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The Strindberg gold sample

The Strindberg gold sample

During the engagement with the pictorial nature of photographic material I discovered August Strindberg’s experiments. I was intrigued in paticular by his experiments with gold and the follwing quotation: »Gold is sunlight / photographed / and / fixed«. How did Strindberg come to set his experiment in analogy to photography? What did he believe to see on his shining paper drafts? Artificially won gold or photographed sunlight?

As the statement of seeing sunlight was already explored in this case, I decided to only document the goldpaper and the idea of it. Hence, I charged someone to take a photo of the goldpaper in the Royal Library in Stockholm. Accompanied by a text I present the image of the gold­paper on a scale of 1:1. Ruler, gray- and colorscale indicate the method of reproduction photography. This enhances the ambivalent character of the object, as it was formu­lated by Strindberg.

year: 2011 (2018)
frame size: 48 x 36 cm each
material: inkjet print /gold foil print
presentation: wooden box-section frame with glass

text in combination with the image:

Guld är Solljuset
fotograferat
och
fixeradt.

Gold is sunlight
photographed
and
fixed.

August Strindberg (1849–1912) wrote this note on one of his many slips of paper now among his personal papers in the National Library of Sweden. For years, he was obsessed with the idea of synthesizing gold. Like many alchemists before and after him, he failed at this. The chemicals Strindberg used in his experiments were likely used in early photographic experiments as well. Like the first pioneers of photography, Strindberg began working with chemically coated papers exposed to light. This actually produced surfaces that shone like gold. To him, this was scientific evidence that what looks like gold here is gold as well. Strindberg arrived at the conclusion that the pioneers of photography had actually aspired to transmute silver into gold.