Protoplastic Prototypes

Protoplastic Prototypes is an ongoing project that attempts to make up-cycled record blanks out of  broken down shellac records so that new sounds can be cut into them.

Although shellac phonograph records looks like the vinyl records of today, they are distinctly different – shellac is an organic bioadhesive produced by the tree dwelling female Lac beetle. In effort to form a protective barrier to shelter her offspring she secretes this dark resinous compound throughout her habitat –  chemically similar to synthetic polymers, shellac is considered a natural form of plastic.Though the rapacious harvesting practices surrounding this material were not kind to this species, for a time between the 1900s-1950s, the global music industry made use of sustainable recording formats. This was however a short-lived transition that foreshadowed future carbon intensive practices that we rely on for listening today – in a way, its biological origins somehow represent a material tipping point that kicked off music’s evolution towards disposability.

Though this century old music format has been deemed obsolete for generations, it thrives in cheap abundance and is quite easily found circulating the second hand market – making it an ideal source material for experimental artistic inquiry.

Protoplastic Prototypes grew out of initial studio experiments carried out for High Fidelity Wasteland II during a residency at Global Forest e.V. with close collaboration with the Deutsches Phonomuseum. Material research carried out by Irene Pérez Hernández. Test audio cuts onto up-cycled record blanks carried out by Studio Alex Rex.

The artist gratefully acknowledges the generous support from the European Media Art Platforms / EMARE program at KONTEJNER | bureau of contemporary art praxis, co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.

Photo Credit: Irene Pérez Hernández

Exhibition Documentation: Werkleitz Festival 2021 move to … © Werkleitz, Foto Falk Wenzel