The Electromagnetic Fountain

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Antenna Aesthetics Berlin

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Tower with railings P1050770
Tower, with railings, Kreuzberg

The Birds 2 The Birds 1
The Birds, Mitte

Urban Totem Poles
Industrial design, Mitte


Parabola with cam
Parabola antenna and wireless security cam, Mitte

Gargoyle Three Muses 2 Three Muses 1 Eagles Wired for sight 2 Wired for sight 1 Wrapped
Statues with security cam antennas attached to them, Mitte.
The cams, though a metre or so away, peer in the same direction as the statues.

Watching Tower
Watching Tower, Mitte

Deep North (rough notes, still editing)

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Climate change as paradigm shift

It’s Saturday afternoon. I’m in my studio in Oslo and I’m supposed to be doing some accounting. I have dropped in to the live stream from the auditorium at Transmediale in Berlin – a panel debate about climate change – and I become more occupied with what’s going on there than what I’m supposed to be doing here.

There is a woman speaking, her name is Alice Miceli.

Alice Miceli

I’m not exactly sure what she is talking about at this point,  but she is describing how to approach the invisibility visually. How to penetrate space in a specific way. To create images of the zones and spaces you that cannot see. She is talking about Chernobyl as a turning point, an accident in time. The melt down at Chernobyl happened local in space, global in time. Comparing it with 09.11, or other accidental scenarios where we see the consequences, we don’t see the victims right away. We won’t even see them all before we die.

Who is to blame?
Is it the director of the power station?
Who is responsible for balance?
It is a moral question.
If you don’t know who your enemy is, how can you begin to understand the situation.
Creating the vocabulary by the very means of the vocabulary, of the matter of radiation, to tell the story.

A question from the audience …..

- Are you actually using the local radiation, auto radiography?

Yes. A direct imprint with a special kind of film, working with the actual radiation of the zone to reproduce life sized images.

- What kind of images are you getting from the process? An image from a tree/house, what would it be like in the end?

We had no clue of what these images would look like. In the middle of the process the results are mimetic in relation to the source, but you can’t tell what the source is like.

- The matter – the intangible matter, what does it look like.

The combination has many aspects. You can see that in the pictures themselves

(Unfortunately, I can’t see the pictures on the stream)

More questions to the panel (Endre Kiss, Victor Nemchinov, Rob van Kranenburg, Alice Miceli)

- What do you mean by multitudes?

(Dr Victor Nemichov) We want to see the horror images, we can only see the broken windows, the dead trees – how to visualize that in a non binary way? I would go to Chernobyl and take pictures of the cemeteries of the men who died, whose children never lived ………….

(Professor Endre Kiss on multitudes ….) Multitudes want to indulge rather than conform. It is our option as to whether we constrain ourselves or not. On a global level it means compassion, communications and trying to come to grips with the dangers around us. The idea is too young to use practically (or something along those lines …. )

(Kiss has earlier described 3 scenarios for the future:

I. apocalyptic scenario
2. politics, arctic commission, immigration (environmental)- by functional/rationalist means.
3. optimistic scenario – to replay the 20th century (lit. of 1910-12 discovery of north pole). The earth is already discovered, but through this scenario, we can gain our north pole – discover it again.)

(Someone from the panel comments) Multitude is a creative thing – an eagle eyed view, seeing such long territory. To think that an idea or a word that is not ready to be used is quite a difficult concept. To try to get this long view back in the network  – where twitter is an example of the opposite, I’m doing this that, this, that etc, and a compulsive disorder in which young people are living in now.

(Endre Kiss) Yes. It creates stereotypical identities, a non holistic version of yourself, small chips are components that collide. Stereotypical components of one’s self. A stereo vision.

This Optimistic Mode, creativity, not the notions of “creative industries”, how can it work?

(Endre Kiss) To connect with historical events,  the discovery of the north pole, the idea that we have no missions, etc, to visit Russian literature – a middle European common place, to replay the 20th Century – a philosophical replay.

