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"Philosophers' Stone" , 3D stereoscopic video-animation

Presented to the public in the exhibition "Not Invented by Nature"  in the BioQuant Center  within the framework of the international research symposium “Synthetic Biology – from understanding to application” taking place at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg on December 9-11, 2013.



“Philosophers’ Stone” is related to the project of the iGEM Heidelberg Team, EilsLab/DKFZ/University of Heidelberg (Grand Prix in iGEM 2013 competiton!

The scientific research  was inspired by the bacterium Delftia acidovorans, which is known for generating a non-ribosomal peptide (NRP) called delftibactin used to detoxify soluble gold. The team hopes that their experiments with E.coli bacteria will revolutionize the recovery of gold from electronic waste as well as stimulate the research on potentiality of non-ribosomal peptide synthetases  in synthetic biology;  in basic research, pharmaceutical development and recycling. (

Yet the title “Philosophers’ stone” evokes also cultural context of the project. It refers to the ever-lasting human endeavours to comprehend the nature and to the tradition in which knowledge (guiding to wisdom) was the highest value. The intersection of contemporary scientific practices and ambitions with  reach cultural contexts became the inspiration for my artwork.

Indeed, philosophers’ stone (Latin: lapis philosophorum) is mostly associated with the legendary alchemic substance used for the transmutation of base metals into precious stones: gold or silver.  However, for alchemists, the human greed was not the ground for their research.  The Greek alchemist, Zosimos qualified the philosophers’ stone as xerion (Arabic. El Iksir, Latin. Elixir). Apart of transmutation, it was supposed to heal all forms of diseases, prolong life, secure agelessness and even immortality. 

Thus the philosophers’ stone expressed the deepest human desires to control and gain power over natural processes and, ultimately, to conquer the death. In many interpretations,  the philosophers’ stone was not a real substance but a metaphor for enlightenment (full comprehension) and knowledge.  The search for “philosopher’s stone” was in fact the search for the deeper knowledge and its power. It is worth to underline that lapis philosophorium was not considered as the possession or achievement of a singular scholar but a shared property of those who “love wisdom”.  

"Philosophers' Stone” is a 3D stereoscopic narrative . Referring to the laboratory procedures as well as to the alchemic metaphor of transmutation, the artwork “Philosophers’ Stone” is devided into four parts:

Nigredo or blackness. 

For alchemists it was the first step towards Lapis Philosophorum, in which all ingredients where subjected to putrefaction or decomposition becoming massa confusa. a uniform black essence or chaos. In analytical psychology, nigredo became a metaphor “for the dark night of the soul, when an individual confronts the shadow within” (G.Jung). 

Nigredo was interpreted as the state of non-differentiation between self and object, consciousness and the unconscious. It was followed by a growing awareness of the subject’s shadow aspects combined with a painful confrontation, self-criticism, disillusion and powerlessness.  

in film: process in which computer waste, people and bacteria merge into a unified digital matter.


Albedo whiteness, process of purification

in film: process in which in this unified massa confusa same particles start to form an atomic structure of Delftibactine, slowly creating a complicated virtual environment animated by water and fire (referring to the duality of elements and the use of aqua regia in the scientific experiment).


Citrinitas  yellowness; literally referred to the transmutation of silver into gold or yellowing of the lunar consciousness,  the solar dawn or awakening,

in film: process in which this animated cloud becomes a precious and desired gold, the symbol of the highest value, immortality and beauty. However, it is composed of notes and records accompanying the experimental phase of the scientific project. Slowly the solid form diffuses itself into particles - dispersed carriers or seeds of information

Rubedo redness, the final stage of magnum opus, standing for the achievement of “wholeness” and the deepest knowledge of nature.

  in film: in this phase, golden particles start forming copies of the peptide, creating an unlimited  space of structures, keeping this stage of magnum opus still open, at the threshold of potentiality; unfulfilled, challenging, and evolving.