“Seasons in Hell” @ Museum Het Domein – Virtual Tour

As previously announced, Museum Het Domein in Sittard, The Netherlands, is currently running a retrospective exhibition of my work. The show will be up until June 29, 2014 and I will be running Eco-Action field trips and workshops during most of the month in May. So if you are around, or would like to take a little trip, come visit!

In any case, check out the show in this video interview, and more pictures and information on the works below.

Many of the artworks in this show travelled from last summer’s exhibition “Augures d’Innoncence” in Chamarande, France. Museum Het Domein curator Roel Arkesteijn also included several other works.


Love Motel for Insects: Museum Het Domein Variation

The exhibition starts on the façade of the museum with Love Motel for Insects: Museum Het Domein Variation, a site specific version of my ongoing light sculptures series, intended to construct situations between humans and arthropods. For this version, the windows of the museum ere lit up with UV lights.

Love Motel for Insects: Museum Het Domein Variation, Brandon Ballengee, 2014.

Several bug watching eco-actions and community parties will take place outside of the museum in May, as part of my residency there.

Love Motel for Insects: Museum Het Domein Variation, Brandon Ballengee, 2014.


Season in Hell

Unique digital Chromogenic print mounted on plexiglas.

Since the beginning of art, avian species have captured the human imagination with visions of flight and aspirations of freedom. Yet, what does it mean when an individual bird’s gift of flight is taken away or does not develop because of untimely death? This series of works portrays such beings, those who were mechanically altered in-utero to prohibit wing (“limb”) development through laboratory experimentations. Additionally the series pictures young birds that were found dead from their wild nests for unknown reasons.

Season in Hell, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

As with the global fish species, birds are suffering unprecedented declines, especially migratory species such as many songbirds. In New York City alone, over 300 species of birds migrate through each year. Many are disoriented by illuminated structures and mirrored glass on buildings. Unfortunately, thousands of these birds become, exhausted, injured or are killed trying to find shelter and food. As Rachel Carlson predicted long ago, spring has grown increasingly quiet. Through a collaboration with the Parisian poet KuyDelair, the collective titles of the works form a single poem entitled “Deadly Born Cry”.

Season in Hell, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.



Duratrans prints on double sided light-boxes. 1 meter by 3 meters each.

In Greek mythology the Ti-tânes or Titans, were the ancient primordial deities born from Gaia or Gaiê (Earth) and Ouranos (sky). The Titans, in a sense, were products of primordial nature and eventually overthrown by the Olympians (the more human-like gods represented in classical Greco-Roman mythology). This paradigm shift is a strong metaphor for our Western approach towards nature and the environment, a change from revering the natural world to anthropomorphic adoration which continues to drive human-centric exploitation of natural resources and other organisms. Although the Ti-tânes were defeated by the new human-like gods, they survived banished to austere lands.

Ti-tâne, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

With the Ti-tânes series, I aim to portray ancient animal species, which are able to survive (perhaps even thrive) in habitats environmentally impacted by human activity. Such organisms have endured millions of years and are now adapting to today’s ecological degradation. Symbolically the series is meant to link such animals to archaic lingering nature deities surviving, banished, in now degraded environs. It also references time in the ecological sense through species who have existed for much longer and perhaps will survive much longer than our own.

As artworks this series began in 2012, where I selected a species that firstly is ancient (in the evolutionary sense) and secondly is able to survive (perhaps even thrive) in habitats environmentally impacted by human activity. Such organisms literally have endured for millions of years and now are adapting to today’s ecological degradation. For the works in this exhibition, three Nine-spined stickleback (Pungitius pungitius) collected from the a polluted canal in Chamarande (France) were chosen as subjects and carefully stained using Alizarin red dye, which adhered to bone then cleared using digestive enzymes to make surrounding tissues transparent. From the biological research side this was done to analyze specimens for any developmental abnormalities that in life we could not have seen. Secondly, this treatment was performed as an artistic choice – as clearing and staining is a way to change the way we are able look at such organisms, how we perceive them – they are abstracted yet made more clear. Next they were photographed on coal (literally fossilized carbon) meant to recall ancient life as well as changes to today’s climate made through the continued burning of such fossil fuels.

