Descriptive documentation from
The Crystal World Open Laboratory and Exhibition, convened by Jonathan Kemp, Martin Howse, and Ryan Jordan, and hosted by Space at The White Building, London, 17.07 - 01.09.2012.
High voltage & high heat
With a 10,000 volt && 3-5 amp diy transformer made from two microwave oven mots, plasma arcs, colossal electrostatic discharges, were drawn through substrates of silt, mud, silicon, magnetite, and along trails of silver nitrate recovered from junk computers doped over scrap wood and rocks, to create artificial fulgurites and lichtenberg-like figures.
Crucibles recessed in alumina 'bubble' pizza oven bricks were painted with a silicon carbide/sodium silicate susceptor mix. Silicon powder (produced from quartz sand heated with magnesium powder, then dumped into hydrochloric acid) was mixed with a flux of boron oxide, poured into a pizza brick crucible and insulated with another brick and ceramic wool, before smelting in a microwave oven for 45+ mins at maximum power until silicon flakes formed at 1410+°C. Pig iron was produced from crushed haematite iron ore and smelted at around 1200°C, and other smelts of quartz, integrated circuits, and ferrite rings were also attempted in the ovens. Smelt products were then used for further experimentation including using the silicon as electrodes in the 'mine-in-a-pot' experiments (see below).
Recovered computer junk including copper wire, zinc plates, hard drive platters, ferrite rings, and integrated circuits were cut, crushed and then put in a graphite crucible and melted in a digital furnace. Either poured directly onto steel plate or into simple moulds, the reconstituted materials were further used in experimental electro-crystallizations, alchemic transmutations, or as components for the earth computer (see below).
Mineral extractions and precipitations
Experiments powered by recycled computer power supplies played 5-12 volts across electrolyte soups of sulphates, acids, canal water, and Hackney Wick mud to provoke crystalline accretions and etched depletions over various computer derived electrodes including copper, zinc, and lead, or other materials including graphite pencils, cassette tapes, shellac records, and olympic souvenirs.
Precipitating saturated and super-saturated solutions (potassium nitrate, potassium carbonate, potassium sulphate, copper sulphate, rochelle salts, alum phosphate, and ferrous sulphate) through evaporation (sometimes accelerated by adding pyrex containing solutions into pans of simmering water) were produced for further excitation and experiment, or crystallized directly onto various supports including paper, textiles, bone, hard drives, cassette tapes, and crystal-like minerals.
Crystal signal generators
Experiments were made in audible signal generation, loosely based on the Axon Hillock circuit, a circuit that captures the basic principle of operation of biological neurons. Cats whiskers of copper wire were placed in contact with various minerals including raw chalcopyrites, a copper iron sulphide; iron pyrites; and limonite, an iron ore; and signal variations included doping the ores with various sulphate solutions, or using computer fans to rotate the minerals. Other processes included exploring the piezo effects of rochelle crystals with hard drive actuators, and the hard drive turntabling of disc-pours of shellac and integrated circuits under copper cats whiskers.
Hackney Wick Construction
Two containers filled with Grand Union Canal water mixed with sulphates and acid supplied small pumps and a sprawl of clear tubes with a month-long liquid feed, leakily recycled first over a pile of rock ores suspended on a steel grid then trickled over a heap of junk computer parts on another grid before collecting back in the palletted tubs. Such a cycle of feeds variously doped the construction with sites of precipitation and dissolution, poor crypto-vegetations, and intemperate performances of the axon-hillock score (see below).
Container of sub-trays
The same sulphate and acid laden canal water is fed to six split polythene containers before percolating into a bath for recycling back to the mother tanks of the installation to pump over the assembled rocks and computer junk. Combinations of select components and acidic solutions are left to etch, accrete, clump and discolour: iron pyrites over a heap of old server memory; a yield of oyster mushrooms over a soak of straw and mycelium; assorted gold and copper bearing parts filagreed over green, dirty yellow and sky-blue solutions; a matted blackened oxide overblowing an aluminium electrode, others of pencils rusting in their leachate.
Versions of two signal generator circuits were constructed using chalcopyrite, a copper iron sulphide mineral, as a semiconductor. The first to be constructed was the Axon Hillock circuit with tubes of mineral solutions (potassium nitrate, sodium, and citric acid) replacing wire connections. The second circuit is a replica of Adams Crystal Amplifier (1933) which uses three cats whiskers contacting the chalcopyrite. Completed circuits were arrayed on and connected to the junk boards via the tubes, which then acted as audible signal interrupts.
After an electrolytic bathing of a G5 motherboard and housing in sulphuric acid, an attempt was made at recrystallizing any leached base metals within oyster mycelium and mushroom bodies.
The earth computer embeds a becoming-computer within the earth itself, allowing the earth to manipulate and code computational/crystalline structures. Raw minerals, either dissolved or as solid plates were placed within a porous ceramic/glass structure to be buried within the earth at a location close to Hackney Wick. Over time, it is anticipated that both underground electric currents (telluric flows) and minerals/rainwater leaching through the soil could re-form these base components (some extracted from computer waste) into a functioning earth computer; a machine without wires, without components and without abstractions, operating in the earth and proposing a negative ecology, a true earth animism.
Within the exhibition a simulation of the earth computer was attempted, replacing the potential flow of telluric currents with energy from a brutal copper dipole antenna. The simulation embeds a ceramic container within mud/earth dredged from the nearby canal. Silver nitrate (0.1N solution) is used as an electrolyte with recovered/recast copper (from CPU heatsinks - as part of CPU material and as extra heatsink), recast ferrite (from power filters) and zinc (not as part of motherboard!). [With many thanks to Basil Olton for ceramics.]
Mine in a pot
Earth mineral electro-crystallizations are further examined in an updated version of early 19th Cent. experimenter Andrew Crosse's “the mine in a garden pot”. Placed within a container of Grand Union canal water, contemporary solutions used in processor manufacture and recycling (Aqua Regia, nitric silver chloride, potassium carbonate) were slowly leaked out into a potted island mud of Hackney Wick silt, pipeclay, Rendlesham UFO sand, and powdered silicon (the pre-eminent human mineral), charged between electrodes of a copper banding (+) placed around the porous pot, and silicon wafer (-) stuck into the mud, to provoke transverse deformations of semi-conducting lode formations from within its depths.
The Exhibition featured a large Hackney Wick Construction with ancillary features, surrounded by participating artists works/products from the preceding open lab, variously documented on their urls: Jenna Bliss, Kat Borges, Felix de Bousies, Graham Dunning, Fiona Flynn, Martin Howse, Ryan Jordan, Jonathan Kemp, Anna Norlander, Lorah Pierre, Bruno Vianna, Nihal Yesil.