Phylogenetic Tree Mobile

For the Explorations of Now project in Orlången natural reserve outside Stockholm, Bigert & Bergström has created the new work Phylogenetic Tree Mobile. It is their second collaboration with the Institute for Future Studies (IFFS), and funded by the Postcode foundation.

In the center of a horse riding stable, the interactive kinetic mobile hangs suspended from the ceiling. The mobile comprises two curved ladders and a 300 kilo CO2 molecule, attached at each end of a bend aluminum beam with a range of 10 meters. When the sculpture is not activated, the molecule lays still in the desert-like environment. the CO2 weight leaves the ground when dancers from the Cullberg company climb up the ladders. The molecule becomes a counterweight, and equilibrium occurs between the two. However, if the dancers do not move carefully enough, the balance ceases, and the ladders hit the ground while the molecule swings in the air.

Photo: Studio Bigert & Bergström
"Phyologenetic Tree Mobile," video documentation
Photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger
Photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger

A phylogenetic is a part of evolutionary biology and systematize the inference of the evolutionary history and relationships among groups of organism and species. Often visualized as a branching diagram, the phylogenetic tree shows the evolutionary relationships among various biological species.

The 300-kilo molecule, similar to Bigert & Bergström’s earlier work, CO2 LOCK-IN (2011- ongoing), represents an average Swede’s CO2 emission over two weeks. Together they symbolize man’s relation with the greenhouse gas: When she climbs up the evolutionary tree, the amount of CO2 increases in the atmosphere. Is she able to find equilibrium, or is it impossible for her to find balance with nature?

The increasing CO2 emissions are the main reason for the extreme weather and temperature rises we witness today, caused by climate change. Scientists have warned that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere should never rise above 400 PPM, a level we have now passed. In fact, from a geological time perspective, we have not seen numbers like these during the last 3 million years. The last time the amount was this high temperature was 2-3 Celsius higher, and the sea levels were 15-25 meters higher than today (NOAA).

At the same time, coal and carbon dioxide have been crucial for the origin of biological life. For humankind, we can witness how emissions have increased simultaneously with every step up the evolutionary tree. The fragile balance between the dancers reflects the need for communication and solidarity between human people. When equilibrium succeeds, the kinetic sculpture spin around its axis without any external force. If a dancer moves without a reaction from her counterpart, the balance interrupts, and the movement ceases.


"Phylogenetic Tree Mobile", Ridhuset, Orlången outside Stockholm, 2021
Aluminium, iron, swiveling lifting clutches
1200 x 450 x 1200 cm
Illustration by Johan Mets
"Phylogenetic Tree Mobile", sketch
Photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger
Photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger


Undecorated scenario, Germanico sul Reno, Teatro Salvatore de Venise, 1675
Decorated scenario, Germanico sul Reno, Teatro Salvatore de Venise, 1675
A "glory or a paradise" were the renaissance remake of Greek machines used in the finale of a spectacular scene. These were cloud formations carrying performers in flying chairs, all maneuvered by stage workers behind the scenes using hand cranked drums and ropes. The images show the scene machinery without and with the décor.
"Tree of Life," Ernst Haeckel, The Evolution of Man, 1879
Toy mobile, 1751 Photo: Museum van het Nederlandse Uurwerk


Photo: Studio Bigert & Bergström

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