The Electromagnetic Fountain

Archive for the ‘5 Art: some ideas’ Category

EMF Prototype movie

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Here’s a link to a movie (36 mb mpeg4) of the first very simple prototype demo of the EMF filmed by Per Platou in August 2007 at Old Bitch Bay, Southern Norway. Using a kiddie’s paddling pool, lanbox, DMX dimmer, water pump, sniffer and max/msp patch.



Written by ajsteggell

December 25, 2007 at 4:58 pm

Electromagnetic Fountain

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This summer I’ve been prototyping the electromagnetic fountain idea, which has now changed its name back from the Screaming Fountain to simply the Electromagnetic Fountain.

Here’s the first description …….

Every city has its own invisible twin-city – an architecture in flux made up of electromagnetic waves emitted by its numerous electrical facilities, transmitters and receivers. The Electromagnetic Fountain is a small-scale, transportable fountain that responds to these waves to form an ever-changing aquatic choreography.

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 arbitary 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 will be constructed in a portable format that resembles a satellite dish; a circular bowl of approximately 2 m in diameter that rests on a pedestal of about 45 cm high. It is equipped with devices for detecting and digitizing man-made electromagnetic activity in the near vicinity. This data is used to control an electric water pump as well as six water valves so that the water jumps and drops to evoke the feeling of the incoming data. Underwater lights that also react to this data will be used to illuminate and colour the fountain. The fountain will be scented with the smell of ozone. All equipment will be stored and secured in the fountain’s pedestal, out of which will come one cable for connecting to a power supply, and a nozzle for filling and draining water.

Once the fountain is constructed, appropriate host-spaces will be found where it can appear for a limited period of time. Examples could be on a roundabout, in a city square, playground, school yard, shopping centre or gallery/museum. The aim is to find public spaces where diverse/interesting readings of electromagnetic activity are detected. That the fountain appears in any one space for a limited time only will bring a sense of performance to this project, and each space will produce unique results.

Written by ajsteggell

August 25, 2007 at 8:03 pm

EM Urban Fountain – all things in flux

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Urban art idea

I’m thinking about a fountain with water valves controlled by magnet solenoids that open and shut to control various pressures of coloured water streams according to electromagnetic activity, with ambient light and sound controlled by nature’s own magnetic fields, modulated by interventions of human-made fields – all things in flux.

Around the fountain are comfortable seats. You can sit by the fountain when you make a call on your mobile phone – watch, listen, feel humidity, airflows, relax. (Here I’m thinking about the strange way people’s eyes move when they make phone calls with mobs – eyes fluttering around, as if taking in the immediate surroundings. Sometimes settling on something, someone – eyes seem to focus, but then looking straight through, as if scanning for another point to fix on.)

For those with high electromagnetic sensitivity (EMS) it could indicate good and bad times.

But how do you build a fountain? Some examples I’ve found are listed below.

Time fountain by Nate True
This is interesting – a time fountain kit where a combination of fluorescent liquid and strobe lighting is used to make it seem as if the flow of water changes direction (time in flux)

The time fountain:

Cybernetic fountain
And here is a patent claim for a cybernetic fountain (inventor: Emilio C. Alba):

Parker Hannifin Musical Fountain
[ …. A joint effort of Atlantic Fountains and Downing Exhibits of Copley Ohio, the fountain uses over 350 feet of Parflex tubing and hundreds of Parker Fluid Connector and Skinner Valve components. The 6ft pool has 30 nozzles & color lights driven by a PC, three octave MIDI keyboard or drum pad …..]

Instructions for how to build a musical water fountian:

Written by ajsteggell

May 18, 2007 at 12:54 pm

Protective/morphing clothing idea

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Thinking about a previous post about protective placebo pants and knickers by Dunne and Raby (that also inspired Dean’s comment), I kind of liked the idea of developing some kind of clothing that protects you when you pass through areas/fields of high electromagnetic activity. I also like the shapeshift notion …..

I stumbled across a fashion designer called Hussein Chalayan is showing a set of “Transformer” dresses. Each dress is designed to morph through 3 decades of fashion change.


Some use vertical slats that puff out to become more revealing. Others zip or unzip themselves and transform in a variety of ways. See the video below:

How about a garment with some kind of protective material (copper? aluminum?) that unraveled/slid into place areas of high electromagnetic density? (For my part I’m very sensitive to light frequencies, especially those emitted by halogen bulbs, and especially those in my local post office. They make me feel giddy and nauseous. I’ve asked others if they have the same experience as me, and they don’t – which surprises me. I’ve complained to people working there about it, but to no avail.)

Written by ajsteggell

May 6, 2007 at 1:47 am