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Charged Hearts - artist statement

Our technological culture has created an environment of electromagnetic signals- pager, television, radio, computer, fluorescent lights, voltage lines, to name a few. As our technology becomes increasingly wireless the space around us is filling up. It is not limited by our body boundaries. We are already cyborgs: part flesh, part machines. We are already plugged in, all the time, systemically bonded.

The human heart, the symbolic seat of the emotions, is also one of the body's better known electromagnetic fields. The electromagnetic wave is the heartbeat itself.

"How can the parts of the human heart so quickly lose their lifelong mutual synchronization? ....cases of electric shock or emotional shock among them - the triggering mal - function may have been tiny and transient, leaving no visible trace...beyond the heart's last motions..." (Winfree, Arthur T. When Time Breaks Down. p. 41)

Charged Hearts presents an external recreation of this situation of which we are all a part. In Charged Hearts we can hold the image of this condition in our hands.

One of the stories we hear is that we will not be changed by information technology environments. It is simply a question of more access, more information, more speed, more power.

Yet becoming part of the system, logging in, means vulnerability. The more subtle the system we desire, the more intimate the relationship with it. As our intimacy grows so does our vulnerability. Within such pleasurable surveillance we wish to be both agent and object, spider and fly.

This is a site specific work. It plays with the prescribed behaviour which is the norm of museum and gallery spaces: 'Do Not Touch'. Spectators transgress three times, by first stepping on the glass, then by reaching into the cabinet and then picking up the object. By stepping up on the glass the spectators are on display. By entering the cabinet they have crossed the boundary separating themselves from the artist's work. By picking up the object they plug in and become part of the work.

In this piece the artist and spectators together investigate the nature of objects under change in new media/information environments such as the refrigerator, the door knob, the toaster - once simple, innocent - are now merging with information environments. These objects, watch, speak and whisper to one another as much as to us.

The 'real' object in this piece is electromagnetic activity and its play between the material and virtual. The hearts and the terrella contain gases which become phosphorescent when electrons are excited by the participation of the spectator. In this way the 'virtual environment' becomes material, and our own part in this environment is tangible.

Another dimension of this is the heart pacemaker which may be implanted in the spectator. The pacemaker itself employs an electromagnetic pulse which regulates a heart which has lost its ability to regulate itself. Immersion in electromagnetic fields can cause it to misfire.

The objects in Charged Hearts are nostalgic containers in the form of the heart and the world (terrella). The 'terrella' is a model of the natural wireless electromagnetic dynamo which surrounds the earth: the northern lights. The aurora works the same way as an artificial electromagnetic system: the cathode ray tube, the basis of TV and most computer screens. This one is striped bare.

They are made of glass. They are under vacuum and if shattered are very dangerous. One can speak in the same way of handling another's heart. The same language slides back and forth.

The 'real' object in this piece is electromagnetic activity and its play between the material and virtual. The hearts and the terrella are containers for these electrons. They are windows which frame the activity.

There are two glass hearts in two glass bell jars. Pick up the heart and a shadowy heart forms in phosphorescent gases. Once someone else holds the twin object, they, too, will soon find their electron heart transported. Hearts are charged both literally and figuratively. We can say that the hearts excite and mean that the electrons are firing as much as we mean that our hearts are moved.


Copyright © Catherine Richards. All Rights Reserved.