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  • Broken

    "This cabinet displayed a round-bottomed flask that broke during the installation of the exhibition, and which I attempted to mend. The accompanying BWC medicine chest manual highlights the qualities the company wanted to portray as unique to the Tabloid medicine chest and that they believed would set them apart from competitors – such as the longevity of the medicines they sold and the indestructability of the chests (BWC 1925: 2–3). Addressing the supposed indestructability of the chest by focusing specifically on the wide array of glass-stoppered bottles that form a large part of its overall contents and which, according to BWC, ensured the longevity of the medicines, this exhibit displayed a laboratory bottle of similar material, but in a state that demonstrates its fragility. As such, it subverts BWC’s grand claims of indestructability and thereby throws the rest of its claims into doubt" (Liebenberg 2021: 259).
  • Forest

    "The bottles and pipettes in 'Forest' were originally sourced from the storage rooms of the Chemistry department, where they awaited disposal. This cabinet responded to the lacuna of indigenous material represented by the chest and addressed this imbalance by filling the bottles with teas made from local medicinal plants. Staging the bottles and pipettes to simulate a forest references the prejudice of Burroughs, Wellcome and Co (BWC) against these natural remedies, ‘purifying’ them through laboratory processes before they were deemed trustworthy and marketable. This process also occluded the original source of the remedies and sowed the seeds of biopiracy. The various items of glassware in this cabinet were filled with a selection of infusions made from Balotta africana, Sutherlandia frutescens, Agathosma crenulata, Melianthus major, Mentha longifolia, Petroselinum crispum, Hypoxiz villosa and Salvia officinalis" (Liebenberg 2021: 255).
  • The experiment (Wine into water)

    An experiment in three parts, reversing the first miracle.
  • Breath Sculptures

    In the exhibition, 'Chest: a botanical ecology', "this cabinet extended the ideas of fragility and fallibility represented by the broken glass laboratory bottle, displaying four ‘breath sculptures’ made by the five individual breaths of children who suffer from asthma: Thaakira Salie (aged 8), Ziyaad Small (aged 10), Blake Leppan (aged 9) and Jessie Allot (aged 11). Working in collaboration with the Allergy Foundation of South Africa and Andre de Jager, UCT’s resident glass blower in the Department of Chemistry, I facilitated a workshop in which the children were taught the practice of blowing glass and then produced their own sculptures by breathing into molten glass. The breath sculptures made by these children were far removed from the functional bespoke glassware usually produced in the workshop for chemical experiments or for those conducted for physics and chemical engineering (A. de Jager, personal communication, 20 August 2018)" (Liebenberg 2021: 263).
  • Breath of a Physicist

    William Blake, 1794, Ancient of Days Inscription: "In his hand, he took the Golden Compasses, prepared in Gods Eternal stone, to circumscribe This Universe, and all created things One foot he center'd, and the other turn'd Round through the vast profundity obscure, And said, thus farr extend, thus far thy bounds, This be thy just circumference, O World" "In the process of realising this work, [Cornelia] Parker facilitated the collaboration of scientists from the physics department with those from its art gallery. She also drew attention to the scientific qualities of the artwork and, through the performative act of igniting a firework display, the symbolism of scientific discovery" (Liebenberg 2021: 31).
  • Graphene

    "Parker formulated 'Breath of a physicist' while engaging with the academic communities of the University of Manchester in 2015. She worked closely with the scientists of the institution, most notably Kostya Novoselov, who, with Andre Geim, was awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of graphene – the world’s thinnest and strongest material. After being inspired by the discovery of a graphite drawing by William Blake ('The ancient of days') in the university’s art collection, Parker facilitated a collaboration between the gallery staff and Novoselov in which he sourced microscopic samples of graphite from the drawing, as well as graphite from drawings by Turner, Constable and Picasso and from a pencil-written letter by Sir Ernest Rutherford (who split the atom in Manchester), which all formed part of the university’s collections. Novoselov produced graphene from these samples, which Parker then used to make her own artwork and a ‘Blake-graphene sensor’, which was activated by the breath of a physicist (Novoselov) and set off a firework display, returning iron meteorite into the Manchester sky on the opening night" (Liebenberg 2021: 31).
  • Canary

    Sentinel species are used to detect risks to humans by providing advance warning of a danger. The idea of placing warm-blooded animals in a mine to detect carbon monoxide was first proposed by the Scottish physiologist John Scott Haldane in 1913. Canaries (Serinus canaria ) were considered the best sentinel animals for detection of dangerous gases because they were found to be more sensitive than other species evaluated (Pollock 2016:386-387).
  • An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump

    In Joseph Wright’s 'An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump' (1768), he depicts the re-enactment of Boyle’s famous experiment. Contrary to the restricted viewing of this experiment in the confines of Gresham College by the gentleman of the Royal Society, this audience includes a variety of individuals of different ages and gender, exhibiting a mixture of emotions: a young girl worriedly watches the fate of the bird, while another is comforted by her father, seemingly too upset to view the rest of the experiment; a young boy and middle-aged man look on with absorption, while two young lovers only have eyes for each other; lastly an old man meditates on a skull in a jar, and the scientist stare out at the viewer, and not at the experiment.
  • Modest_ Witness@Second _Millenium

    Boyle's 'New Experiments Physico-Mechanical Touching the Spring of the Air', which describes experiments with an air-pump, recounts a demonstration attended by high-born women at which small birds were suffocated by the evacuation of the chamber in which the animals were held. Since the ladies interrupted the experiments by demanding that air be let in to rescue a struggling bird, Boyle reported that “to avoid such difficulties, the men later assembled at night to conduct the procedure and attest to the results” (Haraway 2004: 232).
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