Basilica (2008)


Basilica was an interactive audiovisual sculpture for Second Life by Adam Nash, 2008, commissioned by the Global Justice Center for the Visions of Global Justice exhibition, to celebrate the opening of the Justice Commons.

An audiovisual interactive sculpture on the theme of global justice, commissioned by the Global Justice Commons, 2008. Make sure your sound is on. Walk on the floor, touch the sculpture, climb on the sculpture, and see/hear what happens.

What is Global Justice? Thomas Nagel observes in his essay The Problem of Global Justice:

"concepts and theories of global justice are in the early stages of formation, and it is not clear what the main questions are, let alone the main possible answers"(1).

Perhaps it is emblematic of our globalised society that such a seemingly simple concept, which most everyone agrees is desirable, is in fact so deeply complex and difficult to agree upon. The work I have created in response is called Basilica, after the Roman public judiciary building. The meaning subsequently extended in the Christian era to refer to a large or important church, reflecting the historically widespread concept that justice rested ultimately in god.

It is an audiovisual sculpture consisting of arrangements of simple patterns that interact to create something dynamic and emergently complex, different for each person who interacts with it. Without the regard and input of the interactor, the work ostensibly has very little inherent meaning, other than that bestowed by convention, such as the spiral structure and the colours. White is seen in some cultures to represent innocence and purity, a state from which global justice can be conceived. White is also seen as the colour of hospitals, and therefore perhaps represents one of the aims of the contemporary global justice movement, that of universal access to health care. Purple is regarded in some cultures as symbolising power and nobility, reflecting the aim of universal empowerment through global justice. Purple is also reportedly favoured by young children, returning the cycle to innocence and purity.

The sounds in the work are based upon the inversion of the connotations of global justice, that of global terror. Much violence and mass murder has been perpetrated ostensibly in the name of justice, and such acts continue to occur globally to this day. Therefore, I have sourced the sounds of gunshots (in particular the AK47, a symbol to some of the global terror movement), bomb explosions and screams, manipulating the harmonics according to a rational scale of my own devising, to create a compellingly beautiful yet haunting sonic system(2). Some philosophers, such as Peter Singer, extend the notion of global justice to all sentient beings, not only humans, therefore I have also used the sounds of animals being slaughtered.

This work attempts to use the qualities associated with concepts of global justice as a basis for its formal audiovisual structure. Therefore it is complex, with emergent meanings and qualities contingent on the person interacting with it at any given moment. Difficult to define, complex and ever changing, yet simple to conceive of. I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Nicole Lawther in the conceptualisation and design of this work.

Adam Nash (Adam Ramona) Melbourne, Australia, March 2008

1: Thomas Nagel, 'The Problem of Global Justice', Philosophy and Public Affairs 33(2005): 113-47. p. 113. Online version available at

2: The scale is based on a fundamental tone of 77Hz, proceeding in intervals of ratios of whole numbers to 7.