HYDRA: New Media Art in the Context of Eco-Anxiety

11 September 2021 – 31 January 2022

A large-scale exhibition which represents environmental agenda through the prism of art&science and new media art. It brings together leading international and local artists exploring environmental issues.

The main metaphor of the exhibition is reflected in the name of the project – Hydra stands for both – water, the element closest to St. Petersburg, and a mythical creature that grows new heads in place of felled ones.
The exhibition looks at environmental issues related to water in the context of artistic statements and how humans influence these changes.

British philosopher Timothy Morton writes that the concept of nature is perhaps the most dangerous idea created by humanity, as it separates us from all other phenomena on the planet into an isolated, closed category. Ecology slogans should not be shameful calls to save the planet or "nature" (after all, many living organisms existed before humanity and will probably be able to survive even a nuclear winter), but a call to preserve the conditions under which the ecosystem into which a human is integrated can continue to survive.

We turn to contemporary art to discuss ethical and philosophical issues related to the environmental agenda, and invite exhibition visitors to think of new questions to this area themselves.

Exhibition curators: Olga Vad, Lydia Gumenyuk


Memo Akten (UK)

Deep Meditations

A large-scale audio-visual installation was dedicated to the subjective perception of natural phenomena, their relationship with human rituals, and whether we can teach machine intelligence subjective human concepts. Meditatively and continuously evolving images and installation sounds are generated by the imagination of two deep neural networks. One was trained on hundreds of thousands of Flickr images of different elements of the universe. The other is hours of religious and spiritual chanting taken from YouTube.

Memo Akten is an artist, musician and computer scientist. He works in and draws inspiration from fields such as biological and artificial intelligence, computational creativity, perception, consciousness, neuroscience, fundamental physics, ritual and religion. He has a PhD in Artificial Intelligence / Deep Learning and expressive human-machine interaction. Akten received the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica for his work ‘Forms’ in 2013. He has also collaborated with celebrities such as Lenny Kravitz, U2, Depeche Mode and Professor Richard Dawkins.

The project is part of the UK – Russia Creative Bridge programme 2021-2022 supported by the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy in Moscow.

Light Society (CA)


Whispers is part of Light Society’s ongoing "Tools for Transformation" series (2016-present), which imagines new therapeutic modalities for possible human futures. Synthesizing elements from both ancient and contemporary practices, Light Society has created an immersive installation that invites participants to surrender body and mind for potential transformation. Employing wind, light, and sound to both playful and therapeutic effect, Whispers allows viewers to explore the boundaries of ordinary experience.

With the support of Arsenal Art Contemporain

Light Society is a collaboration between artists Aliya Orr and Sakchin Bessette exploring the intersections of art, science, and mysticism. Conceived as a series of extended experiments across a diverse range of media including sculpture, installations, video, and performance, their work seeks to generate meaningful engagements with altered states of consciousness, perception, and the magic of the everyday.

Bessette, co-founder and executive creative director of Moment Factory, has created large scale public artworks and multimedia installations throughout Canada and Internationally. Orr is a diversified artist whose most recent practice has explored the use of light as a medium to transform experience.

Martin Baraga (SI)

Solocular / Sun Calendar

Sun Calendar is a public work of art by Slovenian artist Martin Bricelj Baraga that will appear on the Sevkabel Port embankment as part of the HYDRA project. It will be a spectacular metal monument on the banks of the Bolshaya Neva so that the viewers can watch it catch the setting sun. At different times of the year, the sun shines on the installation at a different angle relative to the beholder and taken together these positions make the Sun Calendar.

Martin Bricelj Baraga is an award-winning media artist and curator. He creates interactive works and sculptures that explore spaces between environment, nature, technology and humans. Often large-scale, his works can be seen in public spaces and in unusual architectural contexts. He focuses on creating atmospheres that challenge our perceptions and question symbols and myths as a series of time and space-based experiments. Deriving from visual arts, sound and light are important components of his work. He is the director of MoTA – Museum of Transitory Art and the founder of SONICA Festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Marco Barotti (IT)


In nature, clams are detectors of pollutants; they serve as tiny filtration systems. Clams is a collection of kinetic sound sculptures which convert data from water quality sensors into sounds and movement. Each ‘clam’ is constructed from recycled waste plastic and contains a speaker. The continuously evolving microtonal soundscape gives each shell a subtle, life-like opening and closing action. Real-time readings from an industry-standard water purity sensor placed in the Big Neva near Sevkabel Port form the basis for the music, which is generated through a constantly shifting process based on water quality levels over time.

