer while giving the audience a view of it from all angles. It showcases the hypnotic dance of a single siphonophore as it emerges from the depths. Eventually, the perspective shifts, the camera’s movements become more fluid, and the viewer sees the world from the perspective of the siphonophore. 

Vertical Migration is part of SUPERFLEX’s new body of work, Interspecies Assembly, calling for all forms of life to protect biodiversity and boost climate action. The work brings together additional partners from arts, science and policy, including the United Nations, Google Arts and Culture, and University of Copenhagen’s GLOBE Institute.
Interspecies Assembly is a larger body of work commissioned by ART 2030 and supported by New Carlsberg Foundation, The Obel Family Foundation, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, The Ministry of Culture Denmark, Beckett Fonden, and Danish Arts Foundation. It features two public works, Vertical Migration and Interspecies Assembly. The latter is a sculptural and participatory site in Central Park’s Naumburg Bandshell. Incorporating video, sculpture, and a call-to-action, it is a project that emerges from SUPERFLEX's in-depth research and exploration into the deep sea, climate, and society. Interspecies Assembly brings humanity and all forms of life together for the first time to listen, learn, and map out a pathway for a future safe for all forms of life.

The Interspecies Assembly project was developed in close collaboration with Kollision and
Vertical Migration: United Nations Secretariat Building, North Façade
Interspecies Assembly: North Naumburg Bandshell, Central Park

Coinciding with the final day of the first week of COP26 in Glasgow, The Forgotten Uncle, a related panel talk focused on highlighting the importance of nature as part of global action on climate change, was released on, ART 2030’s website, ART 2030’s Google Arts & Culture partner site, and the website of MoMA's Emilio Ambasz Institute.

Speakers: Rasmus Rosengren Nielsen of SUPERFLEX, Paola Antonelli and Carson Chan of MoMA, Luise Faurschou of ART 2030, and Markus Reymann of TBA21–Academy.

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