I don’t think it will be a reality, but the possibility is still there.

The session ends. i move to the salon.

IN THE SALON (workshop session)
Dominque Malaquais, Eléonore Hellio, Dicoco Boketshu and jaromil are discussing Critical Consumer Practice

Jaromil is talking about the use coltan in mobile phones, and reflecting about the implications of using these minerals, 25% of it which is mined in the Congo. This is a territorial issue that I haven’t really thought about in relation to my own project, being more concerned with bandwidth territories. Concerned with the matter of the immaterial I have forgotten it. I am glad that it is brought to attention. He is calling for actions to turn off mobile phones, computers, to stop supporting the death market – payment with arms, etc.

Some snippets from the dialogues …..

Sony claims that they are not using tantalum (chemical derived from coltan) – how can they know that they are not using these things? With a market is driven by death, there should be a world wide tax on coltan to disarm the people in the Congo. The drug market is only profitable if it is illegal. The same with coltan.

The rest goes too fast to transcribe …….

Now there is a performance by Mowoso, transmitted live from Kinshasa via Skype. Some people at Transmediale are complaining about the video transmission resolution. There is no 2 way communication with the Mowosos artists  – a typical remote performance problem. How to synchronize the clocks and keep all channels open – that is the question.

Miles away

far apart

Fathoms under

worlds apart

Hours beyond

seconds away

centuries yonder

miles under

time over

A part apart

And right now, a google search produces a message telling me that going to the search results may damage my computer …. is this a coincidence?

coincidence? 01

And then …….


End of transmission ……..

Written by ajsteggell

January 31, 2009 at 5:00 pm

EMF Location scouting in Stavanger

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I traveled to Stavanger in southern Norway for a couple of days to talk to the organizers of the Article 2008 exhibition where the Electromagnetic Fountain is scheduled to be shown from 15 – 30 November 2008.

Lunch meeting
L-R: Atle Barcley/ROM3 (curator/producer/co-ordinator of the EMF project and NLI partnership), Hege Tapio (i/o Lab), Daniela Arriado (i/o Lab).

Another reason for the trip was to do a rekkie to find a suitable location for the Electromagnetic Fountain to stand during the exhibition. It was not difficult to find hot spots of electromagnetic activity in the centre of the city – it has an open wireless network, and the Stavanger folks seem to be on their cell phones almost all the time.

Cell phone Electromagnetic Stavanger 05

The best place I found was in the square in front of the Stavanger 2008 building (Stavanger is the European Cultural City this year). The centre of the square is marked by a circular stone pattern and seems to be just waiting for a fountain to arrive.

Circle crossing 2 Circle crossing 1

Around it lies a church, an H&M store and a bank with a cash dispensing machine, as well as trees and benches, etc.

H&M - place to sit Cash point signals

There are 5 streets leading in to the square with a steady flow of people and loads of em signals.

Towards the sea Corner view 2

It seems like the right spot.

Though you can’t see from the photos, it was raining almost all the time, so thanks to the volunteers working in the Stavanger 2008 building who offered me help ; hot coffee, making calls to my cell phone, plastic bags for putting over my gear, and a dry T shirt!

Written by ajsteggell

June 21, 2008 at 4:55 pm

Electromagnetic Fountain – control system revised

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Following a discussion I had on the Lanbox email list I’ve modified the network/control set up for the Electromagnetic Fountain, cutting out one lanbox and adding a dmx relay box for the fountain valve control.


Product info for 8 output dmx relay box (I would need two of them) that can be set to solid state or  mechanical relay mode, manufactured by Milford Instruments Ltd can be found here:

Written by ajsteggell

June 21, 2008 at 2:40 pm

Electromagnetic Fountain design taking form

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Today I had a meeting with the EMF project team (led by Øystein Lia, with Svein Kjetil Haheim, Espen Jorgensen and Geir Erbo Rougthvedt) at NLI Engineering Industry as located at Klosterøya in Skien, Norway, where I proposed, and we discussed the following water jet design and scheme for controlling the fountain:


water jet design

Each dot is a valve.
The valves of each pentagon are mounted on a manifold.

