Time Displacement / Chemobrionic Garden

The Beauty of Early Life. Traces of Early Life @ ZKM, Karlsruhe
26 March – 10 July 2022

Time Displacement / Chemobrionic Garden is an interactive generative chemical sound installation. The installation explores a relationship between hydrothermal chemistry, the passage of time, and sensory systems tracing changes outside of the human scale.

Artists created an installment comprised of several small chemical garden formations in a water glass (sodium metasilicate) solution, to provide an insight into research on the origin of life and on chemical processes. The project’s theoretical background is based on a paper titled From chemical gardens to chemobrionics,  written and issued by a group of 21 distinguished scientists on 29 May 2015,  a reiterating call for research into the principles of self-assembling structures, to produce – as they suggest – new insights into the origin of metabolism in Earth’s early geological periods.

The chemical reactions are monitored by cameras to detect changes in colour and in shape by means of a microcontrollers. The changes affect the code for live sound generation, and slowly work to alter the generative drone composition pervading the gallery space. It goes beyond the human perception of time. It calls for a perspective that considers multiple dimensions of temporal rhythms in space with slow modulation beyond the spectrum audible to the human ear.

The core proposition of this piece is to create a situation in which the growth of chemical structures takes the centre stage. The human expectations are put in the background in order to stimulate a state of altered listening in which one is exposed to the geological passage of time.

The antagonism between the human and the Earth’s processes is a direct result of anthropocentric perspective. In the age of anthropocene we need a radical shift in perspective if we are to survive as a species. Scientists are on a new quest to find in these abiotic formations the root of biotic protocells. In addition, Time Displacement poses a question of giving way to life by means of shifting ways of sensing. The question of the origin of life inevitably seeks to ask the question of finite nature of life forms themselves. The colourful biomimetic morphologies of chemical gardens are a fascinating imitation of life. In the last few centuries, chemical gardens have progressed from being a counterfeit of biotic life to being the original; from childlike imitations of life to the sheer origin of life on Earth.

More on the history of chemical gardens

The history of chemical gardens has always been closely intertwined with experiments juxtaposing the propagation of forms in chemical reactions with biological forms. In the early 19th century, scientific research attempted to prove that biological life had evolved from the inorganic worlds of physics and chemistry: from chemical gardens and osmotic forces, from diffusion and other physical and chemical mechanisms. Scientists’ endeavours in plasmogeny and synthetic biology were refuted when, in the 20th century, genetics established the complexity of hereditary cells by isolating DNA. In the 21st century, on 29 May 2015, a group of 21 distinguished scientists issued a paper entitled From chemical gardens to chemobrionics, reiterating a call for research into the principles of self-assembling structures, to produce– as they suggest – new insights into the origin of metabolism in Earth’s early geological periods.


The Beauty of Early Life. Traces of Early Life @ ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany, 26 March – 10 July 2022
Festival IZIS #7, Monfort, Portorož, Slovenia, 5 – 26 July 2019
Experiment Future, group show, Kunsthalle Rostock, Germany, 23 March – 5 May 2019
esc medien kunst labor, Graz, Austria, 4 May – 29 June 2018
Galerija Simulaker, Novo mesto, Slovenia, 5 – 27 May 2017
Galerija Močvara, Zagreb, Croatia, 20 – 22 March 2017
Radical Atoms, Post City, Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria, 8 – 12 September 2016
Device_art 5.016Eastern Bloc, Montreal, Canada, 12 May – 1 June 2016
Projektni prostor Aksioma, Ljubljana, 17 – 19 December 2015


Robertina Šebjanič, Aleš Hieng – Zergon & Ida Hiršenfelder: Time Displacement / Chemobrionic Garden, 2014
generative (chemical) sound installation

Programming: Slavko Glamočanin
Tehnična pomoč: Valter Udovičić and Roman B.
Produkcija: Zavod Projekt Atol and Društvo Ljudmila
In collaboration with: Zavod Aksioma
Special thanks: Aksioma team and SCCA, Zavod za sodobno umetnost – Ljubljana

Project production was supported by the Slovene Ministry of Culture and City of Ljubljana – Department of Culture.

The project Time Displacement  / Chemobrionic Garden  got ominated for the STARTS 2016 award.


Robertina Šebjanič’s work revolves around the biological, chemical, political and cultural realities of aquatic environments and explores humankind’s impact on other species and on the rights of non-human entities, while calling for strategies emphatic towards other species to be adopted. In her analysis of the theoretical framework of the Anthropocene, the artist uses the term ‘aquatocene’ and ‘aquaforming’ to refer to humans’ impact on aquatic environments.

Robertina Šebjanič (SI) based in Ljubljana. Her art – research focus is since several years into cultural, (bio)political, chemical and biological realities of aquatic environments, which serves as a starting point to investigate and tackle the philosophical questions on the intersection of art, technology and science.Her ideas and concepts are often realized in collaboration with others, through interdisciplinary and informal integration in her work. She was awarded with Honorary Mention @Prix Ars Electronica 2016, STARTS2020 and STARTS2016 nomination and nomination for the White Aphroid award. Robertina was SHAPE platform 2017 artist. 2018 she was a resident artist at Ars Electronica (EMARE / EMAP). Her art work Aurelia 1+Hz / proto viva generator (artist proof) is since 2019 part of the the BEEP Electronic Art Collection, Spain.
She exhibited / performed at solo and group exhibitions as well as in galleries and festivals: Ars electronica Linz, Kosmica festival_ Laboratorio Arte Alameda_Mexico City, La Gaîté Lyrique_ Paris, Le Cube_Paris, MONOM_ CTM Berlin, Art Laboratory Berlin, ZKM_Karlsruhe, re:publica_Berlin, Mladi Levi_Ljubljana, Centro de Cultura Digita_ Mexico City, Piksel_Bergen, OSMO/ZA_Ljubljana, Device art 5.015 at Klovičevi dvori_Zagreb, Eastern Bloc_Montreal, Eyebeam_New York, PORTIZMIR#3_ Izmir, Kiblix festival_Maribor, Spektrum_Berlin, KIKK festival_ Namur, +MSUM (Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova)_Ljubljana and more …

Robertina Šebjanič

Aleš Hieng – Zergon is a DJ, electronic music producer and sound artist who also works in the field of audio-visual performance and in the broad field of DIY electronics. He is interested in club music as well as sonic and audio-visual experiments. His music ranges from deep house and techno to idm, noise and abstract drone music. Since 2003, he has been an active member of the Synaptic collective, with regular performances and live acts at home and abroad, as well as performing or DJing in clubs, galleries and concert halls.

Aleš Hieng – Zergon

beepblip (Ida Hiršenfelder) is a sound artist and archivist. She makes immersive bleepy psychogeographical soundscapes with analogue electronics, DIY and modular synths, field recordings and computer manipulations. She is interested in bioacoustics, experimental music and sound spatialisation. She was a member of the Theremidi Orchestra (2011–2015) and is currently a member of the Jata C group for bioacoustics and sound ecologies (2018–) and the Clockwork Voltage community for modular synthesis. Her solo albums Noise for Strings, Vol. 1 (2019) and Noise for Strings, Vol. 2 (2020) were published by the Kamizdat label. She completed her Master of Sonology studies at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague (2023).

Ida Hiršenfelder