In Viriditas Thoms conjures the animistic and relational tendencies of an often disregarded European ancestry - the vibrant premodern alchemical tradition - to question the history and tenacity of Modernity’s practices of extraction, exploitation, desacralization, and colonial rule.
Viriditas (2019-2020) is a live a/v lecture performance and/or video: an incantation of colour, image, sound and voice that summons a fuzzy, non-linear timespace entangled with contemporary experimental fusion energy and historical images of alchemical thought. Futuristic ‘fusion’ technology attempts to build and magnetically contain a miniature star on Earth for electrical energy demands. The quest to harness the power of the stars however has a much deeper history...
Current research in experimental fusion reactors, and its more than 70-year history of repeated failure, suggests that this ‘clean’, water fueled nuclear energy will always remain thirty years away, in the future perfect. Yet workers, like the medieval cathedral builders, nonetheless strive to build these technologies they will themselves never see completed.
As Thoms elaborates, Viriditas “is also a word that means vitality, fecundity, lushness, verdure, or growth. A greenness particularly associated with abbess Hildegard von Bingen… the 12th century polymath who used the term to refer to or symbolize spiritual and physical health”.
Viriditas reflects on nuclearity, time, energy, the pursuit of knowledge and the constructed divide between nature/culture. A 'clean' nuclear fusion energy source, if such a thing were possible, would contribute to a more sustainable society. But Viriditas also situates scientific knowledge in its long lineage dating back through millenia of pursuit.
Viriditas is the outcome of collaborative fieldwork into the state of European fusion energy with sound artist Julian Weaver. The collaboration was supported by a Creating Earth Futures commission from the Royal Holloway Centre for the GeoHumanities in 2018. Thomson and Weaver visited the Joint European Tokamak (JET) in the UK and the International Thermonuclear Energy Research (ITER) megaproject under construction in France.