Grayson Cooke




AgX is an art-science project about material memory and forgetting; it features time-lapse macro-photography of photographic negatives being chemically destroyed.

This project is comprised of two video works. Each work explores the chemical decomposition of photographic negatives via redox reaction, ion exchange and electron transfer. The first work, “HNO3”, presents photographic negatives enveloped in nitric acid, acetic acid, and sulphuric acid. The second work, “H2O2”, uses hydrogen peroxide, copper, silver nitrate and sodium hypochlorite. These processes are digitally photographed over anything from 2 hours to 2 days, and collated into time-lapse video sequences. They have been edited to a soundtrack by sound artist Rafael Anton Irisarri.

The symbol “AgX” is chemical shorthand for the silver halides, the light-sensitive compounds that constitute the celluloid image. The silver halides are the ground of a certain historical regime of the image, its material basis and possibility of signification. But they are also the ground of personal and collective memory – the blood of the modern archive, its pulsing life. As digital imaging comes to play an increasingly large role in personal and collective life, however, the form of the archive, and thus of memory AND forgetting, is changing.

AgX is thus a material enquiry into memory and forgetting, situated at the confluence of analog and digital media. The photographs in this project come from the artist’s archive of photographic materials, they record the images of friends, small details, and naïve obsessions of a former time. They are not artistically significant, and are returned to us here as nostalgia, but they are also just things in the world, subject to the same physical and chemical laws as any other body, prone to dissolution and disappearance just as much as to remembrance. AgX shows us images transcending their image-ness as they reduce to their material form.


Born in New Zealand and based in Australia, Grayson Cooke is an interdisciplinary scholar and media artist, and Senior Lecturer at Southern Cross University. Grayson has exhibited and performed at galleries and festivals internationally, and he has published 20+ articles in academic journals. He holds an interdisciplinary PhD from Concordia University in Montreal.