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Jessica Segall:
Reverse Alchemy on the Gold Coast

Press Release
Opening Reception

Reverse Alchemy on the Gold Coast, a new site-specific installation by Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary artist Jessica Segall. The exhibition opens to the public with a reception on Thursday, September 9 from 6-8pm, and is on view through November 6, 2021 Wednesdays-Saturdays from 11am-5pm. Admission is free.

In December 2020, water joined oil, gold, and other futures commodities traded on Wall Street allowing buyers and sellers to barter a fixed price for the delivery of a fixed quantity of water at a future date. Jessica Segall’s new immersive installation underscores the reality that life-sustaining natural resources will become scarce across the globe, as humans both drive, and are impacted by, climate change, droughts, population growth, development and pollution. Here in South Florida, home to one of the most productive purifying aquifer systems in the world, the work weighs the value of gold and extractive capitalism against clean water and fertile soil. 

"Reverse Alchemy'' is a scientific process by which refined gold from the US mint is dissolved and restructured into new geological formations through chemical and mechanical processes. Segall’s research into Reverse Alchemy began in 2019 in collaboration with metallurgist York Smith at the Mining Department at the University of Utah. Segall and the University produced a set of experimental stones and grew potatoes in diluted gold-water. Reverse Alchemy on the Gold Coast stems from the artist’s research trip with Hawapi to the Conga Gold Mine with the activist Maxima Acuna, who has won several legal battles to retain her farmland and prevent a new, multinational gold mine from developing in the Andes. 

The installation features video projections filmed during Segall’s reverse engineering process, in which gold from Imperial mints dissolves in an Aqua Regia solution. The resulting gold solution shown in these videos is diluted into the water which irrigates the plants over the course of the exhibition. The selected plants, including Brassicajuncea or Indian Mustard, horsetail, and purple hyacinth bean, have all been utilized in studies and experimentations by scientists worldwide, exploring the idea of the future of gold mining through cultivation rather than extraction. Findings from hydroponic studies inducing hyperaccumulation of gold by Christopher Anderson, Professor in Environmental Science at Massey University, New Zealand, have found that it would be technically feasible to grow “a crop of gold”; and studies by Ramiro Ramírez Pisco, Juan Pablo Gómez Yarce, Juan José Guáqueta Restrepo and Daniel Gaviria Palacio at Universidad Nacional de Colombia Sede Medellín likewise found that rhizomes like horsetail have significant potential for gold phytoextraction. 

In addition to the lush gold-fed garden, a series of experimental stones is presented within the installation, cast from Florida Sand, gold and basalt. These stones recreate the original geological process of land formation, and effectively place the gold matter back into quartz-like veins in the molten stone.

Credit to Steve Romano, Cinematographer for Reverse Alchemy on the Gold Coast

Special thanks to The Center for Art Research at University of Oregon, Jenna Effrein and The University of Miami for supporting Segall’s research into casting gold into stone.

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Jessica Segall is a Brooklyn-based artist working in sculpture, performance and video. Travels to hostile climates inspire Segall's work, which is designed to unpack ideas of environmental conservation and support the public commons of air, water and land. Segall has sited work at the Global seed vault in the high arctic, sites of brokered fertility such as the almond groves in the California desert, and most recently, private wildlife reserves in the US that allow individual ownership of endangered predators. In all of these spaces, nationalism and economy define belonging in the natural and legal landscape.

Selected solo exhibitions include: 100 Years: All New People, SPACES, Cleveland (2020); Work in Black, La Borie, Limousin, France (2019); Jessica Segall, Concordia, Enchede, NL (2018); Tomorrow’s Parlor, Kunsthalle Weseke, Weseke, Germany (2018); Un-common Intimacy, Fons Welters, Amsterdam, NL (2018); Nom Nom Ohm, Cuchifritos Gallery and Project Space, NY, (2016); ½ a cord, Recess, NY (2015); A Thirsty Person, 1708 Gallery, Richmond, (2013); The Hardship, Vox Populi, Philadelphia (2012).

Selected group exhibitions include: Hawapi X, ICPNA, Lima, Peru (2020); Recipe About Art, Bamboo Curtain Studio, New Taipei City, Taiwan (2019); Orakel, Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam, NL (2018); Museumnacht Scene, Unseen, Oud-Rekem Kasteel, Rekem, Belgium (2018); Draw, Museum of Contemporary Art Vojvodina, Novi Sad, Serbia Cultural Embassy, CBK Groningen. Leeuwarden, NL (2018); Uproot, Smack Mellon, Brooklyn (2017); Non-human Narratives, Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht, NL (2017); Agrikultura Triennial, Malmö, Sweden (2017); Draw / Boston, Bakalar & Paine Galleries, Mass Art, Boston (2017); Fugue in B Flat, Temple Gallery at Tyler University, Philadelphia, (2017); Well Traveled, RushCorridor Gallery, Brooklyn (2016).

Jessica Segall received her MFA in 2010 from the Columbia University School of Art, New York, and her Bachelors in 2000 from Bard College, Annandale, NY.

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