Study/C3H8, e-, NaCl
Single channel video / color / sound
51 Million BTU’s/Metabolism Study/C3H8, e-, NaCl,
is a video installation engaged with the transformation of energy
a group of site-process, kiln/furnace works of the late 1980’s.
Using the projection of video on a rock-salt-surfaced screen, 51
Million BTU’s/ Metabolism Study/C3H8, e-, NaCl, visually and
metaphorically expatiates upon scientific ideas initiated in the
site projects about the ancient solar origin of fossil fuels. These
concepts briefly state that Mesozoic-Cenozoic sunlight shining on
ancient forests and mats of algae floating on ancient seas was transformed
along with atmospheric CO2 by photosynthesis into energy laden organic
materials. These materials were later deposited and further transformed
by geologic processes into what are now called fossil fuels. The
ignition and transformation of fossil fuels in the site projects
releases the stored ancient sunlight in the form of radiant energy.
The environmental kiln/furnace works captured on the video are Untitled
(Earth Orchid), 1988, Oculus: Dead Sea/Oil Field, 1989 and Humboldt
Ship, 1989. These are grouped under the title of “51 Million
BTU’s” (British Thermal Unit, is a scientific term
for the measurement of energy) which is the total calculated energy
in the firing of these projects. This series in itself makes an
initial exploration through form, image and process of the solar/botanical/geologic
origin of fossil fuels and the transformative energy released by
their ignition. As an example, Untitled (Earth Orchid) examines botanical
form by the ignition of natural gas into radiant energy within the
central core of a kiln/furnace shaped to resemble the cross-section
of an abstract orchid.
a prototype version of 51 Million BTU’s/ Metabolism Study/C3H8,
e-, NaCl, 1991-1993, a single three-tube video projector was
used to project
an interwoven sequence of the furnace firings onto the rock
salt screen. The salt crystal screen references the generally
environment in which botanic materials were originally deposited.
The crystals also act as prisms to diffract the projected video
image breaking down its visual structure. The projected images
in this prototype version underwent a partial transformation
towards sunlight, still retaining much of their form.
An optimum version of the project employs three, 3-tube video projectors also
projecting onto a heavily rock salt encrusted screen and completely powered by
contemporary sunlight through the use of solar voltaic panels. The use of three
video projectors serves to completely transform the projected image into an intense,
undifferentiated light reminiscent of sunlight. Simultaneous sound and image
of non-diffracted video is seen on adjacent monitors so the viewer can see the
degree of transformation taking place.
The concepts explored in 51 Million BTU’s/ Metabolism Study/C3H8,
e-, NaCl have been also examined in an outdoor installation in
Pitzer Project: A Prototype
System for the Production and Redistribution of Ancient Sunlight, 1996, Pitzer
College, Claremont, CA.
John Roloff, 1999