9. Silke Riis

Some Breathe Through Their Butts

Installation by Silke Riis

4 Nov 2023
3 Nov 2024

Did you know that sea cucumbers breathe through their butts? Or that their poop plays a crucial part in coral reef’s protection against ocean acidification? With her sculptures of speculative species, Silke explores the idea of evolution being driven and shaped by climate change. By combining beauty and horror in the aesthetics of each piece, she reflects her own feelings about the uncertain future she faces.


Some Breathe Through Their Butts - Installation of Silke Riis during Museumnacht 4 & 11 November 2023 Romy Kerkman

With: Silke Riis

For Mediamatic she has transformed two bathrooms into curious habitats for cucumber-shaped creatures that visitors are invited to experience in the privacy of a toilet visit. The installation draws inspiration from cucumber curvatures and the fascinating life of sea cucumbers and their poop.

Each of Silke's site-specific wall sculptures is in a stage of a slow transformation. You may not notice it immediately, but if you touch their tentacles or stroke their skin (yes, you can touch them!), they may crack or peel, revealing how each piece is unmistakably in the process of decay due to their material.

Created using a self-developed technique that combines natural latex with unfired clay, the pieces become flexible and resilient but inherently ephemeral.

The installation opened as part of the exhibition “Zelf” for Museum Night, whose theme served as a creative starting point and initially inspired Silke to work with cucumbers and their oceanic namesake. In particular, the EU “cucumber curvature law” from the 1980s that specify a set of standards for the curvature of cucumbers. They should not be curved but be grown straight. 

The idea of imposing a "normal" shape on something that is naturally different playfully touched on the theme of neurodiversity: the forced shaping of something that is naturally curved, creating a "normal" that is actually quite abnormal for this species.

While plant cucumbers are interesting on their own, the biggest focus of the installation grew to be on the “unsung hero” of the ocean: the sea cucumber. An uncharming brainless creature whose every-day life (relatably) revolves around eating and pooping, but while doing so plays an important role in the ocean’s nutrient cycles and calcium carbonate availability in coral reefs. To Silke, they are the perfect example of the complexity of ecosystems and the importance of non-human beings. 

Could these noble creatures evolve into alkaline rebels in an increasingly acidic ocean or would they simply become pickled?

In her native language Danish, the sea cucumber is actually called "søpølse," which translates to "sea-sausage" or "sea-poop"!

Come and immerse yourself in Silke's wondrous habitat, breathe through your butt for a moment and create your own "søpølse"!

On view Tuesday through Sunday from 12 - 19:00.