Winter Sparks exhibition FACT

As a member of the Veterans In Practice (VIP) project I visited the Winter Sparks exhibition at FACT. The group were very fortunate to have a member of FACT staff (Joan) as a very knowledgeable guide and mentor. Joan explained to the group the basic workings of the various artworks, the artists moving away from the usual museum thinking and introducing the idea of combining art and science.

The extensive use of electricity formed a large part of the work on show, thus adding an element of the ‘forces of nature’ and possible danger, this to set the visitor thinking and forming their own views.

Gallery 1, Evolving Spark Network, 2012, Edwin van der Heide (Netherlands)

Enter quite a large room, quite dark, wondering what to expect. An odd flash or two then a rapid succession of sparks accompanied by sharp cracks of sound emitted from the ceiling, surprised to say the least, a short break, causing almost pregnant silence, this was followed by a barrage of sound and light, building up to a recognisable rhythm and, to the military mind, the musical sound of marching feet.

I also got the feeling of being in an electrical storm as experienced by anybody who has travelled abroad. Just as suddenly the barrage stopped, except for the odd flash. Different to say the least, I left the gallery with a feeling of having experienced something


Gallery 2, Impacts, 2012, Alexandre Burton (Canada)

This work involved the use of Tesla coils. I found this work more difficult to appreciate what the artist was trying to achieve, the use of five Tesla coils working in sequence to produce a musical rhythm was lost on me! With my age and life experience the implied danger of the electrical component did not seem as real to me as it might have done to the general public, this and a childish image in my head of large glass globes at fairgrounds and the like, and when you touched the glass your hand attracted a discharge of energy from a filament in the centre of the globe.


Atrium, Wilberforces, 2012, Peter Bosch and Simone Simons (Netherlands/Spain)

The predominant force in this piece of work is mechanical rather than electrical, consisting of three cameras fitted with microphone and speakers suspended at varying heights, lifting, lowering and spinning independently.

The sound and images produced are shown in real time on screens in a darkened booth in the atrium. Unfortunately the speakers have had to be turned down due to being in a space frequented by the public; maybe this has lessened the impact?

I found the results hard to evaluate, apart from the booth being small and uncomfortably warm (probably due to the number of people in such a small space) the spinning images made me slightly disoriented and, not wishing to diminish what are quite spectacular works of art, I got the distinct impression of riding on the waltzer at the fairground.

Despite some negatives I found the exhibition interesting, I appreciate the artists ideas in combining art with science.

For more information on the exhibition:

Winter Sparks is free and open every day until Sunday 24th February


Article by Alan Kelly

Photos by JB