Dissolutions documentation: Perte de Signal: Dissolutions 1-10/12/2016


[Digital print, Hahnemühle Musuem, 30x40, edition of 8.]



Decoding ancient alchemical texts and emblems as (literal) instructions for the construction, execution and maintenance of a contemporary, geomantic and necessarly ouroboric live processor...

According to our key emblem, the exhibition was arranged in 3 parts or stations. Each station comprises a key installation, an altered emblem, a short video work and associated research and working materials.

1- Test Execution Host


Test Execution Host is centred on a prototype leaky, light and darkness read/write Turing Machine (TM). The leaky TM processes, reads and writes ones and zeroes on physical tape composed of rocks and samples from mining regions in Northern Quebec. In order to write a one pre-mixed cyanotype fluid (ammonium iron(III) citrate and potassium ferricyanide) is dripped onto these rocks. When exposed to daylight this liquid will darken to a deep blue. In order to signify a zero on this two dimensional tape, water is pumped from the adjacent nozzle. Information is read back from the tape by the moving Turing machine head by way of a camera which registers relative light and dark. As the head moves, reading and writing the test Turing program is executed (poorly).

The cyanotype photographic process, introduced in the 19th century and long used to make blueprints from technical diagrams, is further used in the exhibition and archive, exposing working diagrams in sunlight to maps and papers soaked in cyanotpe fluid and mine drainage water. The chemistry of the cyanotype process involves cyanide, a compound which is used in the industrial extraction of gold from low grade ores. Alan Turing committed suicide through the ingestion of cyanide borrowed from an experiment he was running in gold electrolysis.

The software which controls the Turing Machine also plots the real-time, over-the-horizon positions of two stars, Regulus (associated with antimony) and Gienah Corvi in the Corvus constellation (the crow), for this particular location and orientation. A moving CDROM tray is upturned to simulate the real-time rise and descent of Regulus. A geomantic interpretation/divination of the readings of light and darkness taken from the Turing Machine is also provided. The fan of the computer which runs this software emits an engelic breath which is connected to a ceramic apparatus filled with rock samples from gold mining regions of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Quebec, and composed of earth from these areas.

The Test Execution Host prototype was produced in collaboration with Peter Flemming












2- Digestion


This station explores different ways of culturing the Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans bacteria which can break down our mining samples of pyrites rocks into iron and sulfuric acid. On a small scale this process mimes the industrial use of such bacteria to break down metal ores. This process is known as bio-leaching and contributes to Acid Mine Drainage.

Computer-based processes are used to control, aerate and heat the digesters in which the bacteria is cultured. Resulting acids are slowly leaked and leached across computer processors and parts.

Bacteria and mine water samples are re-circulated within alchemical vessels modeled on older manuscripts. The breath of participants within the Circulations workshop is trapped within sealed vessels, condensing and re-condensing across minerals and e-waste.










3- Acid rain



Based on an illustration from the anonymous Mutus Liber, an important 17th century work of alchemy, which depicts two alchemists exposing containers filled with dew to atmospheric forces, this last station addresses the atmospheric dissolution of technology; acid rain.

Within a concrete container cast from an old Dell computer desktop, heatsinks, air pump, digester, iPhone parts are assembled and contained. Following the Birkeland–Eyde process for the production of nitric acid, an electrical arc or plasma is produced between the two heatsinks, fixing nitrogen from the air pumped in into nitric acid which is then fed through the digester on to the iPhone parts.





Images with thanks to Peter Flemming

Author: root

Created: 2017-02-08 Wed 13:37

Emacs 24.4.1 (Org mode 8.2.10)