„In crystal we have a pure evidence of the existence of a formative life principle, and although in spite of everything we cannot understand the life of crystals – it is still a living being.” (Nikola Tesla, 1900)
Time Displacement / Chemobrionic Garden is an interactive generative chemical sound installation. The installation explores a relationship between hydrothermal chemistry, the passage of time, and sensory systems tracing changes outside of the human scale.
Artists created an instalment comprised of several small chemical garden formations in a water glass (sodium metasilicate) solution, to provide an insight into research on the origin of life and on chemical processes. The project’s theoretical background is based on a paper entitled From chemical gardens to chemobrionics, written and issued by a group of 21 distinguished scientists on 29 May 2015, a reiterating call for research into the principles of self-assembling structures, to produce – as they suggest – new insights into the origin of metabolism in Earth’s early geological periods.
The chemical reactions are monitored by cameras to detect changes in colour and in shape by means of microcontrollers. The changes affect the code for live sound generation, and slowly work to alter the generative drone composition pervading the gallery space. It goes beyond the human perception of time. It calls for a perspective that considers multiple dimensions of temporal rhythms in space with slow modulation beyond the spectrum audible to the human ear.
The core proposition of this piece is to create a situation in which the growth of chemical structures takes the centre stage. The human expectations are put in the background in order to stimulate a state of altered listening in which one is exposed to the geological passage of time.
The antagonism between the human and the Earth’s processes is a direct result of anthropocentric perspective. In the age of anthropocene we need a radical shift in perspective if we are to survive as a species. Scientists are on a new quest to find in these abiotic formations the root of biotic protocells. In addition, Time Displacement poses a question of giving way to life by means of shifting ways of sensing. The question of the origin of life inevitably seeks to ask the question of finite nature of life forms themselves. The colourful biomimetic morphologies of chemical gardens are a fascinating imitation of life. In the last few centuries, chemical gardens have progressed from being a counterfeit of biotic life to being the original; from childlike imitations of life to the sheer origin of life on Earth.
The colourful biomimetic morphologies of chemical gardens are a fascinating imitation of life. Key to these marvellous structures, which spent decades, locked away in an alchemist’s cabinet of curiosities, is a renewed study of chemobrionics*, a field combining chemistry, physics, biology, and materials science. Chemobrionics denotes self-propagation, the growth of chemical structures with a tendency to increase concentration gradients under conditions of osmotic pressure and buoyancy. Scientists are on a new quest to find in these abiotic formations the root of biotic protocells. Therefore, in the last few centuries, chemical gardens have progressed from being a counterfeit of biotic life to being the original; from childlike imitations of life to the sheer origin of life on Earth.
Time Displacement uses chemical gardens as stained glass to explore the optics that change the cultural perception of the world and the practice of differentiating between organic and inorganic matter. This changed perception of matter is made possible with interdisciplinary research, which contributes to a more holistic understanding of (geological, chemical, social, political) processes in the world. Although not a new exploration, chemical gardens are only now emerging as an unexpected research area and prime example in the chemistry of self-organising non-equilibrium processes that create complex structures, combining chemistry, fluid dynamics, and materials science. If research in the field of chemobrionics is legitimated by the development of new materials for commercial purposes, Time Displacement encourages such study of materials, which maintains a fascination with the potential development of nanomaterials without commercial applications.
The installation takes the viewpoint of the history of science to talk about findings, which are primarily a product of the cultural environment not just a result of research.
The chemical-acoustic setting is comprised of several small chemical garden formations in a water glass (sodium metasilicate) solution, to provide an insight into research on the origin of life and on chemical processes, which unfold at a pace that is rapid, yet still too slow to be discernible to the naked eye. The chemical reactions, where visible changes take between 8 and 48 hours, are monitored by cameras to detect changes in colour and in shape with microcontrollers. The changes affect the code for live sound generation, and slowly work to alter the generative drone composition pervading the gallery space. A sound art installation goes beyond the human perception of time and calls for a perspective that considers the multiple dimensions of temporal rhythms in space.
