The Theory of Heat
is a composition comprising of a video projection (55 mininute loop), stereo audio, two paintings and a bilingual text.
The video was made using both thermal and visual cameras with the purpose of, and in a manner to, account a story looping between facts and metaphor derived from scientific theories and mythology.
These images discuss heat as the focal point as well as central character. The title is derived from the measure of one joule, 4.1868 a unit of energy and the book, ‘Theory of Heat’, by James Clerk Maxwell.
The visual narration starts with the 'beginning of life', as Charles Darwin had said. He described life as emerging in a 'warm little pond' and explained the role of heat in the creation of the first life form. Water and heat are also present in the formulas of contemporary theories of the origin of life. These are also vital for its preservation.
Melqart, a god of the sea and the land (or underworld), is used here to personify this duality. He or she can be found on an ex-voto offered as the Cippus in the 'Tas-Silġ Temple' in Marsaxlokk.The ex-voto is an offering to a divinity or a saint as gratitude for saving their lives during a dangerous voyage or for recovery from illness. Here Melqart is represented as the same body manifesting his two characteristics, lord of the sea or water and that of land or heat, using the split screen and sound differing from left to right. The object used to manifest these images was the infra-red camera recording variation in heat, usually used to diagnose diseases at an early stage preventing medical complications and illnesses which might lead to death, or as a detector of life. Hence in this action of narration the camera is representing the Cippus, and it serves as a modern day ex-voto. We now use these ‘machines’ for diagnoses or as preventions, whereas before it was prayer which manifested itself as the 'object'. The ex-voto used here, the Cippus offered to Melqart now becomes the technology and scientific knowledge. This is further shown and elaborated on in the video in which Melqart stands in this threshold between land and sea, a line concerned with the rise in heat of the earth which is induced by humans burning fossil fuels. Melqart in the images visually revives fossils by transferring his or her heat to the dead animal to make it visible to the camera, as if reviving it with the use of heat (black signifying cold, to yellow, which is warm). These fossils are the same ones used to shelter us through architecture. They are stone made out of dead life from the sea. The dead birds shown being given life in the video are Migratory birds who came to the island through sea, similar to the first humans who then settled on the island, as well as the Cippus itself having text showing its origin.
The composition is made to question the boundaries of that which is scientific and that which is seen as art or deemed mythical, since there is no distinct line between them, similar to the shore line between land and sea and who controls it. They are interdependent in defining themselves. What was seen as unexplainable or divine is now considered everyday practice and common knowledge. These modern day ‘ex-votos’ give us insight we couldn't otherwise have acquired, therefore gaining these divine-like attributes.
Contributors: Tia Reljic, Aidan Corlett, Martha Vassallo
Sound: Nigel Baldacchino