This is entry #54 in our 100 Philosophers, 100 Artworks, 100 Words Series.
Philosopher: Erich Hatala Matthes, Wellesley
Artwork: Radio-active substances, Susan Kae Grant, 1995 (5″ x 6″ x 2″, Lead Box, Phaser printing on lead, Polaroid Emulsion Transfers)
Words: Radio-active substances is an “artists’ book,” a genre-defying artwork that challenges our preconceptions about both books and art. It explores the life and work of Marie Curie, pairing archival images with excerpts from her research. The test tubes contain graphite scrolls with passages from the biography written by her daughter. The materials are contained in a lead box, the very substance that would have saved Curie from the radiation poisoning that took her life. The contents feel dangerous, conjuring images of broken glass and metal paper cuts. It fills me with horror.