Electromagnetic Fountain 2008

By | September 4, 2010

Pro_sq_EMFTemporary public installation, urban intervention
Fill with water, plug in and play
Target audience: random pedestrians; city dwellers, tourists and passers by
Video documentation

Every city has an invisible twin, an architecture in flux made up of electromagnetic waves emitted by its numerous electrical and wireless communications devices. The water jets and lights of the Electromagnetic Fountain are programmed to respond to these waves as they pass by in its near vicinity. The fountain is transportable and designed to appear in urban spaces for a limited period of time. Once loaded off a lorry it only needs to be filled with water and plugged into a electricity supply to work. Everything else happens automatically. All its technological devices (computer, VLF detector, network boxes, pumps, etc) are hidden in its base.Though the fountain dances to ambient signals, an audience can influence and play with its kinetic behavior by coming close to its antenna with one’s own cell phone and other electronic devices. Each brand, model and type of device create different responses.

EMF_girls_03 EMF_girls_02 EMF_girls_01 EMF_group EMF at Kulturnatt 01 EMF at Kulturnatt 03

It has eight programmed choreographic sequences that are triggered by various qualitative changes of the signals it detects and digitizes, such as pulse and amplitude. The discreet parameters of these qualities also affect the speed and rhythm of each sequence and the jumps and drops of each of the five peripheral the water jets, organized in the geometric form of a pentagon. The central jet is the “solar plexus” of the fountain. Both it, and the colour changing lights work together and reflect the over-all flow and strength of the detected signals. The lights shift back and forth through the frequency ranges of blue to violet, magenta and red. In all cases the fountain responds most strongly to “change”.

EMF at Kulturnatt 07 EMF_dawn_01 Lights on 3

The Electromagnetic Fountain recycles both water and electromagnetic waves as artistic material, and its bowl is recycled too – a redundant parabola antenna dish that once transmitted analogue signals from Norway’s monumental TV tower before the transition to digital signals occurred. Now it has been given new life as a “placeholder” in an artwork that creates a focal point, a temporal oasis, a playground and a meeting place that changes the ambient flow of the city space. Finding out where to place the fountain involves electromagnetic field trips/ surveys and observations of how people moved through and used the city square through out the cycles of a day. The location of the fountain, in addition to the interaction design, form a set of ground rules for something comparable to contact improvisation, with the “contact” occurring via human and machine-enabled touchings and touch-like sensings of bodies, codes and spaces extending through technological and non-technological networks and systems. As a form of public intervention, the sudden appearance and disappearance of the fountain draws attention to the hidden nature of the invisible twin city, as well as the territorial issues and uncertain health risks related to the increasing use of wireless technology in daily life.

March-July 2010: Norwegian Telecom Museum, Oslo
September 2009: National Research Days, Porsgrunn
November 2008: City Square, Stavanger, Article 08, biannual exhibition for electronic and unstable art.
November 2008: Porsgrunn square,  Culture Night.

Producer/curator: Atle Barcley/ROM3
Industry Partner: NLI Engineering AS
NLI team: Øystein Lia,  Svein Kjetil Haheim, Espen Jorgensen and Geir Erbo
EM sniffers: Martin Howse (uk/de)
Programming help: Trond Lossius (no), BEK (Bergen Centre for Electronic Art)

Funded by: ROM3, Arts Council Norway
Sponsorship: NLI Engineering AS