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Curtin University
Collaborative Research in Art, Science and Humanity


Nano Arts Lab

Dr Paul Thomas and Kevin Raxworthy

Midas with finger of viewer

The Midas project is a visual and sonic installation that amplifies certain aspects of experience at the nano level. The project draws analogies to the curse of the fabled Midas, King of Phrygia, to whom Dionysus gave the power of turning all that he touched into gold. The gift of touch soon changed for the king, from a source of pride in his abilities to a curse, as even his food and drink transformed into gold. The Midas project uses the skin cell as a visual metaphor for exploring the deterritorilization and reterritorialization of the nanobiological body.

lab procedures

The Midas project uses the atomic force Microscope (AFM), invented in 1986. Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr cultured skin cells on substrates at SymbioticA Research Lab which were then scanned by the AFM. The AFM produces images of atoms, constructing a machinic visualisation of the invisible.

scanning of the cell

The recorded data of vibrating atoms is translated into sound files. The final installation comprises a gold coated three-dimensional model of the cell and a live feed digital projection. These are initially presented in the installation with an image of the skin cell. The viewer touches the gold coated model of the cell to play the sounds of the atoms and to initiate the release of semi-autonomous nano assemblers.

nanobot attack

A genetic algorithm is applied to 'contaminate' the skin cell image resulting in a landscape where the nanobots eat away at the representation. Through its experiential space, the project reconfigures perceptions of space and scale.

view of table

Installation view: gold interface and projected image

installation view with projection

Kevin Raxworthy is senior technician in the Studio of Electronic Arts (SEA) at Curtin University of Technology. Kevin has been working in the area of media art since 1983. He was the technical support officer for the Biennale of Electronic Art Perth 2002 and 2004. Raxworthy has been working in collaboration with Paul Thomas on the Midas Project that was exhibited at Enter 3 Prague in 2007. In their current project Nanoessence he is writing an algorithm based on cellular automaton. The algorithm is affected and stimulated by using the different information gained from sensors that read the user's breath. Kevin's work looks at the nexus between artificial life, code space and art. He is currently completing his masters in electronic Art. Raxworthy has recently completed a Master of Art (Electronic Art)

Associate Professor Paul Thomas, currently holds a joint position as Head of Painting at the College of Fine Art, University of New South Wales and Head of Creative Technologies, Centre for Culture and Technology, Curtin University of Technology. In 2009 he established Collaborative Research in Art Science and Humanity (CRASH) at Curtin. Paul is a practicing electronic artist whose work has exhibited internationally and can be seen on his website