Maarten Vanden Eynde

The Power of None

2018
Wood, metal, copper wire, printed silicon wafers, silicon sculpted brain
500 x 500 x 120 cm

The Power of None is a multifaceted installation that deals with the different agencies of silicon, tracing its past, present and future potential.

Over 90% of the earth's crust is composed of silicate minerals, making silicon the second most abundant element in the earth's crust, after oxygen. It is the basic material in the production of integrated circuits used in computers, TVs, mobile phones and all types of electronic equipment and semiconductor devices; and is also used in large quantities for the production of photovoltaic solar cells. Since the beginning of the digital revolution, microchips made of silicon have consistently been shrunk to smaller and smaller sizes, as was articulated in Moore’s Law in 1965. By the beginning of the 21st century the traditional chip circuitry made of silicon has become too microscopic to work reliably, marking the end of the silicon age.

The centre of The Power of None consists of a silicon copy of a human brain, and doubles as the core of a prehistoric computer. Surrounding the centre is a field of silicon wafers, the raw material to produce transistors, that are mounted on standards like circular solar panels. They are connected to the central brain with raw copper wires and are arranged like a devoting army or cult. On the silicon wafers a variety of centric diatoms is made visible. Diatoms are a major group of micro-algae, and are among the most common types of phytoplankton. A unique feature of diatom cells is that they are enclosed within a cell wall made of silica. Researchers are now using diatoms and other single-celled algae as templates for developing new solar cells that can produce up to three times as much energy as conventional solar cells.

The diatoms shown in the work are taken from the world famous Universum Diatomacearum Möllerianum that is kept in a vault in the botanical garden of Meise in Belgium. It is the holy grail for microbiologists, made by Johann Diedrich Möller in 1890, consisting of 4026 varieties of unique ornamental forms. Using specialized photography and printing techniques, the original image was transferred onto the silicon wafers.