Boundary between Living and Not-Living

Chemigrams on silver gelatin paper - 2018

These series continue my exploration into the origin of life. I am fascinated with this moment when matter starts living. What are we? What does it mean to live and die? I exist but I don’t know why and why does this question seem so important. The actual transition is a fuzzy one, it happened slowly. Chemistry slowly became biology. Science can show a lot about how the constituents and chemical processes of life originated but, becoming Alive is still a mystery. It’s moments like this, at the edge of scientific understanding that art and philosophy flow out of. The space between the known and unknown. These gaps exist in everywhere in science (the closer you look the more there are), the origin of life happens to be a particularly large one and as I said has implications for contemplating our own finite existences. This living matter that is “Me” will someday go back to being non-living matter, that is a transition we all must somehow face, but its also one we can only ever experience half of.

I place my collective work on the origin of life along a theoretical timeline. For example, Diffusion Gradient takes place before life evolved on earth and Abiogenesis is right in that fuzzy transition when chemistry becomes biology, when matter starts living. Boundary Between Living and Not-Living takes place somewhere before life evolved all the way up to the evolution of eukaryotic cells. One of my inspirations, both visual and conceptual, are geologic timescale illustrations like the one seen here on the right. I have always loved these diagrams, they replace movement in space along the spiral with movement in time. They pull us out of or above time into a perspective where we can look down onto it. I tried to do that with these pieces, to create gradients of complexity, simple protocellular entities moving along a time gradient towards prokaryotes then eukaryotes. The motion in the pieces is then a movement through time not space. The “boundary” from the title is the boundary between both life and death, living things and non-living things and a physical boundary that protected contents of a protocell or cell from the outside. The project Multicellular Turbulence takes place on my timeline after this when eukaryotic cells lost their individuality began to aggregate and act as one unit of multicellular life.