‘Hunga Tonga,’ 2019 SUPERFLEX

SUPERFLEX’s film Hunga Tonga navigates the dreamscapes of earth, sea, and space as seen through the eyes and senses of humans, microscopic organisms, and the newly-formed volcanic island Hunga Tonga in the South Pacific. The film is the outcome of SUPERFLEX’s voyage to Hunga Tonga aboard the good ship Dardanella in 2018, which was part of the larger research project, Deep Sea Minding. Commissioned by TBA21–Academy, as part of their recurrent program The Current, Deep Sea Minding merges artistic and scientific research to surface relevant data from the depths of the seas and propose new relevant structures to serve the needs and desires of both humans and marine creatures.

The exploration of Hunga Tonga, a unique corner in our blue planet where the frontier between land and sea suffered an extreme transformation, brings a new view in the relationship between human life on the surface and existing life in the depths—abandoning our anthropocentric view to explore further, transgressing the limits of the sea surface and of time, overlooking a near future covered in water.

The film begins with a dive into the darkest depths of the Pacific Ocean, where you as a viewer will metamorphose into an extremophile, a primordial organism with an endurance of mythical proportions. With the ability to thrive in geochemically extreme environments, the extremophile lives in the deep sea vents and can rebirth itself under any conditions. At least, up until the weakest and most destructive species on earth start to dig into their cavernous homes, looking for rare minerals to power their superfluous machines. Deep sea mining is the first real threat to the strongest creatures known to date, forced to abandon the depths and seek the surface.

In another time and chapter, the cinematic metamorphosis will turn towards humans, a rare marine species seeking adaptation on land, in the newly born island of Hunga Tonga. Emerging from a long time in the sea, their retained capacity of producing technology is their only weapon to adapt to an extreme environment. As if landing on a remote planet, their need to use all resources on hand is awakened by their deepest instincts. Melting the earth to transform nature into civilization, again. But in this imagined yet palpable future, survival on land becomes arduous. Humans are longing again for the sea, which somewhere in time was their home.

After the departure of humans, it is the island who will gain consciousness. On its wrinkled skin, the memories of persistent extremophiles and past humans remain engraved. Like the Danish explorer Tavi who lived in isolation on Hunga Tonga, escaping the harshness of modern human conditions and merging with the island and the sea. But even nature undergoes processes of destruction and upheaval. Through a huge volcanic eruption, Hunga Tonga reset and rebirthed itself. Lava swallowed the land and built a new island. As Hunga Tonga will tell you, there is no life, no island outside of time.

Commissioned by TBA21–Academy

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Produced by:
19/01 2022
Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai
Hunga Tonga, 2019
Single-channel video installation, color, sound
21 min 22 sec
Commissioned by TBA21–Academy
Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) Collection

Director SUPERFLEX | Camera Johan Schneévoigt, Alex Jordan, Markus Reymann, Francesca Thyssen-Bornmemisza, Dayne Buddo, Sub Kontanz | Editor Rikke Selin | Script & Screenplay SUPERFLEX | Script Consultant Cristina Casals Soler, Victoria Mingot, Olof Olsson | Sound Design Rasmus Winther Jensen, Heikki Kossi | Foley Miser Kari Vähäkuopus | Title Design Rasmus Koch | Color Grading Dikki Lakha | Coordination Maria Jose Felix Diaz | Solar Sintering Experiment conceptualised and realised by Barbara Imhof from Liquifer Systems Group
  • Climate action
  • Life below water
  • Life on land