Deep Time Sisyphus
Louise Mackenzie (2018)
Rock salt, xenon gas, glass, high-voltage transformer, midi-sprout, raspberry pi, plywood, audio
Commissioned by the Society for Applied Microbiology in association with ASCUS Art & Science, Deep Time Sisyphus references themes identified whilst attending the 2017 SfAM conference at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead. Of particular resonance was a sense of time and scale in microbiological practices; ranging from work deep in the salt mines of Kilroot, Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland (unearthing centuries old archaea in the search for novel antibiotics) to cutting-edge plasma technology (eradicating microbes and microbial biofilms from food or wounds).
The interactive sculpture features rock salt sourced from the mines at Kilroot, plasma technology and sound. Through touching the salt and the plasma sphere, one can experience a response, indicating the liveliness of material. Electrical conductivity within the rock is transformed into a soundscape composed by Mackenzie that references human breath. Taking the theory, first postulated by author Joseph Sansonese, that the origin of the name Sisyphus is the onomatopoetic sound made by inhaling and exhaling through the nose, 128 variations of the sounds "siss" and "phus" were recorded by the artist and mapped to midi signals generated from the electrical conductivity inherent in the rock salt. The repetitive “siss” “phus” sound is said to mirror the cyclic motion of the boulder that is rolled up the hill only to fall each time it nears the top, a metaphor for eternal human struggle.