Jenna Arendse

Artist Catalogue

Virtual Exhibition

False Promise

Today, many people struggle with reconciling the portrayal of the God of the Bible as good, beautiful, and loving with certain instances of violence, judgement, and bloodshed found within its pages. By looking at the story of Noah and seeing it through the lens of the physical world, I aim to explore this abstraction by shifting the narrative and perspective of a most beloved and renowned story. This is so that we may confront ourselves in this apocalyptic parallel between the story of Noah and our own dystopian future.

In recent years, seaweed has received a lot of attention as a potential solution to climate change. This is due to discoveries surrounding seaweed being able to sequester enormous amounts of carbon dioxide. Currently, it is assessed that seaweed stores up to 175 billion kilograms of carbon every year.

However, seaweed may not be the panacea we are all hoping for.

Seaweed may be a powerful carbon sequester, but its industrial-scale farming has unintended consequences. As sea creatures consume more seaweed, they exhale additional carbon dioxide. While individually insignificant, collectively they disrupt the balance between carbon inflows and outflows. This challenges efforts to mitigate carbon dioxide on a larger scale.

Rather than decreasing carbon emissions, we inadvertently contribute to their rise. Our main objective was always to lead eco-friendly lifestyles and be mindful of our daily carbon footprint. By avoiding change and not taking responsibility for the irreversible harm we’ve caused, we cannot prevent the impending climate dystopia our world is heading towards.

Similarly, the rationale behind the genocide depicted in Noah’s story bears a startling resemblance. People disregarded the covenant they made with God by refusing to change their ways, prompting God to flood the world. By shifting the narrative to the perspective of the genocide’s victims, I had hoped to raise awareness of the world we are enabling.

Throughout the creation of this exhibition, I drew inspiration from Mark Rothko’s Chapel, Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, and Bill Viola’s Ascension. Their use of religious iconography and materiality inspired me to use seaweed pigments. This choice of material not only added an element of ecological relevance to my artworks but also emphasised the theme of false promises and unsustainable solutions that permeate our contemporary discourse.

My video triptych depicts seismic cosmos using blood, wood shavings, and milk — an abstract deluge projected on the wall. My seaweed-painted triptych consists of a mass of debris on the surface (painted with seaweed pigment and sediment) of the left canvas, a mass of bodies devastating the surface on the sprawling central canvas, and a semi-illustrative and ambiguous view of the ark seen from below on the canvas to the right. This triptych is observed from an unstable bench positioned in front of the painting — made entirely of seaweed and driftwood.

Taken as a single narrative it shows the fate of humanity consumed by a self-serving generation. However, the dual purpose of this exhibition reveals that seaweed cannot solve all our climatic problems but rather that we need to change the way we live for this to happen. This mixed media exhibit demonstrates how seaweed may very well be a trap — an elusive promise that may not deliver as planned, and most likely end in disaster.

“The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains, I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.” Jonah 2:5