Marco Barotti is a media artist based in Berlin. His installations merge audio technology, consumer objects, and waste into moving sculptures triggered entirely by sound. The primary focus of his work is to create a “tech ecosystem” that plays with resemblances to animals and plants. These artworks serve as a metaphor for the anthropogenic impact on the planet and aim to make people aware of environmental issues.

Supported by the European Media Art Platform, co-funded by Creative Europe.

Maotik (FR)


In this interactive installation, the viewers find themselves in the centre of the world's oceans. The data on wind strength, air humidity, and wave height from various parts of the Earth is transmitted in real-time mode to the exhibition space, which may turn into the Mediterranean Sea near Spain or the Gulf of Finland near St. Petersburg.

Mathieu Le Sourd, also known as Maotik, is a French digital artist who focuses on immersive experiences, interactive installations, and audio-visual performances. He is one of the world's most renowned and recognizable digital artists. His works have been exhibited at various festivals and institutions worldwide, such as Mutek Festival, Signal Festival in Prague, British Film Institute in London, Ars Electronica in Linz, Miraikan Science Museum in Tokyo, and many others.

With the support of the Institut Français (Saint Petersburg).

Rimini Protokoll (DE)

win > < win

In collaboration with marine biologists and ecologists, Rimini Protokoll has created an interactive show that offers a fresh look at the influence human beings have on the planet. Jellyfish have been around for nearly 670 million years. Almost anything that damages our ecosystem benefits them. Overfishing and plastic reduce the number of predators, and constantly rising water temperatures lengthen their reproductive period. Massive invasions of jellyfish threaten to destroy fish populations and can paralyze the operation of nuclear power plants. Are jellyfish more likely to adapt to changing conditions than humans? Could they remain one of the last surviving creatures on Earth? Is it possible to find a strategy of coexistence that will benefit everyone?

Rimini Protokoll is currently one of the most sought-after theatre labels in the world. They first appeared on stage in the early 2000s and work in the genre of documentary theatre. Founded by Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi, and Daniel Wetzel, the group explores real life at the intersection of art and social investigation, fiction, and news. One of their projects is the interactive performance "Remote Moscow," which made quite a noise in Russia.

Recycle Group (RU)

Artificial Mud

The installation includes an artificial coating with human footprints in mud, reproduced from a recyclable waterproofing film. At HYDRA, the installation will look like a narrow corridor. When the viewer walks down the corridor, the surface moves by blowing air with turbines. The artists tried to create a feeling of emptiness and immateriality of the space under viewers' feet, creating a shell for such a natural element as dirt and making one feel the simulation of the physical world through the eyes of a machine.

Recycle Group was formed by Andrey Blokhin and Georgy Kuznetsov in 2006. In 2017, Recycle Group represented Russia at the 57th Venice Biennale. In June 2017, a personal exhibition was held at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and, in 2020, at the Manege Central Exhibition Hall in St. Petersburg. In their works, they use recycled images and materials, confronting seemingly incompatible topics: classics and modernity, Western traditions, and Russian realities. The artists have recently begun researching the peculiarities of human and machine vision.

Robertina Sebjanic, Gjino Sutic (SI/HR)


The project focuses on studying chemical pollution in the aquatic environment (which arises from humans’ use of a considerable amount of pharmaceuticals) and how this is becoming a threat to aquatic life. An in vitro experiment is demonstrated on holographic screens. Marine microorganisms are killed in pharmaceutical solutions 20,000 times weaker than the average human dose.

Robertina Šebjanič is an internationally recognised artist and researcher. Her work revolves around the biological, chemical, political, and cultural realities in aquatic environments and the challenges the Anthropocene era poses for the marine environment.

Gjino Šutić
is a biotechnologist, artist, teacher, and founder and director of the Universal Research Institute in Zagreb, Croatia, and Gen0 Industries. He researches biotechnology, bioelectronics, experimental electronics, and environmental engineering, combining this with experiments in bioart, digital art, and hybrid art. In his work, he often turns to citizen science and DIY biohacking.

Supported by the European Media Art Platform, co-funded by Creative Europe.

Tundra (RU)

The Day We Left Field

The Day We Left Field is an immersive site-specific audio-visual installation inspired by natural environment and its place in modern cities landscape. In "The Day We Left Field" Nature in its primary form, blades of grass, is the "leading character". As in a surrealist painting, the blades of grass rhythmically keep wavering upside down in a cocoon of sound and visual effects forming a floating meadow.

TUNDRA is a St.Petersburg based collaborative artist collective focused on creating spaces and experiences by exploring facets of interaction between audio/visual and human emotions. TUNDRA specialises in multi-media performances and immersive audiovisual installations. Their multidisciplinary team involves musicians, sound engineers, programmers and visual artists.