Ti-tâne, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

These artworks are meant as portraits of the individual fish, as each is unique as each of us. Through size (making them larger than life) they are scaled so the human viewer sees them at a magnitude beyond our ordinary bodily scale – grandiose and sublime like nature herself. Metaphorically they are meant to recall the ancient lingering nature deities surviving in banished now degraded environs. Viewed as skeletons they are not meant to represent death but instead life persisting in ecosystems made preternatural by human activity.


Prelude to the Collapse of the North Atlantic

Installation. Preserved marine species, ethanol, glass

Prelude to the Collapse of the North Atlantic, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

This work is a sculptural response to the global crisis of the world’s fisheries and the current threat of to many species found in the northeast Atlantic Ocean. Over-fishing, climate change, oil and other pollutants and overall habitat degradation are among the numerous factors that has lead to marine diversity decline. Likewise, these species declines alter natural trophic or food webs causing further impact to the natural function of aquatic ecosystems. Recent studies have shown in the world’s oceans every trophic level in the food web has been altered over the last two centuries. In addition upper tier species (top predators) are among those most currently threatened with extinction.

Prelude to the Collapse of the North Atlantic, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

In the northeast Atlantic the European Environmental Agency (EEA) has reported that several popular seafood species are currently being fished out of biological safety limits, including Cod, Anglerfish, Hake, Mackerel, Sardine, Sole and others. The intergovernmental organization ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) has called for a 40% reduction in fishing fleets to reduce threats of species collapse. Of the approx. 1100 species of fish identified in the northeast Atlantic no one is certain the overall level of decline among all these populations.

Prelude to the Collapse of the North Atlantic, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

This sculpture represents less than 5% of the overall biodiversity known to the northeast Atlantic. The specimen jars are meant to recall natural history collections as well as glass coffins stacked to create this massive pyramid. This pyramid attempts to represent both, the biological reality of northeast Atlantic trophic interconnection and visually recall the structures of ancient Egyptian and other tombs. Empty containers represent species in severe decline or those already lost to extinction.”

Prelude to the Collapse of the North Atlantic & Skate, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

Cleared and stained Clearnose Skate/ Raja eglanteria.

Unique digital C-print mounted on plexiglas.

This work is part of the project Breathing Space for the Hudson, that attempted to portray uncommon underwater creatures native to the Hudson River and the effects of pollution.



Video: 16 minutes and 13 seconds.
BP advertisements with running texts in rebuttal.

Committed, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

Committed offered rebuttals to claims made in BP advertisements. Here, scientific studies, government documents and other published materials factually contradict what BP has said in their commercials and other public relation attempts. Through the piece you see a complete collision of “realities”: On one hand you have the reassuring words of the carrying and apologetic former CEO Tony Hayward promising to “make this right” followed by visions of white sands with vibrant blue water, thrilled sunbathing tourists, thriving revitalized gulf communities and wildlife, even a recipe for succulent shrimp gumbo. On the other- the world of scientists, analysts and Gulf residents- you see a different picture reported, with damaged beaches with sands used to cover oil, delays in clean up and restoration efforts, cover up attempts for loss of wildlife, DWH effluents bio-accumulating into different trophic layers of the gulf food chain, health threats from consuming contaminated seafood, and an ongoing environmental catastrophe that has lacked systemic large-scale remediation.


Tears of Ochùn

Cleared and stained Grass shrimp (Palaemonetes species) collected for the Gulf of Mexico in fall 2012. Unique specimen as biological sculpture in a series of 500, examined as part a pilot study by the artist/ biologist.

The 2010 Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill was the largest environmental disaster in the history of the United States. Literally billions of organisms were impacted. British Petroleum claims all is well but the Gulf ecosystems continue to show the devastating effects of the spill and teratological dispersants used to “clean” the oil. In the spring of 2012 (2 years after the spill and “clean up”) numerous cases of shrimp and other seafood with lesions, missing eyes and other abnormalities were found in fisherman’s catches.

