We like to talk a great deal about the merging of art and science — because both are ultimately creative practices, there is considerable overlap between them. Many art pieces strive to use scientific tools and processes to develop expressive works, and some of them even succeed. This piece: “The Great Work of the Metal Lover” by Adam W. Brown is just such a work. He writes:
The Great Work of the Metal Lover speaks directly to the scientific preoccupation with trying to shape and bend biology to our will within the post biological age, essentially questioning the ethical and political ramifications of attempting to perfect nature.
I like the connection he’s made with the cultural and historical thread of Western alchemy, as reflected in the title. The “great work” or “magnum opus” of the alchemists was the medieval equivalent of the modern unified field theory concept — it’s was the asymptotic goal of all alchemists to solve this problem.
In addition to the artistic narrative, it’s also got some very interesting science going on — the extraction of metallic gold from compounds using microbiological agents. The second part of the piece involves gold leaf applied to microphotographs, in an imitation of classic illuminated manuscripts. The result is a very coherent piece that is both mysterious and familiar.
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