Monolith (2022)

Monolith is an experimental installation in which chemical processes create organic and eternally morphing landscapes and  life-like creatures. These reactions are being created and projected live onto a large screen, and are accompanied by a musical composition (or live performance) created by pianist Helena Basilova and sound artist Shoal.

In 2019, I started experimenting with chemical gardens in my studio. By testing various metal salts such as copper sulfate or cobalt (II) chloride into different concentrations of sodium silicate (water-glass). These iron salts then dissolve into the water-glass, and through buoyancy and osmosis grow upwards, creating gelatinous membranes. I was fascinated by the organic shapes created, as if these chemicals were alive. 

Stephane Leduc’s experiments with chemical gardens.

After lots of experimentation in the studio based on information gathered online, I stumbled upon Stéphane Leduc’s work, and his book Mechanism of Life. Leduc was a French physician who extensively experimented with these chemical gardens at the beginning of the 20th century, and who proposed quite a paradigm shift in the world of science based on these synthetic life-like growth,  essentially rejecting the general assumption shared amongst many natural philosophers of the existence of a vital force, a life-specific vitalis responsible for the organisation and complexification of the embryo. Leduc’s theory was questioning the very nature of life, as he put so simply;

“Since we cannot distinguish the line between life and the rest of nature’s phenomena, we should conclude that this line does not exist, which satisfies the law of continuity between all phenomena.”

A group of osmotic plants.

Concept by: Vincent Rang
Music by: Helena Basilova and Kenny Kneefel (Shoal)
Installation designed and built by: Jord Beets
Produced with the kind support of the AFK fund and the Amarte Fund.

MONOLITH was premiered on January 5th 2023, as part of FIBER and The Rest is Noise at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam.