Chromobytes
5 August 2017

In collaboration with Sioban Imms
Commissioned by Abandon Normal Devices 2017

In a few hundreds or thousands or millions of years, what trace will remain of our post-industrial industries, and its not-so-post industrial pollution? Digital culture is often discussed in immaterial terms, but it depends on material substrates: mineral ores, mined from seams, processed and purified. Given enough time all this knowledge, the cat gifs and the culture stored in disks, drives and tapes will sink back to become a smear in some rock somewhere.

We tried to connect the vastly different timescales of digital and geology: petaflops and epochs. To revel in the thought that the beat of our fast digital culture will inevitably fall back in to the slow drip of water in cave.

We set out to re-order a set of digital storage media according to their elemental materials. Instead of being organised according to date, dewey decimal or other criteria, we tried to return the organisation of the object to a more elemental state.

Working with Dr. Frank Mair, who is based in the Chemistry Lab at the University of Manchester, we partially dissolved some computer disks in acid. Then drawing on concepts from column chromatography, a technique used to sort and separate mixtures, we created Chromobytes: artificial stalagmites precipitated with the metal ions from discarded hard disc drives … A kind of geology made from digital technology.

Chromobytes was also shown as part of the Bioart and Design Award show at MU Musuem, Eindhoven.


With special thanks to Dr. Frank Mair and the School of Chemistry at Manchester University for their invaluable knowledge and development of the project.

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