About alchemy, recovering a method

What does the artist David Ferrando Giraut mean when he refers to alchemy in the project “Prótesis discursiva (Una conversación alquímica)”.

Published: Jun 16, 2014
About alchemy, recovering a method

Alchemical laboratory-Amphitheatrum sapientiae aeternae-1595- Heinrich Khunrath- © 1999-2000 University of Wisconsin

By Nuria García (@veoarte), Veo Arte en todas pArtes

According to the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, alchemy is “the set of speculations and experiences, generally of esoteric nature, regarding the transmutations of matter, that influenced the beginning of chemistry. Its main purposes were the quest for the philosophers’ stone and the universal panacea”.

Its greatest development took place in the Middle Ages as it was integrated in Christian culture as part of the islamic knowledge. However, some several recipe books mostly on metalurgy already existed. The first writings on alchemy showed that it was a knowledge inspired directly by God, which resulted in many problems with the Spanish Inquisition. It was a power delegated by God, which was not in the hands of the Church, with all its implications. These were basically theoretical texts that combined philosophy and metaphysics, while trying to find practical applications to this theory.

Alchemy is based on Aristotelan ideas that evolved towards neoplatonism, which revolved around a continuous search for perfection, which resulted in numerous advancements in metalurgy, glass, chemistry and pharmacy. It assumed that everything came from a common primary matter that, when manipulated, receives different shapes and characteristics. For example, the earth was supposed to come from a cold and dry primary matter and water from a cold and humid one. Whereas metals would result from the combination of the four elements.

The project that the artist David Ferrando Giraut is developing during his residency at LABoral, is directly linked with the scientific approach of  Bruno Latour (philosopher, sociologist and historian) which deals with the processes and infrastructures used to apply a language to those elemente which do not have one.

David Ferrando Giraut has been the winner of the second Production Grant DKV-Álvarez Margaride, launched jointly by the insurance company and LABoral.  The goal is to cope with the energy problem in Spain by means of a multi-faceted vision, isolating it from social, political and scientific issues. It intends to fight the problems that derive from the contrast between the official vision of the problem, proposing “a model that contemplates simultaneously human societies, industrial objects and natural phenomena, as intertwined entities with undefined limits”.

During the first phase of the project, David has been carrying out a thorough process of documentation, by means of interviews with people that embody different profiles and points of view on the energy issue (environmentalists, historians, economists). In addition he has taken pictures of several power plants.

On June 20 at 7 p.m. he will present the result of all his work at the Production centre of LABoral, which will be followed by the opening of Prótesis discursiva (Una conversación alquímica). The project consists of an audiovisual installation – a large mural projection and surround sound- and a piece of digital animation for monitor. The latter stands out, under the title of Amanecer, it features a digitally animated character that recites in chronological order a list of technological advancements relevant for human development. As the frequency of words rises, the animation software slows down and the synchrony between voice and lip movement is lost.

We look forward to seeing the results of this singular way of working.

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