Most people are intrigued by the supernatural, even if it creeps them the heck out. That’s why Paranormal Activity was so stupidly popular!
To give you some context, Electrofringe is a presenting platform for experimental electronic and tech-based art, which has been running in Australia since 1997. Electrofringe seeks to foster innovative works and creative practices that use technology in new and exciting ways.
Techly chatted to Jade Boyd in order to delve a little deeper into her work ‘Crystal Radio Feed’, inspired by the Spooky Tesla Spirit Radio. We found out why she thinks the supernatural is perplexing, and why she chose to recreate Nikola Tesla’s 1901 foray into supernatural communication, which he found it difficult to describe:
I can never forget the first sensations I experienced when it dawned upon me that I had observed something possibly of incalculable consequences to mankind…My first observations positively terrified me, as there was present in them something mysterious, not to say supernatural… Although I could not decipher their meaning, it was impossible for me to think of them as having been entirely accidental. The feeling is constantly growing on me that I had been the first to hear the greeting of one planet to another.
What can audiences expect from your work?
Audiences can expect to hear the Spooky Tesla Spirit Radio responding to the electromagnetic emanations of a screen where submerged crystals undergo imperceptible transformations and are manipulated via live analogue video intervention. A light switched on or off causes pops in the radio’s reception, even from the next room. If tuned correctly, it emits eerie voices, or can pick up on lightning.
What was involved in creating the work? And what role did Nick Wishart play in the creation?
A corner of my study has been devoted to growing crystals for the past month. I’ve been routing signals through analogue video mixers, sourcing obscure parts and mini spy cameras, playing with the radio’s reception and seeing how I could make a connection between all these things.
I called in Nick as circuit-bending expert after having worked with him recently on DLUX’s wearable technology project, sARTorial (our Theremin headpiece and fibre optic gown with Carley Rose Wolski will also be shown in EF16). Nick did the initial soldering and I then tweaked it and began tuning it and making recordings.
What inspired you to recreate Tesla’s Spirit Radio?
The work has developed as a result of my PhD research into haunted media, occulted energies (as in electromagnetism) and the intersection of science the occult through technology in art.
Somehow through a combined interest in Tesla, strange radio phenomena and circuit bending, I came across the Spooky Tesla Spirit Radio – designed by mrfixittrick on Instructables after Tesla’s original.
The radio seemed like the perfect embodiment of these interests, manifesting occulted and maybe even occult energies. I thought I could incorporate it into my installations.
Technology has obviously progressed since Tesla’s time, but do you think that present-day society is still fixated/ interested in the supernatural world?
I do think there is a fascination but it is maybe more marginal or underground today. On Youtube you can find home videos of people trying to contact the dead with Ghost Boxes and various other machines. In Tesla’s time, the development of communications technologies was often quite openly tied in with attempts to contact the spirit world – the mysterious nature of the disembodied voices and images that arose through these new modes of transmission left them open to supernatural interpretation.
What project is next in line for you?
This project is still in an early, exploratory stage. I’m developing it further for my PhD exhibition (at Sydney College of the Arts). I’ve been aiming at making an installation where technology and organic elements feed off each other symbiotically. And I’ve also wanted to create a 3D hologram to use within an installation for some time!