Each pentagon has a dedicated pump.
Each valve is controlled by on/off signals.

As each valve can be controlled individually, it’s possible to program a multitude of dynamic jet patterns. (Triangles, spirals, random patterns, star forms, curvy lines, etc, etc …..)

The height of the water jet is in relation to the pump speed, and according to how many valves on each one of the pentagon manifolds are open – the more valves that are open, the lesser the height of the jet.

The red dot in the middle uses a 4th pump and does not need a valve. The height of the water jet is controlled by pump speed.



Lanbox LCX:


CLS 4002 Digital DMX dimmer:

Alesis iO|14 sound interface:

Mac Mini Intel Core Duo:


Max/msp/jitter 4.6:

Apple remote desktop:

The main task for the project team is currently to find out of the options I have suggested are compatible with the products that they find most appropriate for the job, and that the total design is achievable both practically and economically. What is most challenging for me is to get around the idea that the hardware will be produced before I have had a chance to test various components, but never-the-less achieve a result that I can manage to test in prototype form (mock-up situations), and to keep the programming in the realms of something I can work on myself – and hopefully with some help from friends!

More research is needed for both these aspects of the fountain.

Regarding lights the best solution seems to be to light up each of the water jets with a ring diode underwater light. Colour changing diodes would be good, but possibly too complex/expensive for this phase of the project. A simpler option could be to have white diodes on the pentagon jets, with a red ring lighting up the central, big jet. Another option could be to give each pentagon its own set of coloured diode rings, but my fear is that the fountain will become too “disco” with this option.

A patch and a model!

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I’ve just come back from 4 days alone at a beautiful cottage at Kjerringvik (Old Bitch Bay) on the coast of Southern Norway. Fantastic weather and very warm sea for the time of year. Apart from swimming I spent my time reading* and clearing up a max/msp control patch for the solenoid valves of the Electromagnetic Fountain. These valves should open and close when digital electromagnetic signals are detected. It’s not exactly rocket science on my part – based on a patch I made with Piotr Pachjel for the airbrush gun valves of the Emotion Organ project, with the “bucket object” (as suggested by Ellen Røed) – but I think it is a good start for work with my current plan of using a lanbox/junction box, etc.


(click for larger image)


An electrician had been working on the electrical wiring in the cottage just prior to my visit, and left behind a box of discarded cables and other bits and bobs. I used them to try and construct a small model of the fountain that showed its jets, bending and weaving copper wire with my fingers.

EMF model EMF model silhouette

Alchemic Fountain Design 3

So the red-tipped wires are meant to represent the detected peaks and troughs of digital signals, the white-tipped wires the amplitude of the detected analogue signals and the yellow-tipped wire, the total average of all detected signals. ( I am still trying to work out what I mean by “total average”).

The model is based on a suggestion at the meeting with NLI Engineering AS (see previous post); using 1 dry water pump located in the fountain base, as opposed to my idea of using several submersible pumps. The solenoid valves are also located in the base, each with its own pipe that extends into the watery bit, with a nozzle attached. Each nozzle lies just below the water surface. The “white” and “yellow” nozzles are also served by the same pump.

* Gravity’s Rainbow/T. Pynchon, Instruments and the Imagination/Hankins and Silverman, Infrastructure. The book of everything for the industrial landscape/B Haynes, and In the Desert of Desire. Las Vegas and the Culture of Spectacle/W.L Fox.

Written by ajsteggell

June 9, 2008 at 7:44 pm

EMF – Alchemic design

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I’m trying to find a system for designing the Electromagnetic Fountain’s water jets.

