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It’s still the subject of (extensive) debate whether the electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) produced by appliances, cell phones and high-voltage wires contribute to human illness and cancer. For an academic overview, check out the Human Radiation Effects Group, by Professor Denis Henshaw of the University of Bristol. For a visual illustration, look no further than FIELD by artist Richard Box. It’s a grid of fluorescent light bulbs planted into the ground beneath a series of power lines. When the bulbs glow, it’s not because of a series of buried wires, or a battery– they light up using the ghost power radiating from the wires overhead.
The luminous power of the installation is powered by the weather and passing humans– either of which can make a series of bulbs flicker or power out– but otherwise the bulbs give off a steady glow, come sunset. Planted in the field are a total of 1,301 ready-made fluorescent bulbs. Artist Box came up with the idea for the installation after a conversation with a friend who played with such bulbs under power lines as a kid and found that the tubes lit up like light sabres.
The effect is other-worldly, almost post-apocalyptic. It also leaves one wondering: what kind of effect could the power to light 1,301 bulbs have on my body? Which is the point: Box created the installation as Artist-in-Residence at the University of Bristol’s Physics department, where he worked together with Henshaw. Maybe the fields cause leukemia; or maybe they don’t, but these men are working to shed light on the possible effects that radiation might have on humans.
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