Hybrid Art

Anerkennung - Honorary Mentions

Vanitas Machine

Verena Friedrich (DE)

http://www.heavythinking.org/vanitasmachine/, www.heavythinking.org

The Vanitas Machine addresses the desire for eternal life and the potential of life-prolonging measures. Based on a candle which—by technical intervention—burns down very slowly, the Vanitas Machine creates a contemporary analogy to the effort to prolong the human lifespan with the help of science and technology.

As one of the classical vanitas symbols, a burning candle recalls the futility of the moment, the transience of human life and the certainty of the end of all existence. But is this end really still inevitable?

In the course of the last two centuries, average human life expectancy has increased significantly in the industrialized countries. Moreover, in the context of scientific research the biological causes of ageing are being explored. Numerous theories of ageing have already been developed, pointing both towards physiological as well as environmental factors. One of the first was the “rate-of-living theory,” which claims that the lifespan of organisms is reciprocally related to energy turnover and therefore connected to calorie intake, oxygen consumption and heart rate: the higher the metabolic rate, the shorter the lifespan of the organism.

In Vanitas Machine, a candle is placed at the center of an experimental setup. Similar to the human breathing process, a burning candle consumes oxygen and produces carbon dioxide and water. The higher the oxygen and energy turnover, the shorter the burning time of the candle.
The Vanitas Machine has been specifically developed to keep a candle “alive” under controlled conditions. By protecting it from environmental factors and by precisely regulating the oxygen supply the “metabolism” of the candle and thus its “lifespan” can be influenced.


Verena Friedrich

Verena Friedrich (DE) studied at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne and the University of Art and Design Offenbach. Her projects have been presented internationally and have, for example, received the International Media Award for Science and Art from ZKM Karlsruhe, a special mention in the VIDA 13.2 Awards and the Young Artist Award of the State of North-Rhine Westphalia. Besides creating installations in which organic and electronic media come into play she is interested in direct interaction with scientists and engineers and the hands-on work in the bioscientific laboratory. In recent years, she has had residencies at SymbioticA Australia and the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne.

Supported by the Academy of Media Arts Cologne; researched and developed at the Atelier Transmedialer Raum and the LabIII—Laboratory for Experimental Computer Science, KHM.