Over The Mountain And Through The Woods: “Das Numen”

Das Numen Momentum, 2013, installation view (time-exposure photography). Copyright Das Numen. Courtesy DISTANZ Verlag, Berlin.
Das Numen Momentum, 2013, installation view (time-exposure photography). Copyright Das Numen. Courtesy DISTANZ Verlag, Berlin.

Human population is rising exponentially; icebergs are receding nearly as fast. With every man-made “natural” disaster, there’s a rebound in corrective innovations that, inevitably, manufacture a new catastrophe. As we live through the Anthropocene, the relationship between humans and the environment becomes inexplicably more complex–and our worries about it more urgent.

Andreas Greiner, Markus Hoffmann, Felix Kiessling and Julian Charrière have been working together under the name Das Numen for the past few years. Equal parts philosophers, artists and scientific technicians, the former students of Olafur Eliasson have immortalised their work in a self-titled book. 

Das Numen Impakt, 2014, installation detail (after seven days). Copyright Das Numen. Courtesy DISTANZ Verlag, Berlin.
Das Numen Impakt, 2014, installation detail (after seven days). Copyright Das Numen. Courtesy DISTANZ Verlag, Berlin.

Along with critical texts by Paul Feigelfeld, Carson Chan, Melanie Franke and Otto E. Rössler, there are verses from the Bible sprinkled alongside exhibition texts and a surprisingly extensive list of colours. “Das Numen” follows the collective from their beginnings around 2010 through to the contemporary day, where they continue to act as agents spanning the gap between art and science.

“Das Numen may be called an organization rather than an artist group or collective,” writes Paul Feigelfeld in “Das Numen”, published by DISTANZ. “While all of them–deliberately not named here–work as artists individually, the way they work as an organization is organizationless, non-hierarchical, yet structured, intuitive.” 

Das Numen H2O, 2011, installation view. Copyright Das Numen. Courtesy DISTANZ Verlag, Berlin.
Das Numen H2O, 2011, installation view. Copyright Das Numen. Courtesy DISTANZ Verlag, Berlin.

Each member of Das Numen is also a solo artist, working on the convergence of art and science through their own individual practices. As Das Numen, however, they create projects–experiments?–removed from authorship. For “H2O” at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, water from outside the exhibition space was collected, purified and offered to visitors, who then reintroduced the water to the larger system after filtering it biologically through their kidneys. It is in this kind of relationship that Das Numen thrives: isolating an element within a system and inviting the viewer to act as an agent, catalysing the performance themselves. 

 Text by Nathan Ma

“Das Numen” is available through DISTANZ Verlag

More: Sleek Magazine 45: Silent Spring, which will be available soon in select stockists or through our online shop, includes a moderated discussion between Das Numen’s Julien Charrière, Sleek’s Tom Kobialka and Timothy Morton.

More: Nick Mauss’s contemporary happenings

More: DIS’s new book on the #artselfie

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