The Electromagnetic Fountain

Archive for February 2008

Electromagnetic Fountain: issues

leave a comment »

One of the main issues I have been exploring over the past months is that of detectors/antenna solutions for the Electromagnetic Fountain. I have been using the detectors built by Erich Berger and Martin Howse for the Maxwell City workshop (Atelier Nord, Oslo 2006), as well as two consumer sniffers listed below.

Detects the pulsing emissions from wireless communications technologies (mobile phones, masts, DECT digital cordless phones, w/LAN’s, Wi-Fi, etc.)

  • Frequency Range: 50 MHz to 3000 MHz
  • Sensitivity: 0.01 volts per meter (V/m)
  • Output: Audio Loudspeaker, Audio jack socket
  • Controls: On/Off Switch, Volume

High sensitivity over a wide RF frequency range, with the ability to detect signals from wireless devices, cellular phones and covert “bugs” at more than 50+ feet, transmissions from “sealed” microwave ovens at 40+ feet, from walkie-talkies at 100+ feet, and from amateur radio transceivers at hundreds of feet.

  • covers 1 MHz to 8 GHz.
  • can be calibrated to detect different frequency ranges.
  • needle display allows the user to view signal strength measurements
  • audio output allows user to hear the difference in signal levels and distinguish between analog and digital signals.

Each detector has its own characteristic audio output.

What I am doing now is sniffing around with the different detectors and, by listening to the signals, trying to identify the source of the various emissions by ear. The next stage will be to experiment with how the signals from the different detectors can be processed and applied to the water jets of the fountain based on my current knowledge and hard/software. One of the main issues is to fathom out whether the fountain will be driven by several detectors dedicated to specific frequency ranges, or whether one detector with a large frequency range will be used. These activities can be used as a start point for communicating my ideas (through practical examples/demos) to other potential collaborating industry partners.

The second issue is whether the antennas should be in one position, or kinetic to create more dynamics as they pass through different el-mag waves/fields. Another alternative could be to include antennas that could be pulled out from the fountain by the public (envisaged as umbilical chords that connect the public to the fountain).

Klosterøya connection

I have previously posted some photos of antennas spotted in the close vicinity of Klosterøya in Skien, Norway, where I recently exhibited the Emotion Organ. Klosterøya is the home of a closed-down industrial site that is being transformed to accommodate a new industrial and IT centre. As part of this process is an initiative to establish a programme where artists can develop art/technology related projects in a “partnership” with industry actors who are willing to provide resources to aid the development and realisation of the projects. This initiative, called ROM3, is led by Gunn Marit Christenson (EZENS) and Atle Barcley (former leader of Atelier Nord). The Electromagnetic Fountain is currently being proposed as a pilot-project of this initiative. It is proposed in two stages:

1. The development of a small, portable fountain that will function as both a performance-related/public art work and a prototype for a larger fountain. Completion, November 2008.

2. A permanent, large fountain that will be situated in an atrium on Klosterøya looking out over the river. Completion, spring 2010.

This development has pushed the initial idea beyond a DIY project and into a larger, collaborative realm. At current I am considering the competence areas that could contribute to the development of the prototype fountain. These are split into 3 areas: Construction design, inputs and outputs.


Assistance with fountain construction design based on the original sketch and inspired by satellite dishes.

  • technical drawings
  • construction materials (fountain base, bowl and parts)


Detector/ antenna alternatives

  • one main detector/antenna that captures a wide frequency range, or
  • several dedicated detectors/antennas for different frequency ranges/analog and digital signals
  • is it possible to design pull-out antennas so that folks can wave them around in the air and capture different signals?
  • is it possible that the fountain antenna/antennas can be kinetic to pass through different waves to give more water fluxes?

Signal analysis and programming solutions

Energy solutions

  • mains
  • solar power – solar would be great! An efficient supply of solar energy would cut out the need for a power line to the fountain and potentially make it completely self-contained/stand alone. (Hydro are front runners in the development of solar cells, and are opening a new plant in Skien’s neighboring town, Porsgrunn.)


Hydraulic electrical valves

  • is it possible to use electronic valves in a portable fountain with one pump, or is it better to use several pumps in a self-contained fountain that has a bowl filled with water?
  • what kind of valves?
  • what kind of nozzles to use for different water jets?

Underwater lighting alternatives

Programming (alternatives)


Written by ajsteggell

February 25, 2008 at 2:02 am

Antenna aesthetics in Skien, Norway

leave a comment »

It’s a busy time. Right now I’m in Skien, Norway, exhibiting the Emotion Organ. It is perhaps the strangest location for the organ yet. A closed down paper factory on Klosterøya – Monastery Island in English- that is being refurbished to house a growing IT industry. I’ve been sniffing out the site for electromagnetic activity – it buzzes, screams, pops and whistles!

Around the site are numerous other dis-functional plants, including a water recycling plant adorned with maiden-sculptures, their long plaited hair twining itself around the structure. Here are some photos:




Written by ajsteggell

February 15, 2008 at 7:17 pm

Fictional radio spaces

leave a comment »

 (Ellen Røed sent me this link a while back, but I forgot to put it up. Thanks Ellen!)
During a workshop called Tangible Interactions at the Oslo school of Architecture and Design, Ingeborg Marie Dehs Thomas devised a concept of an encyclopeadia of radio waves that contains a selection of fictional radio ‘species’.


Written by ajsteggell

February 6, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Peenemünde [xxxxx]

leave a comment »

Peenemünde [xxxxx] is a project/workshop initiated by Martin Howse, the results of which were presented at Transmediale, Berlin.

Here’s a short description of the project as given on its website.

“…Peenemünde [xxxxx] presents an intense, conspiratorial three day long working group/workshop within a key, historical location actively examining that fiction which presents a dark heart of technology (as evidenced by electromagnetic practice), and a vivid relation to entropy/ecology.”

The website is really worth a visit. It contains a host of information, and some profound ideas from the participants.


Written by ajsteggell

February 6, 2008 at 12:00 pm