Spellbreaker (breath engine) is an interactive art system using black walnut ink as a data visualization for carbon dioxide. It is the culmination of work and research for a 2017 TechHub Student Project Grant.

Spellbreaker (breath engine) aims to engage viewers outside of a gallery setting. Exhibiting at events such as the Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens Arboblitz Tree Planting, and The STEAM Factory's Franklinton Friday focused on Food and Sustainability were perfect opportunities to interact with a broad audience. Participants speak into a handblown glass globe that has a carbon dioxide sensor affixed to the opposite end. When the CO2 of the viewers' breath is detected, the sensor triggers a peristaltic pump which begins releasing black walnut ink which will flow through a tube, down an exhaust pipe and into a carved wooden basin. The viewer is then invited to take an exhibition booklet with more information about the project onto which they capture a drip as record of their breath.


The Black Walnut Tree, an Ohio native, is among one of the strongest carbon absorbing trees. It is known in folk and herb culture to be a spellbreaker of heredity and the environment. Additionally, the nut is a physical reference to the signature of the human head (the shell) and the brain (the nut meat). Spellbreaker (breath engine) aims to honor and bridge the gap between folk culture and technology.  It references the connections our human bodies have to those in nature and uses breath to activate an artwork which narrates the amount of CO2 a Black Walnut Tree absorbs. Data shows that one Black Walnut Tree absorbs Carbon Dioxide at a rate of 48 pounds per year. Roughly translated, 1 drip of black walnut ink is equal to the amount of CO2 that 60 trees would absorb per second. This artwork emphasizes the tree/human carbon dioxide interchange, while also alluding to our over use of CO2.


Huge Thank You to TechHub Student Project Grant, Fergus Family Scholarship, Andrew BahrouAmy Youngs, Ken Rinaldo, Rebecca ArdayMary Maloney, The STEAM FactoryUrban Arts Space,  Heather Taylor at Studio_Kin and everyone else for the support financially, technically and conceptually in bringing this project into fruition.

© 2020 Jacklyn Brickman | Visual artist exploring where humans connect with the environment. | brickman.jacklyn@gmail.com