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Moment of Friday: ‘Biomass Man’ creator Megan Daalder sees into ‘Black Mirror’

Artist Megan Daalder, whose work explores the intersection of science and art, is obsessed with the eerily realistic future portrayed on the TV series "Black Mirror." Daalder, above, in her sci-fi musical "Eureka and the Biomass Man."
(Wild Don Lewis / Five Car Garage)

As far as musicals go, “Eureka and the Biomass Man” revolves around a pretty unusual topic: a love story between a custodian named Eureka and a large blob of synthetic biological materials known as Biomass Man. There is singing and music and a 7-foot blob puppet. And it’s all part of a performance staged by Megan Daalder at the Five Car Garage gallery in Santa Monica (which is, literally, a five-car garage).

“The whole story takes place in 2100 when climate change has forced us to implement adaptive strategies, and synthetic biology is one of the strategies,” Daalder says of her musical, which revolves around the biomass creature, who filters atmosphere pollutants, and the human janitor hired to clean Biomass Man’s room.

“Singing is her coping mechanism and eventually the Biomass takes an interest in her singing,” says the artist, who, incidentally, plays the title role of Eureka in the show. “Then it kind of learns to sing with her and they eventually fall in love with each other.”

For Daalder, an 18-minute musical about synthetic biology is not entirely unusual. Her work frequently explores the overlap between art and science and even sci-fi. (She once did a performance that consisted of a series of choreographed movements linked to a video about artificial intelligence algorithms.)

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These interests are behind her selection of the television series “Black Mirror” for today’s Moment of Friday. The series, produced by Channel 4 in England (and available via DirecTV in the U.S.), is a dark, futuristic dystopia with a wary eye on technology. Humans die and are brought back to life, individuals continually record their lives and hijackings become a virtual affair.

Daalder says she is fascinated by the idea of the near future in science fiction, which is why “Black Mirror” appeals to her.

“It is such a careful illumination of what is happening now in terms of humans’ relationship to technology,” she says, citing an episode in which “everyone records their lives at all times,” prompting a crisis of apparent infidelity for one couple.

“The show is one exaggeration away from being real,” Daalder says, “so it feels really connected to daily life.”

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Her musical, “Eureka and the Biomass Man,” stems from some of these same concerns, issues that are percolating now but that will likely achieve greater significance in the near future. Synthetic biologists today are doing things like trying to grow fake meat, “victimless leather” and biological skin substitutes. What will become of those life forms and us in 10 or 20 or 100 years? These are questions that inspired Daalder.

“Plus, there’s the idea of containing all of these life forms in a room,” she adds. “The notion that our planetary crisis would be resolved in some way by putting life inside a room is pretty interesting.”

“Eureka and the Biomass Man” will be performed tonight at 8 and Saturday at 6 and 8 p.m. at Five Car Garage in Santa Monica. RSVP in advance for a seat and directions to the space, emmagrayhq.com.


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