∂ topological landscapes - The letter ∂ is mainly used as a mathematical symbol to denote boundary in general topology.

Rife Instruments 2011 - 2015

The work titled ∂ topological landscapes consists of three smaller projects regarding the research on Raymond Royal Rife's healing instruments. This page is trying to capture the work through some fragmented archival materials, description of a 3D printed sculpture and other related media-based works, including a 3D animation and a sound performance.


The Instrument

“Visualize a metal cabinet, somewhat larger than a radio, with a nickel plated arm projecting from the top. At the end of the nickel arm is a very scientific looking large glass bulb. When certain dials are turned a film of violet flame, or light, plays over the filament, after the manner of the gas in a neon tube. Hold your palm against the flow of light and you can feel a gentle tingling sensation.”

⦁ From an online archive of clippings on the scientist Royal Rife, “Great Interest Is Shown in New Rife Ray,” Lemon Grove, California, 1938



“The Fear of Unknown is greater than Fear of the Unfamiliar”
⦁ from Barry Lynes, The Cancer Cure that Worked (1987)

My mentor, the electronic music composer Anthony Moore, pointed out to me in our conversations that he didn’t really understand this quote about Rife’s objects: weren’t the “unknown” and the “unfamiliar” the same? The question made me think and I decided that though the words seem synonymous, they actually are not. This was what Barry Lynes -- who wrote one of the only books on the enigmatic Southern Californian scientist, Rife -- had picked up on when he defined these terms by the degree of fear they inspire: “The Fear of Unknown is Greater than Fear of the Unfamiliar,” Lynes had written in his book on Rife. The word “unknown,” compared with the word “unfamiliar”, provides no additional information; the pair seem to form a tautology. And yet, unknown may be something that doesn’t exist within the range of our knowledge, whereas unfamiliar is something we have already framed a concept of but have had no chance to live with, to experience, to get “familiar” with. It is something like dark matter in astrophysics; dark matter cannot be seen or examined with a telescope because it neither emits nor absorbs light, but it is as a concept known to us. It is something like art, in that we know we are in front of it when we are experiencing it, but struggle to make an objective argument that defines it when we are asked to. This slight to no-difference between the known and the familiar, the unknown and the unfamiliar, and the general lack of awareness of this gap, is the same space occupied by the instrument that I’ve been studying as simultaneous sculpture and tool.


The Inventor

Raymond Royal Rife was an inventor of an alternative treatment method that used high frequency radio waves to kill virus and bacteria in the human body without any support treatment and side effects. During the development of the treatment which was conducted in San Diego between 1929 and 1938 he designed compound microscopes with very high magnification in order to observe bacteria and viruses in the living environment. Due to a series of court cases and accusations against Rife, after the experimental phase, the designs were never further developed.



“Can you imagine a motion picture film whose hero is tiny enough to use the head of a pin for a ballroom floor and invite all his neighbors to come for a dance? Can you imagine the film showing that tiny hero being formed within the egg, breaking the shell to escape, living the normal span of life and dying at ripe old age?”

⦁ from a clipping at the Rife Archives in London (“New Apparatuses Unveil Hidden Microbe Universe to Human Eye,” San Diego Union, 1929)


Migration (Mine and that of the Instrument)

On the 5th of December in 2013, I went to visit the Blythe House in London. The Blythe House keeps the object archive of the Science Museum where the instrument made in San Diego by Royal Rife is conserved. This Instrument, a compound microscope made by Rife, was given to the London Science Museum in 1990 by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which had received it from its former owner, Dr. B.W. Gonin, who, in turn, had purchased it from Raymond Royal Rife himself more than thirty years earlier.


“It gave an impression of complexity for the sake of complexity, that Rife just loved making all those things.”

