An Apparatus

January 29th, 2015

An Apparatus: Faculty Show - University of Colorado, Denver

My work titled "An apparatus that reproduces selected harmonics of Schumann resonances as acoustic waves while exciting elemental Mercury into visible interference patterns" is, well... just what it says it is.

The title essentially describes the operation of the work. A micro-controller generates a series of tones that are mathematically derived harmonics of the Schumann resonances, which have a fundamental frequency of approximately 7.83Hz. Schumann resonances are global electromagnetic waves, excited by lightning discharges in the cavity formed by the Earth's surface and the ionosphere, and named after physicist Winfried Otto Schumann who predicted it mathematically in 1952. These tones serve as the "engine" which projects it's energy in 2 simultaneous directions:

  • 1. a small electrical transducer converts the electrical energy into physical vibrations, and is directly coupled to a sealed vessel containing elemental Mercury (Hg).
  • 2. a large subwoofer speaker converts the electrical energy into audible sound pressure waves.

The physically excited elemental mercury is caused to deform its surface into visible patterns which are captured via a small camera attached to the same microcontroller producing the audio tones. These patterns are displayed on the video monitor in realtime as they occur.

This process of making sound visible in matter is called "Cymatics" and was pioneered by Hans Jenny in the 1960's, Ernst Chladni in 1787 and Robert Hooke as far back as 1680.

What I am saying with the work is that experience and interpretation are invisible partners, entangled in much the same way that science and art, sound and image, mind and body are. We say "seeing is believing", but really seeing is just seeing; believing is a much more complicated process. Embedded within the phenomena associated with both Cymatics and Schumann waves, are vast territories of pseudo-science and metaphysical belief systems that I find fascinating for this very reason. It is not so much the specific claims attached to the phenomenon, but that such vastly divergent conclusions can be arrived at by witnessing them.