Pamela Rosenkranz, Amazon Spirits (Green Blood) (detail), 2018. Installation view. Photo: Gunnar Meier.

Pamela Rosenkranz, Amazon Spirits (Green Blood) (detail), 2018. Installation view. Photo: Gunnar Meier.

Pamela Rosenkranz

For the past few years, Pamela Rosenkranz has made works that bring together an engagement with the ecosystems of the Amazon and the story of the business and technology giant of the same name—the paradigm of contemporary consumerism. Taking up both of these threads, the installation in her show at Karma International’s recently inaugurated new gallery in Zurich, Amazon Spirits (Green Blood), 2018, was as subtle as it was stunning.

Greenish light from ceiling-mounted LED panels picked out various objects: a plastic sheet on an office chair and another one, crumpled up, on a cardboard box; a Plexiglas vitrine set on a pedestal, displaying four batteries still in their shrink-wrap, from which electrolytic liquid had started oozing; and Rosenkranz’s own paintings. Much brighter blue light emanated from two door-size units set against facing walls, as well as from nine small panels arrayed just below the ceiling on the room’s long wall. The blue sheen opened up the space, rendering the walls and floor almost insubstantial.

As in comparable works such as Amazon (Container of the Substance Anemine), 2018, an installation on display at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam this summer, green and blue anchored two contrasting series of elements: spotlights and diffuse light, interior and exterior, land and water, vegetation and air. In that piece as well as in Amazon (Green, Blue, Green), 2017, shown last year at K21 Ständehaus in Düsseldorf, Rosenkranz combined her semantics of light with soundtracks that might have been recorded somewhere along the Amazon. The jungle noises and birdcalls were, however, acoustic ready-mades she found online and sampled; in this exhibition, as previously, she played them backward—on Amazon’s Echo speakers, naturally.

Not content with Amazon’s current product range—the office chairs, wastepaper bin, and batteries are selections from the AmazonBasics collection—Rosenkranz in Amazon Spirits went back to the commodity flow’s source, its legendary origin: the garage where Jeff Bezos is said to have dreamed up and launched the empire initially promoted as “Earth’s biggest bookstore.” The shape and arrangement of her blue-light panels alluded to the building’s basic architectonic structure. Yet her exhibition transported us not to a space from the past so much as to the threshold of the future: The products ordered from Amazon had only just been delivered. Some were still in their packaging, just as paintings were waiting to be framed and hung on the wall. Someone needed to take away the wads of plastic wrap, and Amazon-branded shipping cartons were lined up, singly and in stacks, along the wall. In Rosenkranz’s investigation of this origin myth, what flows from the source is always already perturbed by contingent crosscurrents. The mix of mass-produced goods, packaging, and paintings also implied that the artist might simply have walked out on this chaotic situation, abandoning it to its inevitable disintegration.

Amazon Spirits (Green Blood) invoked phantoms donning the guises of synthetic nature and the circulation of commodities in turn to remind us of the monstrous gesture with which the name of one of the earth’s most diverse natural habitats was turned into a synonym for the most uniform consumerism conceivable. Yet the installation also articulated an elixir of life, above all in the paintings in the show, for which the artist used her hands to apply a blend of acrylic and a “lacteal green distillate” known as “anemine” to thin, large-format aluminum panels. Anemine is derived from chlorocruorin, an oxygen-binding pigment that is found in worms living in marine environments in the Amazon and that, in high concentrations, tinges their blood green. Technology has turned it into a medical product that intensifies human sense perceptions. In its deployment here, this substance points to a novel and as yet uncharted Amazonia the artist has detected among the remnants of our future.

Translated from German by Gerrit Jackson.