60" x 24" x 24"
copper, zinc, sea water, electronic circuit and pebbles

A shallow copper pan contains a zinc plate submerged in a quart of sea water.

This combination of submerged metals, separated by a group of small pebbles, generates a small electric current. The current passes to a tiny hanging electronic circuit which empowers a small coil of wire to repel against the fields of a central magnet nesting in the tray of liquid. The tiny impulse is enough to keep the hanging circuit swinging, mysteriously passing over the magnetic poles. This subtle movement continues for as long as the water is replenished, or until one of the metals corrodes away, completely.

One thing that I have never been able to demystify is electricity.
Alchemy is about the mystery of electricity. It generates the energy which it consumes and consumes the energy it generates.

The platform of Alchemy is a copper plate which I pounded into the shape of a pizza pan. This pan holds about two quarts of sea water taken from the Pacific Ocean. Immersed in this little pond of water is a disk cut out of metal, zinc. Small stones support the disk and insulate the disk from the pan.

Alchemy is a battery, or more correctly, a primary cell with an anode of copper and a cathode of zinc and an electrolyte of sea water. It continuously generates about 3/4 of a volt of electricity.

A small horseshoe magnet, with its legs pointed up, sits in the center of the little pond.
A bobbin unit, hanging like a plumb bob, swings mysteriously, back and forth, passing closely above the little blue magnet. A small electric circuit is mounted on the little plastic bobbin . The bobbin and the electronic components were take from a plastic wall clock which had a phony, battery powered, swinging pendulum.

This bobbin is wound with a coil of many yards of copper wire, thinner than a human hair.
The bobbin swings above the blue magnet. Thin wire exits the coil and attaches to a wire stalk soldered to the zinc disk. The wire completes the circuit which runs from the copper pan, through the copper tubing, down the support wire and through the electronic circuitry and into the coil. The coil of long thin wire channels harnesses the electric current generated within Alchemy.

Actually, two independent coils of thin wire are wound together around the single bobbin. One coil acts as the sensor for the circuit. As it passes though the magnetic field of the magnet the coil generates enough current to "switch on" a small transistor. The transistor then passes the current generated within the sculpture through the second coiled. The current flowing through this coil creates a magnetic field which repels away from the magnetic field of the blue magnet. This momentary repulsion gives the coil the impulse to continue swinging above the magnet.

I am pleased with Alchemy. The look of the corroded elements, the presence of water drawn directly from the sea, and, of course, the magical movement of the pendulum, acting without any external power source, combine to speak of alchemy, the art that led to science.

Alchemy Slideshow

"Norman Tuck leans into scientific inquiry in Alchemy, using zinc, copper and salt water to produce a current that sets a pendulum into a slow swing between polar opposites - another characteristic... that can be seen as central to an emerging human psyche that may be more rhythmic and circular or seasonal than linear."
- Mary Hall Webster, Artweek, Volume 27, #6, June 1996. p. 19.