(img: Per Platou – first sketch of the Electromagnetic Fountain, 2007)
Fountains generally perform aesthetic functions. When they are placed in urban spaces the intention is often to bring an oasis – an experience of nature, into the city. Observing and listening to fountains can be a mesmerizing and contemplative experience, but the repetitive patterns can also seem arbitrary and without meaning. The dancing water of the Electromagnetic Fountain is neither predictable nor random. It draws on data derived from the detection of electromagnetic activity in its immediate surroundings (wireless technology such as mobile phones and surveillance equipment, tram lines, traffic lights, antennas, etc) to control the dynamics of the rise and fall of its water jets. In other words, it is the electromagnetic nature of the city that is reflected in the fountain. Like the wind, it is invisible. Unlike the wind, it is not often perceived or reflected over. By gazing at the fountain, the ethereal body of the invisible twin-city is revealed in a poetic and enigmatic way.
However there is a flip side to the story. The electromagnetic spectrum is a highly fought over private, commercial and political territory, and the increasing use of wireless technology has given rise to concern over environmental and health issues. Perhaps the fountain can function as an unusual information display system; an electromagnetic barometer for those who encounter it.
The fountain is constructed in a portable format. A redundant satellite dish forms bowl. It is approximately 2.5 m in diameter that rests on a pedestal of about 45 cm high. It has been acquired from Norway’s most prominent TV transmission tower that looks out from the hills over Oslo. It became redundant when analogue TV transmission was closed down to make way for digital signals.
The fountain is equipped with devices for detecting and digitizing man-made electromagnetic activity in the near vicinity. This data is used to control electric water pumps and valves so that the water jumps and drops to evoke the feeling of the incoming data. Underwater lights that also react to this data illuminate and colour the fountain at night. All equipment is stored and secured in the fountain’s pedestal, out of which comes one cable for connecting to a power supply, and a nozzle for filling and draining water.
Amanda Steggell, with
Producer/curator: Atle Barcley/ROM3
Industry Partner: NLI Engineering AS
NLI team: leader Øystein Lia, with Svein Kjetil Haheim, Espen Jorgensen and Geir Erbo
Electromagnetic sniffers: Martin Howse
Programming support: Trond Lossius/BEK
Funded by: ROM3, Arts Council Norway
Sponsorship: NLI Engineering AS