|Richard Box is an artist in residence in the Department of Physics at Bristol University. I've never heard of him before (no big surprise) but this looks pretty interesting to me:
FIELD represents a considerable development in Richard's work, whilst previous projects have included ambiguous glass objects much of the outcome has been photographic. FIELD is a major undertaking which will include the installation of several thousand ready- made glass fluorescent tubes. The bulbs will be 'planted' across the site at the foot of an electricity pylon, and will pick up the waste emission from the overhead power line. The piece is simple yet spectacular, making visible what would otherwise go unnoticed. The FIELD of tubes will flicker into life across the hillside as the early evening light fades. The performance each evening is hard to anticipate since it is heavily dependent on the weather. In all the best traditions of land art it is conditional on the variations of the great outdoors, and requires its audience to be patient. Here a parallel can be struck between FIELD and Walter DeMaria's, Lightning Field sited in the Nevada Desert - many visitors travel for days to see it, camp beside it and are lucky if they experience the sort of storm that will make the lightning dance across the 'field' of conductors.Here's the Bristol University press release. And here's the slashdot story.
Anybody here seen the DeMaria in person? I'd really like to go there someday (although I think it's in New Mexico, not Nevada as the quote above says.)
lightning field (photography not permitted)
I enjoyed the slashdot discussion(s) on whether this is actually "waste electricity" or whether the bulbs are actually drawing small, illegal amounts of power from the lines. "Roscoe P. Coltrane" and others make a pretty good-sounding case, from a physics standpoint, that it's the latter.
That's a *really* important issue, from an art standpoint. Is it an ecology-minded piece or a "free" light show?
It being slashdot and all, they also managed to work in analogies to downloading and other digital culture issues.
"Is it an ecology-minded piece or a "free" light show?"
A pretty strong formal statement? Or philosophical/metaphysical?
But that's not how it's being spun. You know how the art world is, especially the YBA art world. If there is a piece hugely famous from the art magazines that can be namechecked and given a "new, political" spin, it will be hyped unto death. I think they flip through the art books over there saying things like "have we deconstructed De Maria yet?" And sure enough, the press release for this project (thanks for linking to it, Jim, so I can kvetch) says: "The bulbs are 'planted' across the site at the foot of an electricity pylon, and pick up the waste emission from the overhead power line. [...] Professor Denis Henshaw, whose study of the health effects of close proximity to power lines is internationally recognised, commenting on FIELD, said: 'It's very creative and it illustrates graphically that power lines do indeed have these electrical fields around them. Even when bulbs are on the way out, and start flashing or flickering in their sockets, they still light up under the power lines.'"
That's the hook, that's the story. But if you wrote "it makes mysterious electricity visible" or "makes a strong formal/perceptual statement, following the path trod years ago by the artist Walter De Maria, only with manmade rather than natural energy" you'd get written about in the Bristol newspaper. Waste electricity from power lines is still a huge, hot button topic, so it's more likely to be picked up by major media with that angle. Sorry to be a smart ass here, but someone needs to say this. The piece looks lovely but it owes a big debt to someone else's work, and the science around it appears to be more unsettled than unsettling.
I've been trying to formulate an arguement, but actually I agree with you. My only hesitation is that I think the unsettled-ness of the science could be the side-effect of a genuine learning process that came about from mounting an ambitious project. Even genuine science (as oppposed to sciencey art) could operate this way. Hypothesis, experiment, conclusion. Although then the discoveries would be part of the story, and in this case its been left to the nattering of the debunkers on slashdot.
NYC, lightningfield, digital camera and blogging.