Following a stream of consciousness in this order:

Alchemy, Pentagon, Da Vinci, Giordano Bruno, Ionized hazard warning, Non-ionized hazard warning .. and so on and so forth …

Alchemic Fountain DesignAlchemic Fountain Design 2

Purple dots: valves controlled by data derived from kinetic detector/antenna no. 1 that can be pulled out by the public from the fountain base: digital signals. (frequency and amplitude – frequency: each new signal gets sent around to the next point in the triangle; amplitude defines the height of the water jet).

Pink dots: as above, but the valves are controlled by data derived from kinetic detector/antenna no. 2

Green dots: pentagon manifold with nozzles and valve/pump controlled by detected analogue signals. (continuous: amplitude defines height).

Example of square manifold:

An alternative could be to have a manifold with five fan nozzles:

fan nozzle fan nozzle pattern

With some maths, the fall of the each fan nozzle could “draw” each side of the pentagon shape. However, with this alternative I think it would lose some dynamics with regards to the height of the water jet, which would be lessened using this method.

Another alternative could be a manifold with many smaller, jet/spray valves that form the pentagon shape.

Example of a spray ring manifold:

spray ring spray ring effect

Red dot: valve/water jet that shows the total average of digital and analogue signals. Maximum total signal value threshold: all valves operate on special program.

One idea I’m thinking of for the central water feature is a pirouette nozzle:

piouette nozzle pioruette effect

But compared to the example given above, the central nozzle would have to give a more substantial – less delicate water effect. Generally, I think the overall effect of the spinning pirouette nozzle would probably detract from the water patterns I’m trying to achieve with the fountain. perhaps a simpler solution, such as a geyser/ foam nozzle is better.

foam nozzle foam effect

At the end of th day, I think its really difficult to get any substantial impression without trying things out and talking to experts. After all, how many water features can you actually fit in to a bowl fountain with a 2m diameter?

Lastly, I am really keen on having a fogger element in the EMF when the detected signal level reaches a maximum threshold. Here’s an extract from an article that describes different fogger methods – and an anecdote about what happened when the method was first implemented in the Bellagio Fountain in Las Vegas:

Fog on demand
Another element used in fountains to set the mood is fog created either by atomizing water or adjusting temperature and humidity. To use the first method, WET Design sends water at 2,000 psi and 0.05 gpm through a 0.006-in. nozzle. The water hits a steel pin positioned precisely over the hole’s center and bursts into tiny water particles making mist or fog. “In small close-up displays, we might use 30 nozzles,” notes Freitas. “Bellagio has 5,000.”

The second method usually involves injecting cool nitrogen into a chamber filled with warm, supersaturated air. The water condenses into airborne water droplets, or fog. The nitrogen expands, pushing the fog out into the display. “It’s a drier, finer mist than the brute force method,” says Freitas. “It also doesn’t make floors slippery or leave a residue. This makes it well suited for indoor use. But it does have a consumable, the nitrogen.”

How long the fog lasts and what it does is up to Mother Nature. “Once we create it, it’s out of our hands,” says Freitas. “When we tested Bellagio’s fog system, for example, it created a great bank of fog that started moving toward the road. Before we knew it, fog had engulfed the Strip. Drivers were slamming on the brakes, tires were squealing, and we expected to see a hundred-car pile up. Luckily, there were no collisions and no one got hurt.” That’s one reason human operators at the Bellagio fountain can intervene in the computer programming that controls the foggers.
[ from: Making Water Dance, Machine Design, 01.08.2003 ]

Written by ajsteggell

May 19, 2008 at 12:33 am

Amplitude modulation explained

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Here’s a tutorial from Radioteacher explaining Amplitude Modulation:

Written by ajsteggell

March 23, 2008 at 7:44 pm

Frequency modulation explained

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Here’s a tutorial video by Radioteacher explaining Frequency Modulation:

Written by ajsteggell

March 23, 2008 at 7:41 pm


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