Pamela Rosenkranz at the Venice Bennalle

Swiss artist Pamela Rosenkranz, known for her imaginative use of immaterial as well as her bold confrontation of the human condition, has blown us away with her recent instillation at the 2015 Venice Bennalle. The installation, titled ‘Our Product’, is composed of immaterial elements such as light, color, scent, sound and organic components such as hormones and bacteria.

Rosenkranz filled the interior space with plastics, then filled it with a monochrome liquid that matched a standard northern European skin-tone. This Eurocentric skin color, reminiscent of the carnate used in Renaissance painting to render the visual qualities of human flesh, is employed in today’s advertising industry as a proven way to physically enhance attention. She contrasts this skin color with a verdant green coating the istitutional mantle of the Swiss Pavilion. The artificial green light in the patio blurs the distinction between inside and outside, and a special wall paint that is biologically attractive continues the separation between culture and nature. She confronts the image of what it means to be human head on, and guides you through the installation with the synthetic sound of water—generated by a real time algorithm—and the scent of fresh baby skin. The immemorial aesthetic is almost cognitively disturbing.

She used Neotene, Silicone, Evian, Viagra, Bionin, and Necrion, among others, to create the installation. Most of these materials are associated with esoteric arts, but are rooted in biology. During an interview with Aoife Rosenmeyer for Art in America, Rosenkranz states, “I am concerned with exploring how scientific findings change popular conceptions of what it means to be human, and that can be quite confrontational. For example, it’s interesting how advances in neuroscience challenge our understanding of identity.”

Rosenkranz’s name is sometimes mentioned in the same breath as the philosopher school du jour Speculative Realism (a movement in contemporary philosophy which defines itself loosely in its stance of metaphysical realism against the dominant forms of post-Kantian philosophy), and has collaborated with two of its influential thinkers: Robin Mackey and Reza Negarestam.