Nanowires is a figurative sculpture that draws on many different sources – the expanding and contracting tendrils used by extremophile bacteria to convert human waste into electricity, and the non-human casts of ancient ammonites formed in the rock many millenia ago.
Alice Channer was invited to create a work to celebrate the opening of the new engineering building at the University of the West of England (UWE) and chose to transform the entrance with its strong corten steel wall into a terrarium or vivarium, bringing the public into close proximity with the oversized aluminium tendrils she placed above.
Nanowires was developed in response to conversations with bio-engineer Professor Ioannis Ieropoulous at the Department of Engineering and the development of his ground-breaking technology.
Professor Ieropoulos describes these bacteria as ‘biological engines’. Channer is interested in artworks that are authored by materials and processes as much as by herself, and in Professor Ieropoulos’ collaborations with bacteria she found a parallel: to her, the bacteria are themselves engineers, in ways human engineers can only dream.
Alice Channer said, “Engagement with the sculpture asks us to move imaginatively beyond our own bodies and minds, and into those of other beings who live and lived alongside and as part of us and our environment.”
This is the first time the university has worked with an artist to commission a significant new work in response to its own research. UWE Bristol’s departments of engineering and fine art joined forces to help develop the sculpture.