Of Air

Nina Canell and Robin Watkins

Physics says dreams, thoughts and ideas are not made of matter, but they are a byproduct of electromagnetic activity in the brain. In 1869 Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev created the periodic table of elements. According to legend, he dreamed the solution, creating a system that not only matched what was already known, but also predicted 10 elements that were not yet discovered. Intrigued as to whether air could hold the physical potential to contain traces of energy in the form of ideas, Canell and Watkins travelled to St. Petersburg to Medeleev's preserved study. Equipped with a specialised glass jar they emptied it by generating a vacuum, and collected 3800ml of air, perhaps along with the lingering elemental residue of Mendeleev's dream.

Of Air contains the possibility that something might be there or not, a transparent certainty that is right in front of us, yet at the same time entirely inaccessible.

Image credit: AMC Collezione Coppola

About the contributor(s) 

Nina Canell's work demonstrates a strong interest in the theme of transformation and employs a range of different materials – from the synthetic to the organic. Canell’s works have a strong poetic element, thanks to her distinctive sculptural language. Heat, electricity, viscosity and forces of resistance are incorporated in delicate physical reactions, revealing that which in daily life is hidden from view. Canell and Watkins are long-term collaborators. They have previously realised several film works and musical recordings as well as numerous live performances and events.