The Electromagnetic Fountain

Archive for the ‘03 Texts’ Category

How dangerous are electromagnetic fields?

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During the Article 08 exhibition I was assisted by Geir Tore Aamdal who works as an environmental health consultant in Stavanger. While watching the fountain, we had several conversations about how the health issues connected to the use of cell phones was the main issue that both the public and press referred to in connection with its appearance in the town square.

He asked me what my intention was with the fountain. I told him I was  interested in exploring electromagnetic phenomena as a potential source of artistic material. By attempting to reveal electromagnetic activity in public space, to create a temporary, emotional/emotive place which the public could discover, enjoy and interpret as they wish. Perhaps a playful, aesthetic experience could initiate reflection and discussion over issues connected to the usage of the EM spectrum, in particular the part of it which is used for telecommunications, but perhaps from a wider perspective too. For me the main issue is more territorial. (As such, I am also interested in the appearance and effect of transmission and reception towers, needles, etc, in/on both urban and remote landscapes.) Anyway, I asked him if he could write briefly about his thoughts, and here they are:

How dangerous are electromagnetic fields?
By Geir Tore Aamdal

Lately there has been a lot of attention drawn to the electromagnetic fields in the urban landscapes. Stavanger municipality has been sued for allowing a network of wireless internet in the town centre, parents in Bekkefaret kindergarden demand that a mobile network antenna in the vincinity is removed, and environmentalist Kurt Oddekalv calls electromagnetic fields the largest threat to human health. But how dangerous are electromagnetic fields really?

In my job as an environmental health consultant I get several questions about electromagnetic fields. I always point to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (Statens Strålevern)

The knowlegde we have today about mobile phones and wireless networks shows no connection between these electromagnetic fields and health problems. But these are quite new phenomenons, with not enough experience yet. Many studies show no connection, some few indicate that there might be some connection. Just to be on the safe side, some measures for protection are recommended, like keeping the phone calls short, using handsfreegear, avoid placing the router in the bedroom, and avoid keeping the laptop in your lap.

Antennas for mobile networks are sending the signals horizontally, which means that higher-than-normal radiation only is directly in front of the antenna. Higher values than international standards only occur within a range of 0,5 meter. And the antennas usually do not send at maximum range.

There is little information about young children using mobile phones, so caution is recommended.

My advice to the worried public is to read only serious information on Internet, like the NRPA pages. And in planning new buildings, antennas and home networks having the recommendations from NRPA in mind, just to be on the safe side. When it comes to which is the largest health threath, for instance smoking and unhealty food are much more damaging , and the connection is well documented.

My question to Geir is whether the Electromagnetic Fountain served to cause more paranoia in relation to health risk issues ……


Written by ajsteggell

November 28, 2008 at 5:40 pm

EMF article in the Weekly Technical Magazine

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Here’s a link to an article about the Electromagnetic Fountain by Stein Jarle Olsen, published in the Norwegian Weekly Technical Magazine, 02.11.2008.

The article is called “Sprutende ingeniørkunst” in Norwegian, and I’m finding it hard to translate “sprutende” to English. Shooting, splashing? The best word I can hit on is ejaculating. Discussing the problem in the kitchen of Canadian artist (and my hostess with the mostess) Vicki Moulder, we come up with two alternative English titles:

1. Ejaculatory Engineering Art
2. The Art of Engineered Ejaculation
Other alternative suggestions welcome :-)

(photo by Stein Jarle Olsen)

Written by ajsteggell

November 2, 2008 at 9:00 pm

Lonely battle against electromagnetic radiation

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Here’s a link to an article published in Aftenposten (Norwegian, 22nd August, 2008) about 12 year old Gaute from Oslo, and his battle to ward off the effects of electromagnetic radiation.

