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Electricity As New Aesthetic? Now There’s A Bright Idea

posted Jan 30, 2013, 10:25 PM by Ellen Pearlman

Electricity As New Aesthetic? Now There’s A Bright Idea

David Blaine takes one to the head

Electricity is an essential component of the new aesthetic. Without it there would be no computers, no digitization, no transmission and no replication. 

Redesigned power lines in Iceland, land of mythopoesis and technology

Electricity is inherently more unpredictable and dangerous than fire. It is the essential building block of every one of our cells. It is the spark that produces life.

Fritz Lang’s Metropolis creature brought to life through electricity

“We are absorbed by the beauty of electronics absorbing into the air,”  is how Alexandre Burton and Julien Roy described their literally electrifying, and often frightening forty-five minute audiovisual performance of high-voltage electromagnetic disturbances titled POWEr. Their event involves 800,000 volts of raw Frankenstein-like crackling electricity throwing out lightening bolts. 

Frankenstein on the loose

POWEr’s instrument is an audio-modulated Tesla Coil with its own “boutique” ground that resembles a stripped down tuba with lots of copper colored coils. A bent over piece of metal culls the tail end of the generated electricity so it can be captured by a high-speed camera, and processed and re-purposed. 

The piece is raw and alive, and no photograph or video can substitute for sitting in the line of fire of a sparking raw electrical feed. It smells tangy and metallic; a by-product of its ozone inducing properties and you can practically taste the microscopic particulate matter its hybrid frisson generates on your tongue. The sheer shock of its taser-like impact up close and personal is mesmerizing and anesthetizing but its actual menace doesn’t lie in its extreme voltage, but in its electrical amps, which is the charge that actually goes through you. “If the amp is low it just goes onto your skin, but if the amp is high you can die,” the artists sanguinely explained. They say they are are interested in “the desubjectification of sound and image materials.

POWEr drawing with lightening - real lightening is white, reprocessed image is black and shades of grey
The daredevil David Blaine recently spent 72 hours straight being zapped by 1 million volts of electricity clad in a Faraday suit and attended to by a suite of doctors to make sure he survived the ordeal intact.
Blaine wearing a Faraday suit standing on a pillar for 72 hours straight
With the use of something as basic as an Instructables site showing how to build your own  Tesla Coil, supposedly anyone can play with electricity. The creators of Blaine’s piece are a group of musicians called ArcAttack, who play their guitars clad in Faraday suits and placed as finalists in America’s Got Talent. It seems facility as an electrical engineer has  joined the ranks of necessary skills-in-training to join the ranks of the  new art world