February 4 – April 30, 2023

..all of life together consists of a membrane around earth so thin that it cannot be seen edgewise from a satellite yet so prodigiously diverse that only a tiny fraction of species have been discovered and named. E.O. Wilson

Before biosphere, before life, there were only the non-living, abiotic factors and a world of water.

The three installations in aBIOTIC abstract and synthesize the ethereal, scientific and mysterious behaviours of water. Technology, sound, chemistry and time are used to further reveal or extend fundamental patterns and laws..

In this exhibition phases of water are a physical, chemical and structural material to be used as an expressive and conceptual tool: liquid, gas, solid; water, steam, bubbles, ice. We see water mirrored, suspended, projected and directed. Water is the surface, the object and the medium, over, through and around which play precise exchanges of light, movement and sound. Manufactured, incidental and composed sound is integrated into this watery fabric becoming a defining component of each installation.

The first work one encounters is The Long Now (2015), by Cologne-based Verena Friedrich. The intimate gallery, at the centre of the exhibition, contains this technology-based still-life, framed inside a clear perspex box, sitting on a table. A single, perfect bubble floats, persisting long after all other bubbles would have collapsed; the artificial atmosphere holds it aloft for a variable and uncertain length of time. Friedrich’s innovative use of technology & science greatly prolongs the normal life of each fragile sphere. But it eventually succumbs. The technology that produces the bubble and evacuates the atmosphere is triggered again and again; the brief, violent sound of working technology…followed by… the wonder. The work builds on a long art tradition of depicting soap bubbles in still life & portraiture. Known as Vanitas, the bubble serves to remind us that life is transient and our demise is certain.

Spanning another isolated, gallery space is Sky (2022-23), by Paris-based LABOFACTORY. Jean Marc Chomaz, Laurent Karst, Filippo Fabbri (composition) and Greg Louis, all currently reside in Paris. Sky is a kinetic, sculptural composition framed inside a long, raised, rectangular tray. This landscape with sound relies on the complex technological manipulation of steam or mist to produce intentional, ever-changing patterns and behaviours evoking a changing timeline of sky or ocean currents. A digital soundscape unique to New Media Gallery will be composed by Filippo Fabbri in the week leading up to the exhibition in response to this moment in time and the surrounding environment.

The largest gallery contains Infra/Supra (2016/2022) by Icelandic artist, Finnbogi Pétursson. Spanning one wall is an expansive, shallow, ground-level pool, filled with water and black ink and subjected to a precise calculation of sound vibration and light. The resulting hypnotic soundscape incorporates a series of speakers delivering the equivalent of three hertz of composed, sound vibration over and into the planar water surface. The pulsating waves generate a series of intentional, ever-expanding concentric circles and patterns on the water surface. Lighting projects these patterns onto the wall as moving tidal lines and shadows, or ‘drawings’.

Three remarkable physical art environments. Durational works that encourage us to observe emergent behaviours, causal effects and interrupted processes. Conceptually rich, they convey primordial beginnings and landscapes, environmental systems and conditions, a world or life held in fragile balance, and perhaps the potential for technology to affect positive change.