Five Minutes with Paul Thomas

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The golden touch - Paul Thomas’ Midas

The golden touch - Paul Thomas’ Midas.

Artist, Super Human: Revolution of the Species, 5 November - 5 December 2009

This artist’s work in Super Human is Midas, a visual and sonic installation.

Touch the small gold square on the plinth in the space at RMIT Gallery that houses Midas, and strange things happen. On the wall, a projection of the surface of the gold square – enhanced to the size of a wall –appears to grow with your touch. At the same time, a booming sound belches out, as the spot ignited by your touch blooms.

This is Midas, an installation by Paul Thomas which examines the transition phase that occurs at the nano-level between skin and the materiality of gold. Thomas collaborated with Kevin Raxworthy to develop the visualisation for the work.

“The Midas project draws an analogy to the curse of the fabled Midas, King of Phrygia, to whom Dionysus gave the power of turning all that he touched into gold,” Thomas said.

“This gift soon changed from the King’s pride to a curse, as even his food and drink were transformed into the precious metal. The King lost his ability to sustain himself emotionally and physically.”

Midas is a visual and sonic installation that amplifies certain aspects of experience at a molecular level. It utilizies subsonic speakers to make the data from the atomic vibrations audible and palpable.

Midas is based on research developed at SymbioticA and the Nano Research Institute at Curtin University of Technology.

Thomas analyzed data recorded with an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) in order to visualize the transference that occurs when humans touch a material.

“Nanotechnological advancement is forcing us to rethink the way that we comprehend and engage with the material world,” Thomas said.

“As our perceptions of space are reconfigured through nanotechnologies, one of the most challenging investigations is that of spatial boundaries at the nano level.

“What is being broken down is our human understanding of the body’s territory; our conscious construction of the nature of being.”

Thomas is Director of the Centre for Research in Art, Science and Humanity at Curtin University of Technology and was previously Artistic Director of the Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth (2007). He has been working in the electronic arts since 1981, when he co-founded the group Media-Space.

As an artist working with technology, Thomas said that the most important thing that he considers when creating a new work is authentic research and relevance to concept.

“Scientific research is very important, but so too is the ability to reflect on the scientific data and imagine,” Thomas said.

“Technology is inscribed on our body, now it is part of being human.”

He said that the technical challenges he faces in working in the cutting edge of art and technology give him new insights into the construction of the work and the refinement of the concept.

“I am interested in bringing science and culture together for reflection,” Thomas said.

“I explore ideas of what constitutes the humans physical boundaries in this work.”

For media enquiries, photos and interviews with artists, contact RMIT Gallery Media Coordinator Evelyn Tsitas at RMIT Gallery
Tel: +61 3 9925 1716