Monthly Archives: October 2010

Kellys Trees

Kellys trees are a local landmark on the mountain behind the Cow House. They are on the site of a house that was owned by the Kelly family. The house is long gone and the stones of which it was made have been taken away and probably reused in parts of the O’Gorman farm. The trees are planted in a rectangle around where the house would have been and they form a canopy overhead, suggesting an uncanny, natural architectural space.

Manchester Ice Cloud Chamber

In June 2010, I visited the laboratory of Dr Clive Saunders who works the University of Manchester in the Earth, Atmosphere and Environmental sciences department. His research focuses on the role of ice crystals in various atmospheric causes of lightening in the atmosphere. He can recreate conditions inside clouds in a large, highly complex piece of equipment called the Manchester Ice Cloud Chamber (M.I.C.C.) which is installed in the lab. The ice cloud chamber is a vertical 1m diameter stainless steel tube which spans four floors. Three of the floors have freezer rooms through which the chamber passes. This enables experiments to be monitored at different heights of the chamber. During my visit, Dr Saunders told me about his research, about cloud formation and told me about some experiments I could do myself.


Are you right there, Father?

Chrysler Turbo Encabulator

The original machine had a baseplate of pre-famulated amulite

By the light of the moon

The phonautograph was the first known sound recording device. It was patented in 1857 by French inventor Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville. It consisted of a large copper barrel with a diaphragm on the end to which a stylus with a hogs bristle was attached. Next to the barrel was a roll of oil lamp smoke blackened paper which was fed through the device by turning a handle. The recording was made by speaking into the barrel, which moved the stylus and made an etching into the paper in the form of a squiggly line akin to a seismograph.

An apparent drawback of the phonautograph is its inability to play back the sounds it recorded. It was however, intended only to be used to study sound by producing a visual representation. It inspired a number of other phonautographs to be made and was the inspiration for Thomas Edisons Phonograph –a device that could be played back.

In 2008 Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory made high resolution scans of some recordings that had survived. They made a “virtual stylus” and were able to play the sound back. The song they played was “Au Clair de la Lune” (“By the light of the moon”). The variables which effected the initial recording –speed at which the handle was turned to feed the paper etc, meant that the recording sounded like it was being sung by a child or and adolescent, but further research suggests that it might have been Scott himself.

Whilst on a residency at Manchester Metropolitan University, I was building a small wind turbine and happened upon the phonautograph whilst researching alternative methods of generating electricity. After deciding that generating electricity from sound was too difficult, if not impossible -at least for my abilities, I decided to start creating my own phonautograph. My motivation was to connect my work with the landscape and blur the boundaries between the inside and the outside and our relationship within that. I am also interested in the translation of energy from one thing to another.

I have made four identical phonautographs. Mine work automatically, using a dynamic microphone placed outside, they have an automatic paper feed driven by a motor and they use small amplifier modules which send a signal to a small motor with a stylus attached. I have been working on them whilst at Cow House and today I managed to get them all up and running.

Life in Space III

Olafur Eliasson held three Life In Space (LIS) symposia, one in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In these, he invited artists, architects, collaborators and people working in areas which have informed his work such as the natural and social sciences to his studio to discuss ideas around light, space and perception. LIS in 2008 was filmed and the edited version is available to watch on his website. I have been working my way through it for the past few days. I think the idea is that questions are raised and theories put forward. Some of the language is thoroughly impenetrable, words are created and also mispronounced, but don’t let this put you off, it is definitely worth a look. Also look out for Steen Kørner (pictured above) and his dancing -he provides some strange, slightly light-hearted relief with his moon walks and improbable hand movements.

This is a cow

I thought I’d better show some photos of cows, this being Cow House studios and all. They are hanging out in the field outside my window.