/27 Machine

Lisa Barnard

The Canary and the Hammer

We are surrounded by gold - though we may rarely actually see it or handle it: it is concealed in much of the technology we use, is a barometer for the state of the economy, and is, most fundamentally, a potent symbol of ultimate value, beauty, purity, greed and political power. This project represents a personal journey through the world of gold and the structure of the story mirrors the complexity of the task of representing the world in these fragmented and troubling times. I look at the mythologies of its discovery and the mania of the gold-rush, at the brutal world of mining, and at the sexual politics of the industry. I investigate how gold has become an indispensible component in the engineering and electronic industries, and how its application as a key nanomaterial now offers solutions to a range of global health and environmental challenges. .

The project as a whole is a response to the financial crisis of 2008 and its exposure of the western world’s determination to accumulate wealth at the expense of the poor. Like the ‘canary’ taken into the mine, gold is the gauge by which we monitor our environment; the hammer the tool that smashes the structures to which it is embedded. Gold provides a prism through which globalism can be refracted and each topic represents a different strand, underpinned by a peculiar act of faith in its value. Ultimately, gold - mysterious, powerful, singular – is a material substance that fuses together these different versions of striving for knowledge, beauty, wealth and inordinate power.