Tear of Ochùn, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

For this pilot project, we examined and compared 688 Grass shrimp (Palaemonetes species) collected in the fall of 2012 from sites in Louisiana that were heavily exposed to DWH effluents compared to those sampled from sites in Florida with minimal exposure. All shrimps were analyzed for obvious developmental abnormalities and 500 were cleared and stained to further examine morphologies. The results of this pilot study showed that shrimps sampled from areas with direct exposure to BP pollutants had a ten-fold increase (79.4%) in abnormalities compared to those collected at sites with minimal exposure (7.6%). The Louisiana populations showed the most severe abnormalities, including a single shrimp, which appears to have developed ectopic limbs growing from the abdomen. Further research is needed to better understand the far-reaching impact of the BP spill, resultant high levels of deformities among Gulf wildlife and the potential impact they have for humans consuming them as seafood.”


A Habit of Deciding Influence: Pigeons from Charles Darwin’s Breeding Experiments

Unique pigmented ink prints on watercolor paper. 30.25 x 22.5 inches each.

A Habit of Deciding Influence & Frameworks of Absence, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

Charles Darwin enthusiastically began researching English pigeons in 1855. He studied, observed and even selectively bred them in experiments to create numerous color, shape, size and behavioral variations, determining that all fancy pigeons descended from the Columba livia, the common rock pigeon. This understanding of ‘artificial’ selection was invaluable to his later theory on species change in natural environments. As an artist-in-residence at the Natural History Museum in London in 2003, I photographed ‘bones’ and ‘skins’ from Darwin’s personal collection of pigeon specimens. Later, the ‘birds’ were digitally collaged on backgrounds created from microscopic scans of medical cotton. The finished photographic works were printed in pigmented ink on watercolor paper. The intention was to recall 19th century paintings by J.M. W. Turner and others.”

A Habit of Deciding Influence, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.


Historic taxidermy specimens from the collection the Museum of Natural History in Maastricht, displaced by the artist. Sound works by Andrew Diluvian.

1. Magpie. 2011. Sound work, 16 minutes.

2. Final Eye. 2012. Sound work, 8 minutes.

Apparitions, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

Historic taxidermy specimens were displayed with their backs to the viewer, looking out windows but avoid direct eye contact with viewers, to represent how some of the most beautiful and beloved birds of yesterday have disappeared and many are on the path to extinction right before our very eyes. In all science collections globally there are individual specimens collected that become lost… they have physical form with no identity, they linger in a kind of void between artifact and apparition.

Apparitions, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

In Magpie, Diluvian uses digital techniques to crudely “cut into” and discard the sounds of extinct birds from a collage of historic field recordings. Only traces and the faint “edges” of bird sounds within these recordings may be heard, leaving the listener with an ineffective experience and a heightened awareness of absence. The extinct species used are the Dusky Seaside Sparrow, the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, and the Kaua’i O’o.

Final Eye envisions a ragged landscape of memory within a dream being had by the last living bird of a species. All sounds in this piece are manipulated samplings of historic bird recordings.

More works from Andrew Diluvian can be found here.

Frameworks of Absence : The Extinct Birds of John James Audubon

Physically cut exctinct birds from historic John James Audubon prints.

Frameworks of Absence, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

Responding to avian species loss, I physically cut the birds from historic John James Audubon prints. Acquired over several years, original prints were chosen from the time when the depicted bird species became extinct. For example, in RIP Pied or Labrador Duck (2007) the birds were removed from an original 1856 Royal Octavo (hand-colored by one of Audubon’s sons) printed at the same point in history the actual species became extinct. The resulting image minus the subject is what I refer to as a framework for absence.

Frameworks of Absence, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

Malamp Paintings

Recycled paper, ink, polluted water, ash.

Malamp Paintings, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

When I began my long-term work on amphibian deformations in 1996, I intially travelled the United States to visit laboratories and study malformed frogs in nature. At each location I would paint portraits of the animals I witnessed. The materials utilized for these works represented my working conditions: the polluted pond water, in which amphibians subjects of his studies came, cigarettes ashes and coffee, residues of long hours spent analyzing an environmental issue which has manifested itself on the six continents.


