Land Under Wave
The preliminary steps of an art-science installation
Photo credit : Mihai Medar
For their 18th anniversary, the Simultan association invited us to co-produce an art science project to be exhibited during the Simultan festival on 5-8th October 2023 in Timișoara. For this occasion, we accompanied artists Andreea Medar and Malina Ionescu in their very first scientific collaboration and the making for Land Under Wave, an installation that explores the gap between scientific reality and rural legends.
The project began with the idea of shedding light on a forgotten scientific theory : after finding shell fossils in the Melinesti region in Romania, geologist Marin Șeclăman hypothesised, before his death, that the region had been covered by the Paratethys ocean. At the same time, villagers have always used these fossils as fertiliser for their so-called exceptional alkaline properties and perpetuated folklore legends about the region throughout generations. With the help of geologist Vlad Iorgoni, the artists went to dig up these fossils, and tried to unravel the layers of truth in these stories.
The exhibition showcased the preliminary stages of their research in the form of a film and an art installation, as a work in progress. Today, more detailed scientific research is being discussed, and the local community is mobilising to preserve the fossils. Discussions are open between the artists, the geologists and the locals to develop the project further.
Project statement by Malina Ionescu :
For Marin Șeclăman (20.12.1938 – 17.03.2019), who would have wanted the Melinești area to be researched.
A first premise of the project is the desire of the geologist Marin Șeclăman, uncle of Andreea Medar, brother of her grandmother, to see the Melinești area, which he considered of geological interest. A second premise is the series of stories from the people of the village and members of the extended family, about fossils discovered in the area, about tools and traces of settlement, about mammoth tusks but especially about the shells that appear in the most unexpected places, often making local gardening or digging wells confusing. One of the villagers has the only outcrop in that part of the village in her garden, where it gets very messy, and where for many decades she has been in the habit of breaking up all the fossils with a hoe to make way for vegetable beds.
The local community is generally aware that these fossils exist, but associates them more with the Amaradia River than with the Paratethys Sea, from whose basin they come. The largest outcrop, with fossils that in local legend are much larger than those in the gardens or on the banks of the Amaradia River, is inaccessible, being occupied by a sheepfold. It is thus not possible to confirm whether these shells are species other than those collected.
The project proposes first of all a geological mapping of the area. A first research together with a specialist, geologist Vlad Iorgoni, from the Geopark of Hațeg County, meant collecting rocks and fossils, identifying them and dating them approximately, and in a later stage a series of maps, drawings, a reconstruction, a stratigraphy and a research of rocks and limestone formations in the area, together with a team.
The clams in Mrs Mili’s garden in Melinești are identified as Phylum Mollusca, Class Bivalvia, which are a class of both marine and freshwater molluscs (limnobios). Their bodies consist of two articulated parts called “valves” (hence the name bivalves) and the dentition has a ligamentous role. The bivalves found in the Melinești area are very similar to those of the “unio” species (the genus has yet to be precisely identified), a species characterized by an oval, elongated, relatively thick or medium-thick shell with an important layer of pearl, concentric stripes, a prosogir umbo and a heterodont dentition; they also prefer flowing waters. The species has a long history, dating from the Triassic to the present day, and is still extant.
At first glance until further research the Melinești shells date from about 5 million years ago, from the great Paratethys Sea.
Photo credit : Andreea Medar
Photo credit : Andreea Sasaran
Photo credit : Cornel Putan
Photo credit : Cornel Putan
Andreea Medar & Malina Ionescu