A Water Bear Story

Label:Installations Technical Business 

Author:Dorottya Géczi

Date:29 December 2019

The oldest life forms on Earth have existed for several millions of years, and for different reasons, some species go extinct from time to time. Humans are hindered in survival by the lack of a cosmic perspective, the desire to destroy and to love and being loved exist in them together. Slowly floating tardigrades that live through extreme circumstances remind us that in order to survive, we must live in harmony with nature.

What on Earth are tardigrades, you might be asking yourself. According to the Oracle (a.k.a. Wikipedia), tardigrades, also known as water bears or moss piglets are a phylum of water-dwelling eight-legged segmented micro-animals. They are usually about 0.5 mm (0.02 in) long when fully grown. Tardigrades are prevalent in mosses and lichens and feed on plant cells, algae, and small invertebrates

Limelight is not all about projection mapping anymore, which was a natural evolvement but also conscious decision between our Founders, István Dávid and Viktor Vicsek. As Founder and animator, Viktor had been behind the majority of our creative content for a very long time. In recent times, his interest shifted to light art installations, and now spends his time creating in this direction. As a group of light art creators, it’s important for us to develop more lasting artworks. Projection mapping as a form of art is temporary, a unique and one-off experience which only lives on in the form of video. Light art installations, however, are here to stay, together with the message they convey.

“We’ve been using our artworks to share messages that are important to us, and through the form of urban art, we can make them accessible to anyone. We’ve been admiring tardigrades for some time now: they have been here millions of years before us and most probably they will be here long after us,” István says. “Their existence and attributes are fascinating; water bears symbolize the ability to adapt and survive. By enlarging a microscopic creature to this scale, we aim to emphasize the scale of the pressing issue of our environmental impact and draw attention to the importance of living in harmony with nature, just as billions of tardigrades do.”

“I’ve known the water bear for a long time,” says artist Viktor Vicsek. “One of my best friends once made a t-shirt with a tardigrade print, and I loved it. Tardigrades somehow resurfaced in my life again last year, I saw a photo, and it inspired me in many ways – its form is perfect for the inflatable medium, and it’s cute and characteristic but neutral at the same time,” he adds.

We’ve been collaborating with artists at Koros Design before, and they also helped us bringing Water Bear to life. “During the design process, I’ve realized that the structure of tardigrades fits perfectly with the inflatable technology: they are made up of segments, are capable of losing their water content and shrink (to suspend their metabolism), which can be achieved by deflating air,” says Péter Koros from Koros Design. “Technically, Water Bear is made of a hot-air balloon material and it has several air-chambers to reflect the natural structure of tardigrades. It turned out to be a funny, chubby in shape with cute clawed limbs, however, they are a grotesque warning of our endangered world.”

Water Bear was installed at three light festivals to date with great success and feedback. “Water Bear being inflatable has its advantages: it travels well, it’s cheaper to transport, meaning that it can reach more people. We are also experimenting with how to visualize the hibernation phase – more on that later,” says István.

Water Bear has attracted a lot of interest internationally, and you’ll be able to view the installation at various light festival around the world. Due to the high interest, we are planning to reproduce the installation. After all, there are billions of them floating around!

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