in them, we see ourselves
in them, we see ourselves. Silver on glass, dimensions variable, 2012.
When I first joined the Alivisatos Lab as their artist-in-residence, I imagined that my close encounters with nanoscience would transport me into some sort of unfathomable, futuristic world unlike anything I’d ever experienced. That panned out. What I didn’t expect was this: many of the techniques I learned in the lab originate in processes developed by artisans centuries ago. This made me realize that, as an artist in a materials science lab, I wasn’t so out of my element after all.
I was especially intrigued to find that cutting-edge plasmonic nanoparticle synthesis owes much to Victorian-era mirror-makers and photographers. In this series of works on glass, we experience Victorian-era mirror-making technology and contemporary plasmonic nanotechnology side by side. In each, we see elements of the other. Standing before these mirrored surfaces, we recognize ourselves—both in our reflections and in the silver images on the glass’s surface. These silvered forms suggest elements of our own anatomy. In them, we see the beginnings of bodies, the residue of bodies, and the primordial bodies that preceded our own. Though these images don’t represent anything in particular, they evoke clamshells and shore, supernova and viscera. The reason for this could be the way in which they are made—by fluid fronts advancing and retreating, flowing until they meet an obstacle, then pooling in pits, folds, and gullies.