An Animal That Was Once Thought to Be a Plant That Transformed Into Stone

For still like nature ever since is in our coral found

That, look how soon it touches air, it waxeth hard and sound.

And that which under water was a stick, above is stone.

(Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4.908-20)

You are on an ocean reef. Look down at your body. You have become a coral. An important part of this underwater ecosystem. Look around at your new home. This is a healthy reef populated with a variety of different plants and animals and several different species of coral, including you. To survive coral need to build and maintain their skeleton. The first step is to collect the basic building blocks: calcium and carbonate ions. Use your polyp arm to grab one of each types of ions around you. These ions are combined to form calcium carbonate, the main component of your coral skeleton. You will need to continue collecting ions to maintain your skeleton and stay healthy.

“An animal that was once thought to be a plant that transformed into stone, upon exposure to air…”.

The exhibition brings together a collection of works based on the artist’s ongoing research on the affinities and compatibilities between human and non-human bodies. Coral, which reverses its own death, is the ideal nonhuman presence in the post-tragic theatre of resurrection. Simultaneously animal, vegetal and mineral, coral not only challenges a traditional human / nonhuman divide that privileges human exceptionality and endurance, it also occupied once an alternate temporality through its wondrous resistance to biological decay. Through a new series of works, Nona Inescu speculates on symbiotic possibilities triggered by nutritional and medical practices, such as the consumption of coral calcium supplements and the use of coral for bone implants. A sessile animal, coral has now become a symbol for accelerated climate change and ocean acidification. Faced with imminent decay, fragile coral reefs and human bodies share their vulnerabilities, in an exercise of entangled empathy.