We’re on the increase – with every passing minute, our planet is home to 150 more of us. One century ago, there were 2 billion people in the world, but if the forecasts are right the human population will come to almost 10 billion by 2050. Unfortunately, our growth threatens to destroy the very foundations of life on our planet. We are consuming and destroying nite resources. Many of us are already feeling the effects of this: heat, droughts, foods and rising sea-levels.
The causes of this development are complex, as are the consequences of the destruction. All around the world, solutions are being worked on, and a radical reversal of familiar patterns of behaviour will be necessary.
With my "LEBENSRAUM" project, I want to invite each participant to use their own muscle power to control the growth of our species. I have reduced the real conditions we are facing to a form of physical experiment. The problem of overpopulation, the resulting destruction of our living space and the steady rise in sea levels, have been put into a visual context. Pressing on the pump causes heads to appear. If too many heads are pumped up, the available space expands, but the rising water level problem worsens. Just a few movements of the pump should make it clear to participants where this experiment is headed. The question is: how do we deal with this responsibility – do we keep pumping and see more and more heads pushed under the water or do we halt the process before this can happen?
In my work, I want to engage with the phenomenon that, although we have recognised the problem of overpopulation and the resulting destruction of our environment, this realisation is not usually reflected in our actions.
"LEBENSRAUM" renders this contradiction tangible. Each participant unconsciously assumes the role of the entire human race; an individual standing for the collective. By means of his or her actions, the participant gets to determine how much growth is good for our planet.
If all the heads are inflated at the end, the water will almost completely flood the space and the following error message "UNEXPECTED ERROR. RECOVERING LIVING SPACE" will appear for one minute. The participant will see the maximum growth as an unexpected error. Unlike in reality, the programme can renew the required living space.
The pump symbolises the economic and human growth that started to rise exponentially with the introduction of the steam engine in early 19th century. The physical functioning of the compressed gas allows using the air pump to closely mirror those early machines.
The heads stand for the whole for humanity. The chosen number of ten heads represents the critical mass of 10 billion people on Earth. Their ethnicity, skin colour, gender and age were selected in such a way as to represent a cross-section of the world's population. (The order and arrangement of the heads is randomly generated and changes every time).
LEBENSRAUM is an interactive art installion.
The hardware and software were developed specically for the "LEBENSRAUM" project and are provided for exhibition purposes.