⦁ From C N Brown 1993 The Rife Microscope in the Science Museum Collection


“On 7th of December 1978, Dr. Duggan took the instrument to the Department of Physics at Imperial College, where it was examined in detail by Professor Walter Welford. Duggan’s written report [stated] the following: There seemed to be nothing particularly remarkable about the instrument except that it has been constructed in such a way (as) to make the work of microscopy tedious and cumbersome, particularly in respect of focusing the instrument. Using all the original optics it was quite impossible to obtain an image, but using light source, eye-piece and objective from a Reichert microscope, a very imperfect image of leukemic blood cells was finally obtained. The image was about 30 percent larger than would have been expected with the use of a x6 eye piece and a x40 objective, and this was no doubt due to the prismatic arrangement in the barrel of the microscope. The resolution, however, was extremely poor. ...After more than three hours work we concluded that it would have been impossible to have produced the known photomicrographs with this instrument and it became clear to me that this explained the late Dr. Gonin’s complaint that he could obtain no result...”

⦁ From Brian Bracegirdle, “Rife and his Microscopes,” Quekett Journal of Microscopy, 2003.


On Replicators and Replication (Accidental Encounters with Laszló and Lucia Moholy-Nagy)

While I was working on studying Rife’s instruments, I also happened to be reading a book by Lucia Moholy-Nagy (Marginalien zu Moholy-Nagy) on Laszló Moholy-Nagy’s paintings, objects and photographs. Lucia remembered that many of them were produced in replica, making the originals difficult to locate and the replicas difficult to identify and difficult to date. One such object is the Light-Space Modulator, which was re-created twice in 1970 and then once more in 2006.
It just so happens that one of the unofficial replicas of the Modulator is actually in the studio of Mischa Kuball, who was another mentor of mine at that time. On one occasion, I was visiting Kuball and he actually showed me the object, which I only had the opportunity to see still covered in packing material.
When I went to the Science Museum of London to make scans from the internal parts of Rife’s compound microscope, I learned that Lucia had worked there during World War II, directing a microfilm reprography service that documented the museum’s objects for its archive. The rife microscope only came to the Museum in 1990, so it was as if my own body had become a conduit between the two: the afterlife of Lucia and the afterlife of the microscope.
Laszló’s Light-Space Modulator was broken and remained broken even after the production of all of the working replicas. It struck me that Lucia’s photographs and Laszló’s objects were pursuing me, appearing then disappearing and reappearing in readings, in exhibitions, in Kuball’s studio, in my travels, as if to insist that I notice the accidental resemblance between Laszló’s Light-Space Modulator and the Rife object -- the shining nickel surface, the adjustable parts, the enigmatic in-betweenness in a gap between the unfamiliar and the unknown, between science and art.



The fossilized replica that resulted from my scans of the Rife instrument is contained within a series of small glass boxes made from low-iron glass for high transparency. These boxes hold the microscope’s separate parts in the places where they should be if one were to reconstruct an authentic replica of the original microscope. The shelf system that holds the pieces together gives a sense of mobility to the piece: the ability to play with the separate parts and rearrange them. In every occasion I present the prints, I could arrange them in a different order were I to find it appropriate to do so. It was interesting that in the process of gluing the glass I had to use UV light, the same light necessary to make a cyanotype.



Contact prints were the very first version of any photographical method. One of the first artists who used cyanotype was Anna Atkins. Atkins used contact prints to make copies of plants and botanical samples for book titled Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions published in 1843. I used the cyanotype process to print images of the 3D scans I had made, but also to make 3D prints of the microscope’s separate parts, an archive of samples of the instrument.



The file that accompanied Rife’s object in the archive included a drawing Rife made to depict the optical system of the microscope. I used this drawing in the animation I made after my visit to the Museum -- a visit during which I spent approximately 35 hours studying and scanning the forms of individual components of the microscope. During this intensive period of "investigating" the object through a three-dimensional digital scanner, I felt compelled to take video through several of the microscope's lenses. The encounter between my camera and the microscope produced a number of video sequences in which the microscope appears to "investigate" and "scan" the room around it.

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