Electromagnetic Bodies

0erty7.jpgNew media art is usually a lot of fun. So much fun that i sometimes forget the beauty of just looking at an art piece without having to punch, skip, shout, lick, done fancy helmets, suck, and run.

It might be that i was tired of all that interactivity when i visited the Art Outsiders festival (in english) at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, all i know is that i enjoyed a lot the very austere but compelling exhibition.

The works on show echo Nikola Tesla‘s principles of vibration and resonance in the fields of electricity and electromagnetism. They explore the nature of invisible material forces, highlight their beauty but also the impact these vibrating energies have on our environment and body.

The room occupied by Spectral Investigations Collective (Ghostlab, Ewen Chardronnet and Bureau d’Etudes) was the best introduction to what was on view at the MEP. The SIC has a rather dark view on technologies that “sneak into the living and the ecosystem.” They believe that the development of micro and nano technologies and the frenzied use of electromagnetic waves is unceasingly attacking our physical and psychological protection mechanisms. The collective questions the immunity of research labs and call for novel protection systems.


The SIC had filled the room with trinklets, monitoring and protecting devices, information posters and videos (some of them are online such as the video about electrosmog in an office or in the environment), pins on a map that indicate the location of radars, a translation in french of the Tactical Reality Dictionary by Konrad Becker, etc. To counter the unfortunately too plausible scenarios their video material was presenting (for example: immigrants and hooligans being RFID’d before entering the US or a stadium) and immune oneself against hertzian dangers, the collective is also envisioning magico-technological tactics and artefacts such as a kind of vacuum cleaner that captures ions.


The most fascinating art piece of the Art Outsiders exhibtion is Moon Bounce (1987) by Lowry Burgess, a pioneer of space art. Moon Bounce was one of the first a hologram that used the moon to reflect the wave. During a performance, purified water coming from several big rivers all around he world were poured into Diamond Spring in the USA. The performance was filmed and transcoded into sound that was radio broadcasted to the Moon. The sound reflected by the surface of the Moon to the Earth were captured by the Haystack telescope then turned into image by computer synthesis and finally transfered onto a hologram.

0mmonb11.jpg0monnb1.jpgMoon Bounce integrates thus the irregular surface of the Moon inside the holographic image of the pouring of waters.

Looking for a way to express the energetic and invisible presence she experienced in sites such as Auschwitz, Marie-Jeanne Musiol came upon Kirlian photography. When an object or organism on a photographic plate is subjected to a strong electric field, an image is created on the plate. The artist created such photographs of live potted plants. Covered with dozens of luminous imprints of electromagnetic fields around biological bodies, the Bodies of Light wall gradually increases in intensity as you enter the room, before going back to dark until a new visitor comes in.


Abacus (1974), by Norman White, is such a beautiful device that i forgot to read the accompanying text when i visited the show. The tabletop work was designed and constructed while the artist was experimenting with the creation of chaotic systems using the simplest possible principles. Four out-of-phase oscillators induce and determine the speed of tiny tubes shuttling back and forth across metal hoops. Employing random and structured principles working in harmony to produce a chance effect – partially predictable, partially not – Abacus creates a semblance of autonomous life.


Also part of the exhibition: Spying the Electromagnetic Work Force by Jean-Pierre Aubé.

Worth your attention: The videos of Electromagnetic Bride, a conference on the same topic organised by V2_ in Rotterdam. The speakers included Horst Zuse, Nina Czegledy, David Tomas, Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntag, Æ, Usman Haque and Christa Sommerer.

Image set on flickr. Images from Art Outsiders website. Marie Lechner’s article about Art Outsiders (in french.)