DIELECTRIC
Fabian Winkler

DIELECTRIC is an interactive installation that critically investigates historical, social and technological aspects of electricity's ambiguous nature. It is particularly inspired by the buzzing sounds of power lines in urban space, a symbolic expression of the city's enormous need for energy. The elements of the project evoke the technology of energy transmission and the presence of electricity - impalpable and invisible in nature, yet familiar and practical in everyday life.

  • DIELECTRIC thesis paper - June 2003 (PDF document, 1.5MB).

Power line, Downtown L.A., photo by Daniel Sauter
The installation's main components are two power line cross arms and wires. Halfway between the cross arms the power line's wires are interwoven to form a hammock. The installation's main interface - the hammock - is inspired by observations of power lines in urban L.A. It is a hybrid sculpture somewhere between a power line and a traditional hammock, and mixes connotations associated with each.
Historical Context
The first time the hammock enters Western culture can be very precisely dated to an entry in the journal of Portuguese explorer Pero Vaz de Caminha.
On the 27th of April in 1500, he walked on a beach in Brazil and made a strange discovery: Caminha saw people sleeping in what he first believed to be fishing nets. This led to the Portugese word for hammock: "rede de dormir", which translates literally "a net for sleeping". The interface in DIELECTRIC also implies the idea of a net - technically a net collecting electromagnetic information from the surrounding space.

Technical Information
An analog capacitance sensor measures changes of the hammock's electromagnetic field caused by interactors approaching the installation. Based on the sensor values, arcing is triggered in a high voltage transformer. When a visitor lays in the hammock, his/her body assimilates into the hammock's electromagnetic field and becomes part of the sensor. Other visitors can then trigger arcing by touching the person laying in the hammock.

Exhibitions
  • Jury Recommended Work, art category, 7th Media Arts Festival, Agency for Cultural Affairs, CG-ARTS Society, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo, Japan, Mar. 2004.
  • Replay, Wood Street Galleries, Pittsburgh, Oct.-Dec. 2003.
  • MFA Thesis Exhibition, UCLA Department of Design | Media Arts, New Wight Gallery, Los Angeles, Jun. 2003.