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Bioluminescence of organisms still raises numerous scientific questions regarding its function. Appearing in water as glowing algaes or beneath the ground we are walking on as a complex network of fungi, the beauty of this natural phenomenon is captivating. In the work series Foxfire by Marta Djourina the ability of mushrooms producing light defines the center of her artistic research: Cultivated in glass carriers the mushroom’s glow is captured in an analogue photographic process.

The natural green light emitted converts on the surface of the photosensitive paper into explosions of the complementary color magenta. Following her fascination for light and experimenting with the limits of photography, Djourina investigates the possibilities of depicting various light sources and explores the options of capturing these ephemeral happenings within the medium of analogue photography.

The bioluminescence of the so-called “wood wide web” - an underground communicational network consisting of plants and fungi - unfolds its aesthetic potential which has the ability to illuminate a forest. 

Glowing Attraction


Direct exposure with bioluminescent algae on analogue photo paper, unique pieces

SIZES: 40 x 30 cm

*Note: the series started in 2019; some of the works outside of the selection here were also larger

In the project “Glowing Attraction”, bioluminescent algaes are the main protagonists. Firstly mentioned in Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand leagues under the sea” (1872) the phenomenon of a ‘milky sea’ appeared to the sailors of the Nautilus leaving them fascinated with the unexpected light phenomenon.

The reasoning behind the reaction of the algaes isn’t definitely explained but now documented through diverse modern mediums such as satellite photos.

In the context of analogue photography though the algaes can unfold their expressionist potential: By shaking test tubes, where I have cultivated the unicellular organisms in, the necessary impulse is given to observe the algaes producing light. Including a performative gesture, the glow of the algaes is captured on the photosensitive paper, sometimes evolving into an explosion of yellowish, orange and red color blurs exchanging their size to a sunlike expression: The aesthetic result  strongly resembles a glance into a source of energy leaving black spots behind because our sensual limitations aren’t able to perceive this strength.

Additionally bioluminescence can be found in the human body as well similarly hidden from the bare eye as the floating algae carpets in the sea.



Direct exposure on analog paper with sun and seawater, each 18 x 13 cm

The series “Sole“ shows a photographic experiment that deals with the immediate environment and at the same time represents further reflections on the ephemeral in photography. Djourina follows up on her research on natural light and different light phenomena: Taking into account the site-specific conditions - the direct sunlight, the salt water of the Black Sea and the sand of the specific location - she creates chemigrams as direct exposures.


Organic, abstract compositions in sandy-blue colors capture those situational impressions on photo paper. Parallel to this, Djourina used a magnifying glass, with the help of which the daylight is bundled and, as a result, black burns with halo-like outlines appear on the photo paper, partly solidifying the sand particles onto the smooth surface of the photographic paper.


As an extension of existing approaches in Djourina's practice, the resulting works are based on her previous investigations into carrier materials in analog photography as well as on her findings on how the expression of specific light impressions can be grasped and visualized.


Marta Djourina, born in Bulgaria, lives and works between Berlin and Sofia. She graduated from three universities in Berlin: Djourina began at the Humboldt University with art history, continued her studies with a M.A. in art theory at the Technical University and in 2018 graduated in Fine Arts at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK).

Djourina is a DAAD scholarship holder (German Academic Exchange Service) and in 2015 took part in an exchange program with the Glasgow School of Art, where she spent half an academic year. Her work has been exhibited in Sweden (3:e Våningen), Austria (Christine König Galerie), Norway (Galerie Fisk), Italy (The Others Art Fair), Switzerland (CAN Neuchâtel, Mark Müller Gallery), Germany (Dorothea-Konwiarz Foundation, Burster Gallery, LAGE EGAL, FeldbuschWiesnerRudolph Gallery, St. Marienkirche Frankfurt Oder) and Bulgaria (Goethe-Insitut Bulgaria, Sofia Arsenal - Museum for Contemporary Art, Sariev contemporary, Sofia City Art Gallery, Gallery Structura). In 2016 Djourina won the recognition award at the annual photo competition organised by the IBB (Investment Bank Berlin) in cooperation with the Karl Hofer Gesellschaft. In 2018 she received scholarships from the Dorothea-Konwiarz Foundation and the Karl Hofer Gesellschaft. In 2020 Djourina received the Eberhard Rothers scholarship from the Preussische Seehandlung Foundation in cooperation with the Museum Berlinische Galerie. This was followed in 2021 by  the BAZA Award for Contemporary Art from the Institute of Contemporary Art - Sofia and the Edmond Demirdjian Foundation in cooperation with The Foundation for a Civil Society, New York and the YVAA - The Young Visual Artists Awards international network. The BAZA Award is connected to a two-month residency in New York at the RU - Residency Unlimited in addition to an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art - Sofia.

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