HOPE GINSBURG
All sponge cells are germ-line cells–all potentially immortal. They have several different cell types, but they are deployed in development in a different way from most multicellular animals. Eumetazoan embryos form cell layers that fold and invaginate in complicated ‘origami’ ways to build the body. Sponges don’t have that kind of embryology. Instead they self-assemble–each of their toti-potent cells has an affinity for hooking up to other cells, as though they were autonomous protozoa with sociable tendencies.

–Richard Dawkins, “The Sponge’s Tale” in The Ancestor’s Tale (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2004). pp. 486–87.

Continuing her long-term research into sponges and the production of prototypes through the organization of felting and dyeing workshops, Hope Ginsburg has focused on two freshwater sponge species native to Rio Grande do Sul: the Oncosclera jewelli and the Drulia brownii.

In Agua doce [Freshwater], Ginsburg will present two tanks, each of which features representations of a singular sponge type. Color, texture as well as display architecture are crucial elements for Ginsburg. In the installation she wants not only to mimic and underscore the sponge’s natural appearance, but she has also developed a design for the tanks to be observed from above that alludes to traditional Japanese transparent screens. [Title and installation of work shifted slightly after catalogue text was written.]

The sponges represented at the Usina do Gasometro are produced through a manual felting and dyeing process in which local wool and dyes are used. As in other projects developed under the name of Sponge HQ, Ginsburg opens these preparatory processes into a workshop format for local artists and her own students from VCU in Richmond, USA. The presentation at the Usina do Gasometro, then, is a product of multiple cooperations–between sponge expert Cecilia Volkmer-Ribeiro and the artist, as well as between the Sponge HQ and local artists. For the artist, the sponge’s “sociable tendencies” stand as analogy for the type of social collaborations her projects aim to catalyze.