Photo: Christopher Olssøn for Aftenposten

Written by ajsteggell

August 24, 2008 at 6:02 pm

Electromagnetic Waves and Antennas

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Electromagnetic Waves and Antennas
Sophocles J. Orfanidis
ECE Department
Rutgers University

[ …. This book provides a broad and applications-oriented introduction to electromagnetic waves and antennas. Current interest in these areas is driven by the growth in wireless and fiber-optic communications, information technology, and materials science…… ]

You can download individual chapters at:

Written by ajsteggell

May 7, 2008 at 10:53 am

EMF water fountain design info

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One of the problems I have had in relation to getting to grips with the technical side of designing the aquatic aspects of the EMF is the difficulty in finding comprehensible information available to a non-engineer on the subject. After numerous searches I finally hit on a commercial website that offers PDF files to help out with everything from the fundaments of designing a water fountain, to budget and planning issues and gives descriptions of how different pumps, nozzles and jets work. Very useful.

Online technical catalogue:

Written by ajsteggell

May 5, 2008 at 10:08 am

Fundmentals of Electrical Engineering

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Here’s a link to a free ebook: The Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering and Electronics, a good reference book which simply explains the basics.

Written by ajsteggell

May 3, 2008 at 12:23 pm

Posted in 03 Texts

EMF – quote/unquote

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I stumbled across an article/survey about art in public space – Uncertain Spaces: Artists’ Exploration of New Socialities in Mediated Public Space, Maria Miranda. I was surprised to find the Electromagnetic Fountain mentioned at the bottom, along with other works that are mentioned on my blog that got me to think about the fountain in the first place. Especially as I haven’t built it yet.

I’m a bit embarrassed about a part of the text, though. And when I saw it I realised that I haven’t given credit to a quote in my description of the fountain, so now its time to put things right. It’s the bit that goes:

[ …… Amanda Steggell is concerned with not just its aesthetic appeal but “highly fought over private, commercial and political territory” (Steggell) as well as still unknown environmental and health issues.]

Much of the description of the Electromagnetic Fountain was drawn from attending the Maxwell City Workshop led by Erich Berger and Martin Howse at Atelier Nord in 2007. It suddenly dawned on me that the phrase I have in my EMF description, the one quoted above, is almost identical to that of the Maxwell City description, bar one word! Martin and Erich wrote:

“The electromagnetic spectrum which is the range of all possible electromagnetic radiation is a hotly fought over private, commercial and political territory.

So I apologize to M and E, and I hope that they are both at least a bit flattered that their eloquent words have stuck in the collective memory bank!

Written by ajsteggell

January 26, 2008 at 6:12 pm

Real Nature is not green

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While working on how to proceed with the Screaming Fountain, and on the nature/nurture theme, I stumbled across this text written by Koert van Mensvoort, (published in Vermeulen, Alex (editor) (2006). Sun enlightment, States of Nature. Syndicaat, ISBN: 87-1762457-900-4)

[ ….. At the edge of the woods along the motorway near the Dutch town of Bloemendaal, there stands a mobile telephone mast disguised as a pine tree. This mast is not nature: at best, it is a picture of nature. It is an illustration, like a landscape painting hanging over the sofa. Do we have genuine experiences of nature any more? Or are we living in a picture of it? …..]

Read more here:

Written by ajsteggell

July 15, 2007 at 2:22 pm

Posted in 03 Texts

The Aether and its Double

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Here’s a link to Martin Howse’s paper for Maxwell City called The Aether and its Double.

Here he reflects over the ghostlyness of the electromagnetic spectrum through the guise of science, science fiction, narrative and embodied experience.

Written by ajsteggell

June 5, 2007 at 9:11 am

Cartography of the Electromagnetic Spectrum

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Cartography of the Electromagnetic Spectrum: A review of wireless visualizations and its consequences.
Christian Sandvig, University of Illinois at Urbana Campaign, 2006

This paper reports on an archival survey spectrum visualizations (visual metaphors) used in policy proceedings in the US over the past 80 years, and compares these pictures with current cartography practices. Amongst other issues it describes the use of visual metaphor to tell more about human behaviour than the actual “spectrum” – which is in itself a metaphor used by scientists to group together radiation ranges, from the cosmic to radio.


Written by ajsteggell

June 3, 2007 at 2:44 pm