The Electromagnetic Fountain

Archive for the ‘4 Art: examples’ Category

EMF Art examples

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Just taken part in the annual ACM Multimedia Conference and Exhibition, where, amongst others, I met Geoffrey Shea who is part of the Mobile Experience Lab at the Ontario College of Art and Design. A part of this lab work investigates the use of EMF detectors in a project called Cicadas. Here’s the blurb from the project website:

“The social theory of swarming combined with the technique of electromagnetic frequency (EMF) detection. Users talking on cell phones at certain locations along our target development area (John Street, a short street in downtown Toronto which is home to our lab as well as many media, entertainment and culture institutions) trigger swarms of virtual cicadas: sound and light emitting devices installed in trees. This draws parallels between signal emission as a communication imperative in both the human and insect worlds. It also creates a situation of passive interaction whereby users play a role in the experience without necessarily deciding to do so.”



Read more HERE

The EMF sniffers for Cicada are designed by Peter Todd, who gives an account of his first investigation  (diagrams, circuit board, test results, etc) HERE.

In contrast, in Geoff’s video poem, 1.000 Glances, a solitary speaker captivated by the view of a rotating radar antenna, reflects over the hope and despair that lurks beneath the surface in the relationship between herself and the world. Her words and thoughts becoming scrambled with the electrostatic disturbance of each rotation of the antenna.


Written by ajsteggell

November 1, 2008 at 11:52 pm

Pimp my satellite dish!

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Yet another post for the antenna aesthetics category.

‘WijKunst’ (translated ‘District-art’) is a new project from Autobahn in Utrecht, Holland featuring pimped satellite dishes:-) Examples shown below are taken from

pimp disk

pimp my satellite dish

Written by ajsteggell

May 5, 2008 at 10:39 am

Fictional radio spaces

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 (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]

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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

Cell Phone Disco

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Cell Phone Disco by Ursula Lavrencic and Auke Touwslager uses EM detection of mobile phone activity to light up a wall of coloured LEDs.

img source:

For more about this project, see:

Written by ajsteggell

July 15, 2007 at 2:05 pm

Scrying [boards]

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Martin House has launched a project called “Scrying” – a highly mobile, extremely low power radio/network computational platform for artists.

This description comes from the Scying site:

Scrying can variously be defined as a technique of divination or revelation, of producing visions, perhaps of the future, through prolonged gaze at an object, usually of crystal or liquid nature. Scrying was famously practised by the 16th century astronomer, mathematician and alchemist John Dee with the assistance of presumed imposter Edward Kelley. Their well documented story is inscribed within a fiction or history of modern science with which this project is concerned, again with a focus on the questionable nature of revelation.

The primary function of the scrying boards is to divine a hidden city, an alternate electromagnetic architecture with lines of transmission, but rather of resonances undone from the intentionality implied by the political terms of receiver and transmitter. The scrying boards reveal a ghost city and are implicated in a dissection of the doublings and ghostings (poltergeists, actions at a distance) within so-called modern electronics and physics (science) with which previous work with the crash and xxxxx events has been occupied. At the same time the idea of revelation is very much a concern, building on work with the idea of the CPU (Central Processing Unit) as a black box, as a hidden code interiority within the existent/world. The notion of the CPU is concerned with the black-boxing of technology and a notion of a hidden interior, technology as an interiority. Scrying boards are presented as open hardware, and equally are occupied in a mapping of such interiority into the world as a philosophical question concerned with rationalism.

The scrying boards will equally be used to divine and contain hidden data sources, functioning as low power data repositories within the spaces of the city. Scryers wandering the city will interface by way of their modular scrying kit with such pools of data which can later be made manifest by software. The boards act as detectors, in the manner of early radio ghost detection, and containers for future divinations. Thus one further functional model is presented by alternative systems of message distribution such as the W.A.S.T.E. system elaborated within Thomas Pynchon’s novel, The Crying Of Lot 49.

The scrying boards are designed with free software principles in mind, and bear a strong relation to open hardware as concept and as practice. The scrying project is concerned with a relation to technology which is exposed by the development of open hardware and open software; attempting to pose through practice a new relationship and ecology. At the same time the boards implement and project a modular, reusable architecture for mobile, artistic computing which could be of great use for future artists interrogating technology. All plans, designs are thus to be made freely available for re-working and customisation. Scrying kits will be provided by the artist at cost price.

For more about the Scring project, see

Written by ajsteggell

July 8, 2007 at 2:47 pm

Levitating lightbulb

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(img souce:

HC Gilje sent me a link to a beautiful, self powered, levitating light bulb installation by Jeff Lieberman (2007). Read more about this work at

Written by ajsteggell

June 20, 2007 at 12:47 pm

Insect Lab

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Img source:

Insect Lab is an artist-operated studio that customizes real insects with antique (such as mechanical watches) and electronic components. Not directly related to using the electromagnetic field as artistic material, but anyway ……… The creations are described as a “celebration” of natural and man made functions. Each “specimen” is displayed either in a black shadow box or a conical glass jar. You can even order a custom insect based on your preferences if you like.

View the whole collection here:

Written by ajsteggell

June 3, 2007 at 4:18 pm

Electric walks

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HC Gilje sent me a link to an ongoing project called Electric Walks (started 2003), by Berlin-based sound artist Christina Kubisch. Using sniffer headphones (that pick up electromagnetic waves and converts them into sound) she maps out hot spots in cities that are either very strong or interesting to listen to, and then loans the headphones out to the public. For an interview for Cabinet no. 21, she has provided 30 sound samples that she’s gathered while walking through various cities. You can listen to them here:

Written by ajsteggell

May 13, 2007 at 9:37 pm

Spectres of the Spectrum

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A 16 mm feature film by Craig Baldwin, 1999

baldwin spectres

[…. a science-fiction allegory about ‘electromagnetic autonomy’ in opposition to the hegemony of the culture-management industry, tracing a history of media technology from its early days to a 21st century “New Electromagnetic Order” that threatens to take total control of our lives ….. utilizing old ‘kinescopes’ (filmed records of early TV broadcasts before the advent of videotape, mostly from the late Fifties’ educational show called ‘Science in Action’) to create an eerie, haunted “media-archaeology” zone for a sci-fi time-travel tale, wherein live-action actors search for a hidden electromagnetic secret to save the planet from a futuristic war-machine, inspired by HAARP the High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program. (Though fictionalized for Baldwin’s film, HAARP is, in fact, a very real phenomenon. On the surface, it is a data-gathering tool to explore the Aurora Borealis in detail. But in fact, HAARP doubles as one of the most sophisticated components of the Star Wars weapons arsenal, a particle beam device that can be accurately targeted on specific sites in the ionosphere ……]


Written by ajsteggell

May 6, 2007 at 12:34 am