‘Field’, was inspired by childhood stories from a friend who played underneath, overhead power-lines in his back garden. These stories came to mind as I was reading research into human radiation effects by Bristol University physics department, where I was Artist in Residence for 2003, funded by the Leverhulme Trust.
The installation ‘Field’ was created by planting 1,301, reclaimed, 58-watt fluorescent light tubes, 100mm into the earth, equidistant from their neighbours, covering an area of 3,600 m2 underneath a 440KV overhead power-line, at Tormarton, South Gloucestershire, UK. Becoming visible at dusk the electromagnetic field emanating from the power-lines above, on its way to earth, lit the tubes.
‘Field’ used an everyday glass object to create a highly interactive artwork that was successful on many different levels. The piece drew attention to the presence of the electromagnetic field in a dramatic way, making the invisible, visible.
The grid layout of the tubes plotted the electromagnetic pollution emanating from the overhead power cables. Being placed at the same height and equidistant from their neighbours meant they all had an equal chance of lighting. People’s proximity to the tubes affected the way that they lit. By standing next to and taller than a planted tube your head effectively stole its electromagnetic energy, putting the light out. The different experiments that visitors devised and reported back to me are too numerous to list here. Over 4000 people visited the three week installation, all left with a heightened awareness of the electromagnetic pollution present in our environment.