Malamp Reliquaries

Unique digital chromogenic prints on watercolor paper of cleared and stained deformed amphibians. Size: approx. 46 by 34 inches each.

Malamp Reliquaries, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

Malamp Reliquaries are created by chemically “clearing and staining” terminally deformed frogs. This process will obscures direct representation- as I do not want to exhibit large images of “monsters”, which would be frightening and be exploitative to the organisms. This process was followed by high-resolution scanner photography of each specimen to create individual portraits. These portraits will be printed as unique watercolor ink prints (IRIS) and each individual frog will be centered appearing to “float” in what looks to be clouds. This otherworldly quality will be reinforced by the titles named after an ancient character from Greek mythology. They are scaled so the frogs appear approximately the size of a human toddler, in an attempt to invoke empathy in the viewer instead of detachment or fear: if they are too small they will dismissed but if they are too large they will become monsters. Each finished artwork will be unique and never editioned, to recall the individual animal and become a reliquary to a short-lived non-human life.


Un Requiem pour Flocons de Neige Blessés

Projected Video.
Original musical score: Ariel Benjamin and Andrew Pasco (aka Andi Diluvian). In scientific collaboration with Stanley K. Sessions, Hartwick College (USA) and David M. Green, McGill University (Canada). Photography under the direction of Brandon Ballengée by: Marissa Nolan, Frédérique Paquin and the artist/ biologist. Post photography montage: Brandon Ballengée. Post video production: Philip Henken, Gillian Wilson.

Requiem pour Flocons de Neige Blessés, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

This is a series of 21 individual portraits of short-lived beings (tiny metamorphic American toads found in Southern Quebec). Each was born into a hostile universe of predators, parasites and ecological degradation. Like all beings, these young creatures represent a particular moment in history and carry the environmental marks of their birth place. In the case of these individuals, trauma during development resulted in terminal abnormalities. As they emerged to begin life on land severe deformations fated them to early death. This finite/infinite artwork is meant to be a memorial to these small creatures and in honor of the countless number of beings coming into this world and passing without our notice.  Once begun, the video should be played for infinity, until the extinction of our species or until someone chooses to turn it off at which point the artist requests the file be deleted.



Installation:  21 preserved cleared and stained deformed Pacific Treefrog specimens on sculptural light box

Styx, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

Styx is a sculptural expression of complex sensations derived from finding the abnormal frogs in nature. Named after the legendary river from Greek mythology that moved between the worlds of the Living and the Dead. To create Styx, tiny actual specimens are carefully post-fixed cleared and stained and displayed on large dark structures- to resemble fallen obelisks. The specimens are small, out of our normal human-scale for bodily association, but through precisely illuminated glass dishes they become the ‘light’ and focal point. Viewed up close they resemble gems or the stained-glass windows found in some cathedrals. There is something familiar about them, enchanting but terrible.

Styx, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.


Sittard Eco-Displacement

This sculptural installation is a living cross-section of the canal nearby the Museum, which run along Sittard’s historic city wallSuch canal and the drama of the lives of its inhabitants is to most of us a mystery- the birthplaces of all life yet shrouded in the unknown and often the under appreciated.

Eco-Displacement, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

Here organisms (plants, animals, plankton) and found materials (detritus, water) from the canal form a freestanding ecosystem- displaced but functioning within a glass vitrine made originally to protect precious art objects. Within this vitrine, snails, fish, aquatic organisms become characters in a displayed theatre of live acting naturally- eating, breeding, living, dying and struggling as they would in the wild.

Eco-Displacement, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

This work brings life into the Museum space – a place usually designated for art and human made artifacts, time-less objects associated with monetary value. This work asks what is the value of life, even if we don’t know of it’s existence nor does it have any monetary value, and how does the drama of actual living with constant change and struggle challenge our idea of enduring art.  Following the exhibition, all organisms will be ceremonially freed back into the canal they came from.

Eco-Displacement, Brandon Ballengée, Museum Het Domein, 2014.

All photographs by Bert Janssen.