Previous solo shows:
@ Aksioma Project Space, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 17–19 December 2015
@ [KONTEJNER.org], Pogon Jedinstvo, Močvara Club, Zagreb, Croatia, 20–22 March 2017
@ Simulaker Gallery, Novo mesto, Slovenia, 5 to 27 May 2017
@ esc – medien kunst labor, Graz, Austria, 4 May to 29 July 2018
Previous group shows:
@ Device_art 5.016, Eastern Bloc Gallery, Montreal (CA), 12 May – 1 June 2016
@ Ars Electronica Festival, Radical Atoms Exhibition, POSTCITY Bunker, Linz, Austria 2016, 8–12 September 2016
@ Experiment Zukunft exhibition, Kunsthalle, Rostock, Germany, 23 March – 4 May 2019
@ IZIS #7 Festival – Invazija, Monfort, Portorož, Slovenia, 5 – 26 July 2019
Time Displacement / Chemobrionic Garden was mentioned in a featured story at NASA’s Astrobiology Institute site.
About the history of chemical gardens
The history of chemical gardens has always been closely intertwined with experiments juxtaposing the propagation of forms in chemical reactions with biological forms. In the early 19th century, scientific research attempted to prove that biological life had evolved from the inorganic worlds of physics and chemistry: from chemical gardens and osmotic forces, from diffusion and other physical and chemical mechanisms. Scientists’ endeavours in plasmogeny and synthetic biology were refuted when, in the 20th century, genetics established the complexity of hereditary cells by isolating DNA. In the 21st century, on 29 May 2015, a group of 21 distinguished scientists issued a paper entitled From chemical gardens to chemobrionics, reiterating a call for research into the principles of self-assembling structures, to produce– as they suggest – new insights into the origin of metabolism in Earth’s early geological periods.
Time Displacement / Chemobrionic Garden is a part of Chemobrionics COST Action aiming at research groups throughout Europe. It stimulates new, innovative and high-impact interdisciplinary scientific research on chemobrionics. The objective of the group is to build bridges between the various communities to allow understanding and controlling physical, chemical, and biological properties of self-organized precipitation processes.
The open laboratory is designed for the general public and scientists to learn about the principles of osmotic forces and crystal growing procedures. In the laboratory, visitors are able to conduct an osmosis experiment in a water glass solution, with chemical compounds such as sodium silicate, calcium chloride, copper(II) sulphate, iron(III) chloride, chromium(II) chloride, iron(II) sulphate, cobalt(II) chloride, potassium aluminium sulphate, manganese(II) chloride, nickel(II) sulphate. The audience also learned about live-generated music with slow modulation beyond the spectrum audible to the human ear.
Robertina Šebjanič (SL) is an internationally exhibited artist, combining art – technology – science. Her ideas and concepts are often realized in collaboration with others, through interdisciplinary and informal integration in her work. She is a member of Hackteria Network, Ljudmila, UR Institute, and Theremidi Orchestra.
Aleš Hieng – Zergon (SL) is a chemical engineer by profession as well as a DJ, a producer of electronic music, and a sound artist who also works in the field of audiovisual performances and DIY electronics. He is interested in sonic and audiovisual experimentations as well as club music.
Ida Hiršenfelder (SL) is a Ljubljana based media art curator and sound artist. Her focus research areas are media archeology and archives of media art. She works at the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova +MUSM on projects related to digital archives.
*Chemobrionics is a neologism for interdisciplinary exploration of brionics, merging different fields of science like chemistry, physics, biology and material science. The term was first proposed in From chemical gardens to chemobrionics paper, published on 29 May 2016, signed by 21 renowned scientists from all around the world.
Instalment plan at Aksioma Project Space, Ljubljana, SI
Innstalment plan at Radical Atoms and the Alchemists of our Time, Post City, Ars Electronica, Linz, AT
Instalment plan at Kontejner.org – Pogon Jedinstvo Hall, Zagreb, HR