the elaboratory’s elixir

The elaboratory’s elixir’ curated by Tara Gilbee in collaboration with Jacques Soddell and Kent Wilson.

Exhibited in the Periscope program – Castlemaine State Festival 2013.

It was developed over a year at the site and drew on the sites historic uses, its current material degradation and actual material from the site via the sites garden and associated ‘material medica’ freely available.

The artworks aim was to draw on phenomenological approaches to engaging the audience experience of the vast symbols within Alchemy. My prior artworks such as Deluge and Cold Light had explored various transformations of material that eluded to watery under world states, with mysterious forces at hand. This work became an allegorical evocation of the alchemical work and quest for the elixir of life. The installation took the actions of cleansing, purification, sublimation, evaporation and distillation of elements, all found within the garden of the site. It then translated this alchemical process into a metaphorical laboratory that evoked a sense of incantation for healing. The work used sculpture, video, light and sound to create a sense of transformation and mystery within the spaces it inhabited.

This series of work also followed the sculptural influences of the artist Louise Bourgeois whose Cell series and in particular the work Precious Liquids utilised the relationship of enclosed spaces and the materiality and relationship of numerous objects to draw psychological parallels with the body.

Many alchemists used their search as a metaphor for the search for moral perfection, believing that what could be accomplished in nature could be accomplished in the heart and mind.This open-ended interpretation allowed a more contemporary approach within my arts practice to be layered its historic meaning. Drawing on a correlate range of metaphors between the body of nature and the human body. The seasonal miracles associated with ‘correspondences’ between human life cycles and the life cycles of animals and plants.

The audience was lead into a sensorial experience of herbal scents and projected images of liquid moving, transforming and creating magical mists. There were rooms with curious objects invested with dried herbs that took on bodily motifs. Vessels filled with aromatic liquid, encrusted with salt crystals or oozing with syrupy concoctions. Strange apparatus and implements for mixing and distilling were displayed for wonder and curiosity. Reflections from the water filled vessels were projected and one room appeared overgrown with dried herbs. The smells of the installation became the first entry point to the audience as they adjusted to low lighting and curious objects of wonder.

The Elaboratory & the Elixir of Life: An apothecary’s wonderment – Part 1 (2013) from Jacques Soddell on Vimeo.