Mastering the Elements is a photographic research on the scientific exploration and conquest of nature from the beginnings of alchemy until the present day. As history shows, scientific findings often have profound implications for society and the lives of individuals. On the other hand, the underlying research is not per se unbiased, but subject to its respective social and historical environment as well as to varying commercial and political interests. Consequently, ethical questions not only around the direction and objectives of modern-day research, but furthermore about the boundaries for the deployment of scientific results should be part of a broader social discourse.
In her work Jana Hartmann addresses various topics that have captivated the curiosity of researchers throughout history and in which the borders of scientific understanding continue to be pushed ever further. Examples being the concept of matter which today is advanced by quantum physics or the pursuit of prolonging human life, reenergized by discoveries in the fields of biogerontology and transhumanism.
The artist took her selectively framed photographs from scientific experiments, natural history exhibits, studio models, and nature itself. By juxtaposing them with excerpts from alchemical writings, scientific papers, and ethical viewpoints, she initiates an intriguing interdisciplinary dialogue between multiple narrative perspectives – the visual artistic, the allegorical alchemistic, the philosophical and the scientific.