Re: ~e; an electromagnetic art context

From Matthew Biederman <>
Date Wed, 4 Aug 2004 10:22:11 -0400
In-reply-to <>
References <>


I had the pleasure of working in a museum for a number of years as the  
"exhibitions technology manager" whereby I assisted in the installation  
of new media artworks + the long term care of the works that the  
institution collected.  During the time I was there, I had the pleasure  
of working with Julia Scher, who has for many years utilized  
surveillance and sensing at the root of work work.  Now, as we were  
planning for a major new installation by her, which the museum had  
commissioned with plans to purchase, she wanted to tap into the sensor  
network of the museum to exploit it, namely the camera network and feed  
it back to the patrons.  However, the museum would absolutely not allow  
this in light of the security breach this would incur, even at the  
urging of the artist and curator.  In the end we installed a great  
number of our own "security" cameras throughout the museum to appear to  
be exactly what they were.  We also used light sensor networks to  
detect peoples location to trigger certain events in the space,  
creating effectively an autonomous security system to suit her needs.   
So I am not too sure how much of this is relevant for your comment,  
other than than the fact that it points to the use of these tools in  
such a space, and in fact I can completely relate to you "blank stares"  
from museum personnel, and although I had the opportunity to work with  
a wonderfully open minded curator, the rest of the institution, mostly  
the part which was involved with the facility management, just simply  
didn't even try to get "it".

I think there are a great number of artists doing incredibly valuable  
work around surveillance systems, namely julia, the surveillance camera  
players, and there is a gentleman who gives tours around new york  
pointing out surveillance that happens everywhere. Although,  
personally, I have this feeling (rooted in experience as I will note  
below) that although there are cameras, we simply dont have both the  
manpower, and attention span to to even make the cameras useful.  In  
fact, at the museum I used to work for, I had my bicycle parked outside  
and locked to the employee's bike rack, just below a security camera,  
and wouldn't you know it, but it was stolen, right from below the  
camera, no record, no one noticed a thing.  Goes to show that even with  
a full time security crew, and a blanket of cameras, it doesn't do a  
bit of good unless someone is actually watching.

anyway - have a look at: 


oh and by the way, anyone who's headed to ISEA this year, stop by the  
Flow Festival where I'll have a 5 channel live video setup on Saturday  
August 21st.  See ,  
page 23 for details...

On Aug 3, 2004, at 12:35 PM, brian carroll wrote:

> as always there is a huge project in waiting, about which the
> article below offers a way to share a basic, beginning idea
> about 'the context' in which artworks and artifacts are being
> presented in buildings/galleries/museums, pre- and post-
> digital. not an artist, the thing about art that is intriguing to
> me is the ideas that are shared and the questions that are
> readily and openly discussed by artists about conditions in
> which their work is presented. some of these conversations
> have been online, lurked and listened to, combined with a
> question about architecture and electromagnetism that has
> been explored for the most part in silence, for many years.
> American Art Is Adrift for Biennale in Venice, by Carol Vogel.
> just happened upon an earlier idea when researching basic
> electronics kits which automatically switch house-current to
> make lights flash, and a link referenced this being used in a
> haunted house, or to simulate lightning, when a sound kit is
> tied to a light kit which makes the lights flash synchronously.
> an earlier idea on another list was using today's remote view
> webcams, and possibly also microphones, remote control of
> lighting/home automation over the internet to make a WWW
> haunted house. in reading about the possibility of an empty
> .US pavilion at the Venice art event it made me wonder if an
> empty pavilion could become such a place, where no one is
> there but this technological interface directed from afar, with
> the visitors as the artwork, though this is an end-use for an
> idea about such spaces in which art is placed in a building
> context, and what this context is today, that adds a bit more
> to the idea than merely a haunted art show which probably
> already has been done in some manner or another already.
> the thing that is of great interest about museums young and
> old is the context they are providing for the presentation of
> ideas, and the value of these ideas, most likely monetary as
> the more sophisticated development seems to occur around
> preserving and protecting delicate or very expensive works.
> one time visiting the Louvre to find the Mona Lisa (as it was
> on the sign-posts everywhere, reproduced, and having never
> found it, settled for a photograph of the signpost itself with the
> reproduction as being the artwork)-- it was said to be heavily
> protected and the jewel of the museum, and recently efforts
> are being made to protect its further deterioration from any
> number of things (light, humidity, etc). so too, art thievery is
> an issue and works of all kinds need to have protection from
> easy art heists and so security systems are all abuzz. if not
> all, then most of them are electromagnetic. movies tend to
> go out of their way to make (fictional?) Fort Knox protective
> measures the epitome of security systems, with lasers, with
> infrared sensors, pressure and proximity devices, cameras,
> automatic doors, and the rest.
> on a more mundane level, and i do not know what the full
> extent of the 'white box' arguments/conclusions are, or if it
> is even a way to present discussions about such places,
> the idea of a 'black box' predates a museum art context it
> is presumed, if it is tied into technological discussions of
> technology itself, the magic or esoteric knowledge that may
> be masked by the science-and-technology itself being used,
> in an art or other context. i am not sure i understand what it
> is all about yet it is intriguing to me if the spaces and places
> that present works that are electromagnetic, or not, are in
> a state of questioning of their presentation in built space,
> or whatever one may call a museum or gallery today, as a
> place to present (and archive) works.  the ideas presented
> are being presented in a box which is chock full of sensors!
> electromagnetic sensors - of every advanced kind available.
> it was amazing to get a tour of a small museum's technology
> used in conservation of works, from (ultraviolet) UV shades
> on protective glass and windows, to humidity sensors, to fire
> and water and other sprinkler systems, to light-meter readings
> to gauge the health of these sensor infrastructures to protect
> and read the situation, to museums which use microphones,
> counters, speakers, intercoms, alarms, touch sensors, and
> many many other techniques to create a context for the show-
> casing of works of some value in terms of recognized ideas.
> yet the question that seems to me to be missing is sensors
> themselves as part of the context already existing between
> the older and newer works, that this infrastructure already is
> in place and working day-in and day-out and could possibly
> be the museum 'art context' which is in itself electromagnetic,
> which a haunted pavilion could transform into the work itself,
> with a few labels, letting persons in on how such sensors are
> working, sharing the physics and mathematics and technology
> and art involved in the discovery of, say, the quantum hall-effect
> to detect magnetism at a distance, or what photon-based devices
> may involve- and how. this goes to a realm of question the ideas
> of what is considered 'art' in a context which, to me at least, may
> bring in the 'science and technology' in such a way that works
> shown in science, natural history, historical, corporate, fine art,
> and other collections could find overlap if a share context were
> able to appreciate the (industrial archaeological) art of the first
> particle accelerators (cyclotrons/betatrons, others) as custom
> ideas, experiments of ideas, hand-tooled and created, to test
> and share ideas and information which may exist on one end
> of a spectrum that an installation artist who deconstructs TV
> cathoderay tubes to go into a poetic approach to scientific and
> technological insights also may explore. though if these were
> in the same room, artifacts and artworks, maybe someday an
> electromagnetic wunderkammer could do this for EM works
> across such a cultural spectrum, then 'the whole' enterprise
> could be made visible upon establishing an EM art context
> for EM works and others which inhabit such spaces today.
> this was written to share an idea about an empty gallery in
> which there is said to be no value until it is filled in with an
> enormousness of perceived valuable stuff. yet in my view it
> is possible that, given how space exists, should the space be
> prepped as it would for such valuable works to exist within,
> sensor network and surveillance and other infrastructures
> would need to be installed-- and really, have these ever by
> themselves been the focus of the changing context/nature in
> museums? i asked persons from a museum but drew blank
> stares, and was not allowed to speak to a curator about it, it
> was too mundane or for facilities management they said. yet
> could these electromagnetic sensors become a type of way
> of sensing the space, a type of understanding of the space,
> a type of sociology of the space, the people, the events, of
> how it is inhabited, its rules of engagement, its relationship
> between those who operate this mechanism and those who
> participate in these electromagnetic art context experiments?
> to me this is fascinating, the sensors used in museums as it
> is here that they are clearly seen, their use is made obvious
> along with their utility, and even overkill of the value of ideas
> which may not justify such oversight nor technical protection,
> except that if something is in such a shared 'sensed' context,
> what may it mean, i wonder. like a haunted museum if no one
> ends up going to see the artwork, possibly, as it is pre-sensor
> in its ideas, just possibly outside the time it is existing within.
> this is not a unified statement about electromagnetic artworks,
> it is any artworks in an EM context, and by addressing a place
> which is based EM sensing, as a context for presenting ideas
> or artworks, further EM works/ideas could be brought into a
> relation with one another that without this shared context may
> not be as readily possible, possibly. that is, there is an empirical
> basis for sharing ideas beyond existing mediums and messages.
> just sharing some ideas, any/all feedback welcome.
> brian
>  brian thomas carroll: architecture, education, electromagnetism
>  the electromagnetic internetwork-list
>  electromagnetism / infrastructure / civilization

  the electromagnetic internetwork-list
  electromagnetism / infrastructure / civilization