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FACT's final exhibition for 2012 is Winter Sparks, an interactive programme of works
Alexandre Burton, Impacts (2012). Interactive Installation at FACT. Photo: Brian Slater.
LIVERPOOL.- Visitors to FACT will be able to experience a personal light and sound show with electric sparks, interact with the dramatic charges from Tesla coils, and explore the mysteries of the Wilberforce pendulum, with work from four exciting international new media artists being seen in the UK for the first time.

The idea behind Winter Sparks is to turn away from the traditional understanding of the art gallery as a contemplative and over-cerebral space, instead seeking to engage visitors on a journey through impressive large-scale reactive installations. The selection of works will take over FACT’s building to ensure an immersive experience where the visitor becomes part of the different environments, experimenting with light, sound, space and motion.

Curated by FACT’s director Mike Stubbs, Winter Sparks explores the relationship between art and science through the works of Canadian artist and composer Alexandre Burton, Dutch artist and academic Edwin van der Heide, and Spain-based Bosch & Simons, known for their complex ‘music machines’.

Edwin van der Heide’s Evolving Spark Network (Gallery 1) consists of a grid of electric spark bridges across the exhibition space. The movements of visitors are detected by motion sensors to trigger electric sparks producing both sound and light, generating patterns with distinct visual and sonic qualities. This network serves as a metaphor for the human nervous system. For the artist, electric sparks represent beauty, purity and simplicity.

Alexandre Burton’s interactive installation Impacts (Gallery 2) is a ‘live’ sculptural installation consisting of Tesla coils fitted with a glass pane and suspended from the ceiling, where the presence of the visitor activates an impressive audio and visual experience. The visitor’s proximity to the works engages arcs of electricity of variable intensities as well as a rhythmic articulation, generated by the impact of the electrical arc on the glass.

Impacts has only been shown previously at the PHI Centre in Montreal, and FACT is honoured to re-stage it for new local, national and international audiences.

Bosch & Simons’s Wilberforces (atrium) refers directly to a scientific phenomenon known as the Wilberforce Pendulum. This pendulum is nothing more than a hung spring with a central weight and two eccentric weights for calibration below it, but it works in such a way that once set in motion, its movement can change from vertical motion into rotation without adding energy from an external source.

In this previously unshown work, produced by FACT, Bosch & Simons use pendulum springs for generating and processing video and audio data. Hanging a video camera, a microphone, and loudspeakers from the springs, images captured by the camera are projected in real-time, and at the same time motion data is used as a source for live electronic sound production.

The main interest of the artists is to create a complex system in which various frequencies influence each other. Alongside unstable balances and order and chaos, another theme of the work is the mystery of signal processing. Wilberforces raises questions about what is ‘real’ and what is manipulated by ‘tricks’ - an issue they say cannot be questioned enough in the era of mass manipulation we live in.


FACT | Mike Stubbs | Winter Sparks |


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