Ella Littwitz

And a third of the waters became wormwood, 2018

Harlan Levey Gallery, Brussels


Text by Harlan Levey and Laura Brown

Kwisatz Haderach

Corpus Alienum

Exhibition view of “and a third of the waters became wormwood” at Harlan Levey Projects

Photo by Nora Bertholomé


1,066,636 (left) 461,493 (floor) 38,933 (right), 2018

GeoCells, wood and metal

240x240x10 cm, 40x240x240 cm, 240x240x10 cm


The three sculptures follow the trajectory of the three Mediterranean migration routes into the EU in recent years. The three pieces are constructed of geocells, a material which is used to prevent erosion and the movement of soil. The eastern Mediterranean route into Greece represents the arrival of 1,066,636 of immigrants by sea since the onset of the current migrant crisis. The sculpture on the left wall specifically follows the passage from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesvos, one of the shortest sea routes into the EU, and therefore one of the most frequented paths within the eastern route. The sculpture on the back wall depicts the movement of 38,933 of migrants who have entered Europe by western Mediterranean route, primarily crossing from Morocco to Spain. In the middle of the gallery lies the form of the most perilous Mediterranean route, the Central Route from northern Africa to southern Italy, representing 461,493 immigrants.



*Numbers represent the latest available figures of sea arrivals to Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Malta and Spain, dating back through 2015 when the European migrant crisis began, as published by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency at https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/mediterranean.

More information on the sources of these figures can be found at


Photo by Nora Bertholomé

Far As Where Olive Grows, Low As The Bottom Of The Sea

olive waste, plaster, wood

13 x 96 x 19 cm


A cylinder composed of gypsum and olive waste- produced in the industrial extraction of olive oil and sold as an eco-heating product mimics the form of a drill-core soil sample.

In the 1970s, geologists extracted drill cores from the Mediterranean sea bed containing gypsum and other salts minerals which are formed when salt water evaporates, proving that the Mediterranean had at one time evaporated and that the Mediterranean Basin had once been connected by land.

Littwitz’s drill core brings together two materials which connect the Mediterranean Basin- the olive tree stands found around growing throughout the entire basin, and the gypsum in the earth, now below water, which once physically connected it by land.

Photo by Nora Bertholomé


dust on paper

98 x 67.5 cm


Based on a satellite capture of Saharan dust travelling across the Mediterranean toward Europe, “Aerosol” illustrates the movement of airborne particles of earth. Using dust itself as a medium, Littwitz depicts the migration of a material whose movement is completely uncontrollable as it travels from one continent to another irrespective of man-made borders.

Blood Knot


80 x 23 x 13 cm


“Knot” is one of the earliest units of measurement of nautical speed, while

paradoxically a knot is something that secures a line or two lines to prevent or control movement. The blood knot is among the strongest knots for joining two separate lines, so strong that once tied it is impossible to separate the two lines again. Its resistance to slippage of wet lines and its minimal resistance while moving through the water, make it an incredibly useful knot for fishermen. The knot’s usage evokes images of seaside life, while it’s practical function literally unites two elements that were once separate into one continuous line with a secure and permanent connection.

Photo by Nora Bertholomé

De facto

International water, Coca Cola bottle

31x 8.5 x 8.5 cm


A coke bottle holds sea water collected from the international waters of the Mediterranean. Sea water may circulate freely between national jurisdictions, or into a space of non-jurisdiction, belonging to no country in particular. The water that Littwitz has collected from this zone is in a way state-less, like so many of the people crossing the Mediterranean. However the sea waters’ ease of movement is in stark contrast with the limited freedom of movement of people between these same borders.

Photo by Nora Bertholomé

The Horizon Under the Sea

pencil on paper

70.8 x 74 cm


From the 1950s through 1970s, various research expeditions performed surveys of the Mediterranean seabed which revealed a layer of salt buried below the surface, called the M Reflector. The presence of this deposit indicates that the Mediterranean sea had once dried up before subsequently filling with water again, an event known as the Messinian Salinity Crisis. Based on a survey of the M Reflector taken the coast of Spain, Littwitz’s drawing shows the two strata of the earth beneath the sea, revealing at once the Mediterranean’s past and present.

Blood Rain

seven laboratory bowls, red alga

12 x 10.5 x 10.5 cm


Blood rain is a phenomenon in which rain takes on a red color, and was once believed to be actual blood falling from the sky, marking a terrible omen. Literary references to blood rain are scattered throughout history, with the earliest mention in Homer’s Iliad.

In the Book of Revelation, seven angels sound trumpets announcing seven apocalyptic events. At the sound of the second trumpet, a flaming mountain crashes into the sea, turning a third of the sea to blood and killing a third of the creatures in it (Revelation 8:8-9). Later, seven angels pour seven bowls, each containing God’s wrath in the form of a different plague, onto the earth, the second and third of which cause the sea and fresh water to turn to blood (Revelation 16:3-4).

In recent years, there have been multiple occurrences of blood rain. In one case in Karela, India, the red color of the rain was found to be caused by the presence of spores of red algae which was not native to India but to Europe and was transported between continents by clouds.3 This marked the first time that a scientific explanation was given this phenomenon.

Littwitz has recreated  blood rain using the responsible algae, and has allowed it to dry in seven laboratory evaporating dishes, reminiscent of the angels’ sevel bowls. In this dried specimen, disparate places, epochs, and beliefs are linked together

Exhibition view of “and a third of the waters became wormwood” at Harlan Levey Projects

Photo by Nora Bertholomé