Universal Everything (UK)

Nature Always Wins

Nature Always Wins is a series of infinite film loops gliding over our cities, briefly reclaimed by nature. Inspired by the ‘re-wilding’ we’ve seen around us during the lockdown, these vistas offer a glimpse of a potential new normal.

Universal Everything is an international group of digital artists, designers, and researchers founded in 2004 by Matt Pike. The artists collaborate with the leading cultural institutions and brands in developing video art and immersive installations on topics often associated with modernist architecture, natural landscapes, anthropomorphism, and the study of human movements. In 2019, Unit Editions published a monograph dedicated to the group.

The project is part of the UK – Russia Creative Bridge programme 2021-2022 supported by the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy in Moscow.

Jana Winderen (NO)

Listening Through the Dead Zones

In her new project, the artist has been investigating how human activity is influencing the dead zones in the Baltic Sea and similar environments close to shores and in lakes. At HYDRA exhibition, the audience will be able to listen to different species of mammals, including humans, and to various species of fish and crustacea inhabiting the Ocean.

Commissioned and produced by IHME Helsinki.
IHME Helsinki is supported by the founding foundation Pro Arte Foundation Finland in collaboration with Kone Foundation and Saastamoinen Foundation.

Jana Winderen is an artist who currently lives and works in Norway. She is exploring the way human beings interact with and live in their environment with other creatures and plants, and in particular our shared sound environments underwater. Her recent work includes sound installations at Art Basel, Miami, and MoMA, New York. In 2011 she won the Golden Nica at Ars Electronica for Digital Musics & Sound Art.

Victor Polyakov (RU)


In an immersive installation specially designed for HYDRA, visual effects are created using natural media – light and water. Still, their interaction is not typical for wildlife. The installation consists of several water reservoirs; inside these, wave generators create concentric wave oscillations and light systems. Thanks to their interaction, a light projection of a dynamic water surface is formed on the floor.

Victor Polyakov works in light minimalism and abstract sculpture as well as commercial and fine-art photography. In his works, light and movement are the key media. Through optical effects and new technologies, the artist transforms the perception of space. His public art projects were exhibited at the New Tretyakov Gallery and the Lexus Hybrid Art festival.

Where Dogs Run (RU)

Kerosene Chronicles. The Fungi

The robotic installation, specially designed for the HYDRA exhibition, is based on research on the organisms accompanying human technological revolutions – Candida keroseneae. These yeast cells live inside fuel tanks, feed on aviation kerosene, and might lead to a plane crash. The fungus content in kerosene changes the smell of the fuel and the molecules it releases. The artists use this to create robots controlled by the yeast, which pump out the nutrient medium from each other based on smell. The project views chemical or olfactory communication as an evolutionary strategy for the coexistence of humans and machines.

Where Dogs Run Art Group was formed in 2000 by its participants Natalia Grekhova, Alexey Korzukhin, Olga Inozemtseva and Vladislav Bulatov. Their artistic practice lays primarily in a field of technological art and uses a wide range of multimedia: video, robotics, hybrid installations, performance and DIY packages. The group combines innovative visual techniques with scientific research instruments and low tech aesthetics.

Bluesoup (RU)

Sodden Creeper

The Bluesoup's latest work is a black and white looped video in which an endless grey rain is falling and a massive creature resembling an earthworm is moving slowly. The viewer will have the opportunity to deal with their own experiences and determine what this work gives them: a feeling of anxiety, a chthonian sensation, or a strange charm.

The Bluesoup art group was formed in 1996 by Alexey Dobrov, Daniel Lebedev, and Valery Patkonen. Alexandr Lobanov joined the group in 2002. The group works with video art and computer animation. Their solo shows were held at XL Gallery, Triumph, Stella Art Foundation, and Manezh in Moscow. They have taken part in group exhibitions at the State Tretyakov Gallery, the Garage Museum, Art Unlimited/Art Basel, Art Basel Miami Beach, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and others. The artists were nominated for the Innovation 2007 award in the "Work of visual art" category.

Exhibition team:

  • Exhibition realization: Sevkabel Port, Agency for cultural projects NADO
  • Exhibition and public program curators: Olga Vad, Lydia Gumenyuk
  • Producer: Yulia Loginova
  • Scientific consultant: Julia Kuznetsova
  • Project manager: Maria Basyrova
  • Architecture: Alexander Zinoviev, Irina Shmeleva
  • Graphic design: Maria Kosareva
  • Technical Director: Maxim Kharin

Project partners:

The event is held as part of the UK - Russia Creative Bridge 2021-2022 program with the support of the Culture and Education Department of the British Embassy in Moscow.