Shadows from the Walls of Death / Adam Brown (US), Credit: tom mesic

Shadows from the Walls of Death

Adam Brown (US)

Artificial Intelligence & Life Art

Award of Distinction

Shadows from the Walls of Death is a long-term artwork that investigates the historical, chemical, and material agency of Paris Green, one of the most toxic pigments ever produced. This series explores the industrial overuse of heavy metals that resulted in the contamination of human and non-human ecologies. Paris Green, a copper arsenic pigment, revolutionized the field of art and industry (…). However, its popularity led to hundreds of thousands of people being exposed to highly toxic arsenic (…). The performances recreate the synthesis, production, and use of Paris Green, highlighting the ways in which nature already had a remedy for this poisonous attempt to mimic her. (…) The series explores the inherent irony that art often tries to mimic nature but in doing so by artificial means, mediates our connections to nature in harmful ways that then need remediation. The final irony is that this remediation leads to new forms of art, such as that represented by Shadows from the Walls of Death, taking advantage of the mediation of natural processes themselves for that remediation.

Jury Statement

Shadows from the Walls of Death is a complex and multi-layered intermedia and live art project that puts anthropocentric assertions to the test in an age of ubiquitous greenwashing. The project involves and combines chemical synthesis and field research into naturally detoxifying micro-organism and plants used in bio- and phytoremediation, and thus emphasizes eco-systemic intelligence to address trans-historical issues of inherent toxicity of human made media to represent ‘nature’ from an exclusive human-only point of view. In a dramatically aestheticized and functional live laboratory, Adam Brown recreates toxic green pigments, used since the 18th century in wallpapers and paintings to re-establish at home, ironically, people’s material connection to ‘green nature,’ ruptured by the Industrial Revolution. The artist points to the hidden sides of humans’ ‘chlorophilia’ by re-enacting recipes for bright pigments, (…) and ultimately bio-remediating Van Gogh–referenced motifs with extremophile bacteria and hyper-accumulating sunflowers. (…)

Excerpt from the jury statement


Rebekah Blesing

Robert Root-Bernstein

With support from: Michigan State University College of Arts and Letters Fellowship

Adam Brown (US)

Adam Brown is an Intermedia artist, scholar, and researcher. His work incorporates art and science hybrids including living and biological systems, robotics, molecular chemistry, and emerging technologies that take the form of installations, interactive objects, video, performance and photography. Brown is a Full Professor at Michigan State University where he created a new area of study called Electronic Art & Intermedia and directs the Bridge Artist in Residency Program. Brown has exhibited widely in international venues in North and South America as well as in Europe and Asia.