The live biochemical installation The Great Work of the Metal Lover transposes the alchemist’s historical attempt to synthesize gold into the present, and combines it with today’s increasing interest in primitive but robust organisms that played a crucial role in the origin of life on Earth. Unlike the ancient medieval alchemical process to create the secretly composed Magnum Opus substance, which allegedly was able to transmute matter into gold, artist Adam Brown makes use of extremophile bacteria that can survive under the most hostile conditions: within a reduced atmosphere of carbon dioxide and hydrogen in a glass bioreactor, Cupriavidus Metallidurans bacteria metabolize toxic gold chloride gaz and produce gold deposits on biofilms which the artist then can harvest, extract and transform into 24K gold leafes. The installation apparently solves the ancient riddle, but at the same time shifts the focus from the human-centric obsession with life creation to the creation of wealth by overlooked life forms: Effectively, extremophile bacteria are today being studied in order to transform them into cleaning devices for industrial sites that humankind has polluted with heavy metals and other toxic substances.
About the author
Adam Brown is a conceptual artist whose work incorporates art & science hybrids like robotics, molecular chemistry, living systems & emerging technologies, taking the form of installation, interactive objects, video, performance & photography. His work is informed by the tradition of Intermedia. His recent project, The Great Work of the Metal Lover sits at the intersection of art, science & alchemy, & received an Honorary Mention at Ars Electronica 2012. His Origins of Life: Experiment #1, is a working scientific experiment using simulated lightning, heat & primordial gases that is placed in an art context. Brown’s work is largely collaborative. He has received significant support for his work from the National Science Foundation and other funders. He is widely exhibited internationally, with his work appearing at SigGraph, Ars Electronica (2011 & 2012) & the Brazilian Biennial Emoção Art.ficial 5.0. He is a professor at Michigan State University where he directs Electronic Art & Intermedia, a Research Fellow at Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts at Ball State University, and serves as Artist in Residence for the BEACON (Bio/Computational Evolution in Action Consortium) at MSU. He received MFA from the University of Iowa.