Shadows from the Walls of Death

The performance series and installation Shadows from the Walls of Death (SWD) further develops my focus on how chemistry and microbes mediate the human experience of nature, question anthropocentrism and address the emergence of the anthropocene. With its title drawn from the writings of the late MSU chemist Robert Kedzie, SWD deconstructs the symbolic and superficial use of ‘green’ as a masquerade, supposedly synonymous with ecological and vegetal health. In fact, the first true green pigments were highly toxic copper-arsenic compounds called Paris green and Scheele’s green. These were developed during the 19th century and employed by the Impressionists and also used as pigments for candies, clothing and wallpapers. Thus, bringing the green of nature indoors actually resulted in poisoning people and the environment they wanted to recreate. SWD recreates the synthesis of Paris Green and uses it to produce deadly wallpaper, thus re-establishing, ironically, the artist’s material connection to the production of pigments while simultaneously undermining the “natural” meaning of the color green. In a further development of the SWD series, the green window in the Van Gogh painting titled ‘Bedroom in Arles’ is copied in a petri dish using Paris Green. The painting is then inoculated with a bacterial ecology that bio-remediates and thus ‘detoxifies’ the painting. Micro-ecologies capable of detoxifying arsenic exist due to the evolutionary principle ‘Everything is everywhere, the environment selects.’ Here, these non-human micro-ecologies not only help us out of this toxic environmental predicament but also deconstruct ontologies based only on human dominance.


X-ray Powder Diffraction (XRD) analysis of laboratory synthesized Paris Green or Cupric Aceto-arsenite depicting an exact match to the Harvard color database.

Shadows From the Walls of Death, performance, RIXC, Riga, Latvia 2019.

Shadows From the Walls of Death, performance, RIXC, Riga, Latvia 2019.
Paris Green paint microbially oxidized inoculated by Herminiimonas Arsenicoxydans. 2019. As(III) to As(V) Green color shifts to black