continent. maps a topology of unstable confluences and ranges across new thinking, traversing interstices and alternate directions in culture, theory, biopolitics and art.
Issue 1.3 / 2011: 156-157


Evelina Domnitch, Dmitry Gelfand



Nature's simplest atom and mother of all matter, hydrogen feeds the stars as well as interlaces the molecules of their biological descendants – to whom it ultimately whispers the secrets of quantum reality. Hydrogen’s most prevalent earthly guise lies within the composition of water. A slight electrical disturbance can split water into hydrogen and oxygen gas, resulting in diaphanous bubble clouds slowly rising towards the liquid’s surface. Though the founding fathers of electrochemistry posited that the mass of liberated bubbles is directly proportional to the input voltage, certain modes of electrolysis release more energy than is spent. One such mode involves water’s Janus-faced capacity to react as either an acid or a base.

Emanating from an array of electrodes at the bottom of a water-filled chamber, strings and strata of hydrogen bubbles meticulously trace their emergent surroundings. In addition to eddy formations incited by a bubble's rapid growth and subsequent detachment from the electrode surface, acoustic vibrations permeate the two-phase fluid. As the sonic frequency and amplitude rises, the hydrogen bubbles start to coalesce with one another. When the sound field reaches maximum intensity, it can trap bubbles within its antinodes. The vibrations are generated both by transducers and by the bubbles themselves, which emit frequencies ranging from the audible spectrum to as high as 800 kHz.

A white laser sheet scans and illuminates the hydrogen bubble trajectories. Each quivering bubble-lens divides the white light into its constituent spectrum of colors. While scanning, the laser sheet also swiftly pulsates and thereby extends the perceivable resolution of micro-momentary bubble dynamics. Before it even begins to map out its vibratory environment, a bubble goes through various stages of spatio-temporal evolution. During the first phase of growth, a bubble nucleus inflates linearly with time. At the second stage, bubble growth is limited by the diffusion of gas within the liquid, causing its size to increase as the square root of time. The final phase before detachment is limited by the kinetics of dissolved gas production, causing the bubble to grow as the cube root of time.1

Beyond macroscopically observable bubbles, an expanse of nanobubbles hides within the water’s internal architecture. Some researchers presume that these nanobubbles of dissolved gas are the carriers of water’s magnetic ‘memory’, enabling electromagnetic fields to saturate its innards for hours and even days after their initial appearance. In the seas and oceans, the lingering presence of electromagnetic fields photonically imparted by sunlight, triggers the electrolysis responsible for most of the Earth’s hydrogen. An essential form of photosynthesis, solar water splitting is the cleanest and most efficient means imaginable for generating and storing energy.

—Evelina Domnitch & Dmitry Gelfand



Animals and plants are formed in earth and in water because there is water in earth, and there is pneuma in water, and there is soul heat in all pneuma; so that in a way all things are full of soul. Hence plants and animals quickly form once this gets enclosed; and when this enclosing happens, when the corporeal liquids get heated, a sort of frothy bubble is formed. Now the difference between the various creatures which are produced in this way are due to the stuff which makes up the envelope around the soul-source.2

Throwing light into this pneumatic spray of perdurances, which would otherwise swarm below the threshold of human visibility, Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand’s Hydrogeny saturates the viewer’s sensorial space with the nano-architectures of froth. Straddling the cell wall between scientific enquiry and artistic praxis, Hydrogeny, beckons a recasting of Lucretius' clinamen in tune with the technologies of the modern observer. For Lucretius it was the indeterminate swerving of an atomistic layer of reality which accounted for the unpredictability of change and the existence of free will. Taken up by Harold Bloom to describe the swerving of cultural production from that which has already been made, the idea has since been textually redressed by Lacan, Derrida, Serres, Deleuze, Nancy, and Badiou. Here we have been given a kaleidoscopic technique for refining and expanding awareness of our enmeshment with so many nested, atomistic layers of object-bubbles—of things—as Aristotle might say,“full of soul.” The gravitational pull of Hydrogeny ushers a de-centered human spectatorship to the ever more intimate recesses of what media philosopher N. Katherine Hayles calls our capacity for “deep attention.”3 Vaporous attention suspended and re-oriented. Microscopic as these diaphanous waves are, the calling they produce is anything but inconsequential.

Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand are two-thirds of the Amsterdam-based Art–Science Labratory, Optofonica, an atelier initiated by the Italian interdisciplinary artist TeZ in 2006.

Follow more of their work at

—Isaac Linder


(1) cf. Brandon, Kelsall, Levine, & Smith. “Interfacial Electrical Properties of Electrogenerated Bubbles.” Journal of Applied Electrochemistry 15 (1985):485-493.

(2)Aristotle, On the Generation of Animals, 762a18, tr. A. L. Peck (Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library, 1942).

(3)“My article on hyper and deep attention,” N. Katherine Hayles, accessed on September 14, 2011.