Roots is a cyclical sculpture, a self-forming and composing crystal object in an aquarium, which takes on the qualities of a dream-like screen based on an old Persian myth about a bush that sprouts heads. Slowly and steadily, black crystals, whose structures resemble coral or nerve cells, branch out. Bubbles ascend like jellyfish. Branches break off and sink to the dark bottom, where they begin to dissolve and become thick clouds hovering over the scene. Audibly perceptible new growth begins on the ruins of the decomposition. Yet, the self-guided processes in Roots are based on an intelligent technical design and a regulated electrical current, set in motion by soft and hardware but not entirely controlled by it. Electricity is pulsed through the whole sculpture. It is the key to the constant transformation. Growth changes the flow of the current. The modified flow changes the growth.
Roman Kirschner’s installation materializes numerous principles central to the precursors of synthetic biology and their concept of programmable circuits and biological information modules. In fact, Roots employs a model of British cyberneticist Gordon Pask, who in the 1950s attempted to build a chemical computer on the basis of iron crystals formed in an iron-oxide solution under exposure to electrical current and which were, thus, to independently develop ever new circuitry. Too, Kirschner’s dynamic crystal genesis alludes to a time in the early 20th century when the growth of crystal formations was often compared to the origins of organic life forms. Thus, for example, the French natural scientist, Stéphane Leduc, who formed the notion of “synthetic biology” for the first time some 100 years ago, saw strong resemblances among crystal formations, plant growth and cell tissues. For the synthesis of living phenomena, Leduc was concerned with studying precisely that grey area between the inorganic and the organic, in order, at some point, to synthesize “life” through the combination of the most basic units and their evolution. Roots translates those visions into a beguilingly poetic materiality.
Austrian artist Roman Kirschner studied philosophy, art history, and audiovisual arts. He is most interested in material processes of transformation and creates micro-universes from images, sounds and physical materialities.