Featured presentation

WAVES: Electromagnetic Waves As An Art Medium

by Linda VebereRIXC – Centre for New Media Culture, Riga, Latvia


Electromagnetic waves are the principle material – the medium – of media art.

Radio waves occur naturally. Society puts the biggest emphasis on the ability of waves to carry signals. Radio, television and mobile telephony are some of the most widely used applications. The worlds fixation on content and its socio-political implications makes us forget the waves themselves. The proposed exhibition takes a look at the physical properties of waves. Waves are considered to be ‘immaterial’ from the point of view of visual art. However, light is just a specific band in the spectrum of electromagnetic waves. Some of the properties of waves change according to their frequency and wavelength. It is worthwhile looking at those properties and exploring their implications for art. Wave-like phenomena play an important role in various aspects of reality, from the physical consistency of the world (audio-, air-, water-waves) to Kondratiev-cycles and the carbon-cycle (the storage and release of CO2 by oceans and forests).

A materialistic analysis of waves reveals that there is a direct relation between the wavelength and the length of an antenna – the device necessary to receive and send waves. λ = the wavelength of an electromagnetic wave is the result of the speed of light divided by the frequency. For instance, the frequency on which wireless LAN operates, is 2.4 Gigahertz. 300 000 / 2400 000 = 0.125 km or 12.5 cm. The length of the antenna needs to be λ/2 = 6.25 cm or multiples of it. Through this formula expresses itself a link between immaterial wave and physical object. The antenna as an object combines sculptural and functional aspects.

We cannot speak about waves without mentioning wave/particle duality. Light and electromagnetic radiation are actually not only waves but also exhibit properties of particles. Wave-particle duality also applies to matter. Thus, the ‘building bricks’ of matter need to be understood also as waves. The relationships between wavelength, mass, energy and speed offer exciting possibilities for an artistic exploration of the ontological status of affairs. Since 100 years we cannot take the physical status of the world for granted and must live with an understanding of spacetime which is counter-intuitive and hard to visualize. For art, this is an interesting opening, a chance to ask the big questions about fundamentals such as time, space, energy and substances.

It is a basic property of waves to create connections. Through the antenna we get access to Hertzian space. Artists using electromagnetic waves as their medium are creating wave-sculptures, real-time connections in time and space, which allow us to enter another space. Those connections can go both ways from formlessness to form and structure and back — the materialisation of the inconcrete and its opposite.

Around planet earth a tight information sphere has been formed. Whereas some artists explore this thicket of global communication networks with various probing techniques, it becomes increasingly clear that it does not make much sense to add just another communication channel to this already babilonic mess. Increasingly artists focus on experimenting with their own signals and systems instead of relying on the commodified information infrastructures of the global media sphere. By creating mobile ad-hoc networks or by pointing antennas towards outer space or the the depth of oceans artists literally open up the horizons towards the possibilities of a new way of seeing and interacting with the world.

Read about WAVES event also here.


2 Responses to “Featured presentation”

  1. Reset otvorí spektrum Says:

    […] s EM spektrom. Linda Vebere odprezentuje umelecký výskum a festival Art + Communication: Waves / Spectropia, ktorý hosťuje centrum RIXC v Rige. Na programe je tiež projekcia kineskopického […]

  2. Schedule « o p e n s p e c t r u m Says:

    […] Waves – lecture by Linda Bebere and discussion Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Call for […]

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