Mephisto and the Extremophile, 2020
11 minutes, VR experience
Life is stranger than it seems. Mephisto and the Extremophile is a VR journey to the edge of scientific knowledge, inviting people to experience the contested origins of life deep inside the Earth. The story shifts between human, bacterial, geological and machinic perspectives to unravel scientific mysteries about extremophiles, creatures that thrive without any sunlight in extreme temperatures and pressures. These organisms look nothing like what scientists thought life might look like, but they could hold the key to re-situating human life in the universe and changing how we relate to the natural world.
At 5:25 AM, on a dry and cloudless November morning, you find yourself at the Beatrix Goldmine in the Free State Province of South Africa.
You are transformed into Gaetan Borgonie, a scientist searching for unknown life. Gaetan discovered the microscopic nematode Halicephalobus Mephisto four kilometers inside the Earth in a South African gold mine.
A voice in your head takes you through the mine and into the rock, offering insight into, and posing questions about, the mysteries of planet Earth. Claustrophobic and inhuman environments give you a feeling of the strange alien world H. Mephisto inhabits.
The story ends with a mine blast and you are extracted back to the surface. In light of the violence a subsection of humans commit against the Earth, you are asked to reflect back on the idea of the extremophile as the lover of extremes.