Hybrid Art

Anerkennung - Honorary Mentions

Luminiferous Drift

Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand


The biosphere cannot be understood through its own phenomena without considering its poignantly discernible connection to the entire structure of the cosmos. Vladimir Vernadsky

As if observed from outer space, the whirling climate of a hypothetical planet is punctili-ously irradiated by a population of luminescent unicellular proto-plankton. The installation creates primordial cellular conditions characterized by an enzyme-activated metabolism that releases energy in the form of light. The cells are generated by a pneumatic micro-fluidic chip in which several aqueous solutions are mixed and injected into an oil mem-brane. These double-emulsion protocells are then released into a rotating bath of water that models the polygonal formation crowning Saturn’s north pole.

Composed of complex non-living chemistry, protocells are experimental precursors of biological cells, and might offer a glimpse of the transition from the barren Earth to the early biosphere. However, being the most intricate chemical reactor ever encountered, the living cell has eluded all attempts to duplicate it from scratch, and consequently, un-ravel its origination. One of the pivotal phases of early cellular evolution was the appear-ance of unicellular autotrophs known as phytoplankton. Earth's primary eco-synthesizers, phytoplankton metabolize sunlight into over half of the oxygen in the atmosphere, and carbon dioxide into organic compounds that fuel the whole planetary food chain. At night, their residual energy is emitted as bioluminescence–for still unknown reasons that have bewildered such varied minds as Aristotle, Newton, and Darwin.

Encompassing a wide range of disciplines from synthetic biology and biochemistry to fluid dynamics and climatology, Luminiferous Drift evolved through a highly challenging two-year trajectory. First, climate-modeling experiments were conducted at LadHyX (The Hy-drodynamics Laboratory of École polytechnique). Afterwards, the Huck Group (Radboud University) helped formulate an enzyme-regulated chemiluminescent reaction. Finally, at the Hui Lab (University of California, Irvine) a micro-fluidic chip was designed to encapsu-late the luminescence inside an oil membrane.

Luminiferous Drift has resulted in a dynamic, non-equilibrium spectacle that evokes the biosphere as a cosmic phenomenon originating beyond terrestrial history.


Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand

Evelina Domnitch (BY), born in 1972, Minsk, Belarus, and Dmitry Gelfand (US), born in 1974, St. Petersburg, Russia, create sensory immersion environments that merge phys-ics, chemistry, and computer science with uncanny philosophical practices. Having dis-missed the use of recording and fixative media, Domnitch and Gelfand’s installations exist as ever-transforming phenomena offered for observation.

Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand in association with Jean-Marc Chomaz (LadHyX, École polytechnique) and Erik Werner (Hui Lab, University of California lrvine).
Sound by Richard Chartier.
With additional scientific support from Wilhelm Huck and Emilien Dubuc (Huck Group, Rad-boud University).
Support received from Beall Center for Art + Technology (USA), Creative lndustry Fund (NL), Carraso Foundation (FR)
Photocredits: Martin Argyroglo, Evelina Domnitch, Dmity Gelfand