Terra Ignota (‘Unkown Land’) is an exhibition of experimental artworks by artists John Elcock and Margaret O’Brien.
Giving a voice to soil
Although distinct, the works are mutual in their exploration of intersections between art, bioenergy, and contemporary digital technologies. Through biotechnology, live biomaterials (soil, bacteria, electrons) are used with contemporary digital media to transform invisible energy from one live form into another.
Margaret’s work Resistance: West is an ongoing work that develops a live experimental orchestra using a series of microbial fuel cells made from local soil. A microbial fuel cell an electrical circuit that harnesses electrons released by bacteria in soil through organic decomposition.
This work develops a series of musical instruments by translating the fluctuating electrical activity of bacteria in soil into sound. Its multi-cell construct produces a layered sound composition through nuances in note, pitch or tone that each cell emits relative to the specific soil sample. Through its live and unpredictable nature, the work explores parameters of failure in the pursuit of new discoveries.
John will be showing a new work specially created for Terra Ignota. Geist responds to the particular qualities of the Bridewell’s historic spaces and seeks to enter a dialogue with Margaret’s installation Resistance: West. John’s piece similarly uses site-specific, recovered earth to power a live artwork; in this case the soil itself distilling something of its spirit of place to illuminate a ghostly light – powered by no extraneous sources. In doing so we are invited to reflect on the latent qualities of time and place, a reminder that what appears unseen is not always absent.