[ISEA97] Artist Statement: Shawn Brixey – Alchymeia

Artist Statement

Alchymeia is a genetically engineered ice crystal project where human hormones (steroids) provide nucleating agents to guide crystal growth, reflecting our presence in the crystals atomic architecture. It is an installation that instead of constructing a simulated model of reality, creates a transmuted copy of that reality: art grown from a preordained genetic blueprint. The individuality of the ice crystals in the installation is created using a similar principle of atomic recording utilized by snowflakes, but have a microscopic sample of human hormone introduced into ultra-pure / ultra-cold water as an atomic building site (an emmersive nucleating seed). Because all impurities in the water have been removed, the human material provides the only structure to build (freeze) from.When the highly ordered crystal nature of ice uses the discreet human sample to initiate the freezing process, it forces its natural crystal arrangement to elastically deform, mimicking the rhythm of the original atomic lattice from the donor sample. The tiny crystals (ice embryos) nucleated by this process, act as molecular stories,”content seeds” in which the larger ice crystals in the exhibition clones itself from. The crystals in this exhibition act as amplified recordings of ones physical presence expressed at a level of telematic so removed from operational awareness, it becomes a virtual space. Because of the explicit loyalty to the original atomic lattice of the nucleating agent, the crystals are confined by the laws of physics to reflect our unique presence in both their microscopic and macroscopic organization. Alchymeia is more than a technological proxy portrait, or a sustainable illusion of the artist; it “is” the artist, a re-embodied / re-mapped “clone” of the author; an environment where we quite literally become the architect and architecture at all scales. Brilliant colors produced by the crystals are generated by the decreased speed of polarized light in ice specific to the elastic stress in the crystal lattice. Each wavelength of light (color) slows to a different speed, signaling the amount of atomic energy expended by the ice in aligning its structure to match the human provided nuclei. As both art object and art moment, Alchymeia is not made through a traditional reductive or additive process, but instead taught how to build itself, encoded with a type of telematic goal of its own. The viewer understands that  “we” become the catalyst for igniting this chain reaction of events, thus dissolving the boundaries between experiment and theater, and between art object and artist. As an expressive new form of ubiquitous/organic computing, the Alchymeia project attempts to present an important evolutionary transformation in digital media by pioneering the basic fabric of space time as a hybrid strategy for future computing. Alchymeia is being presented as a proto-type experimental ice sculpture for the 1998 Winter Olympics, in Nagano Japan.  Brixey’s Alchymeia and the Future

  • Professor Shawn Brixey (U.S.A.)  is graduate of MIT’s CAVS/Media Lab, and is currently both Chair of the Cross-Disciplinary Arts Program and Acting Director of the Center for Advanced Research Technology in the Arts and Humanities at the University of Washington, Seattle,WA. He has exhib­ited art and technology works internationally including Documenta in Kassel, Germany, The Deutscher Kunstlerbund in Karlsruhe, Germany, The Cranbrook Art Museum in Detroit, the MIT Museum in Boston, and The Contemporary Art Center of Cincinnati. He has received all levels of major grants and awards to support this end  including: The National Institute of Health, Intel Corporation, Silicon Graphics, Newport/ Klinger Research Corporation, Apple Computer, IBM, The National Endowment for the Arts,The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Leica and Hughes Aircraft. He has recently received San Franciso State University’s first distinguished mentorship in new media, from the Institute for New Media. He is currently developing an expanded version of the genetically engineered ice crystal installation Akhymeia for the Winter Olympics, Nagano Japan 1998. As an expressive new form of ubiquitous/ organic computing, the Akhymeia project attempts to present an important evolutionary transformation in digital media by pioneer­ing the basic fabric of space time as a hybrid strategy for future computing.