30 November 2012

Author Lesley Taker

For over a decade, award-winning Canadian artist Alexandre Burton has been producing artworks using digital technologies both on his own and as a member of the Montreal-based group artificiel.

His 'live', structural installation Impacts employs Tesla coils; each fitted with a glass pane and suspended from the ceiling. The presence of the visitor before each device activates an 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 pane.

This work, which has never been shown in the UK, will shortly be installed in Gallery 2 for the new exhibition Winter Sparks and the amazing Tesla coils which are the core of the piece will form one of the most stunning parts of the new show.

The award-winning Alexandre Burton has been creating and playing with electricity as a solo-artist, or as part of various other collectives or pairings for well over ten years. This has included exhibitions at major digital-art and science fairs, as well as live performances with electricity at festivals such as Sonar in Barcelona, alongside musicians like The Chemical Brothers, Flying Lotus and LCD Soundsystem. In the delivery of this piece, Burton (as part of artificiel) used Tesla coils to produce an impressively profound audio-visual experience.

The same hardware, and specifically designed software, will animate the coils, which move into FACT on 13 December. Expect leaping arcs of electricity and static, in an ever-changing show of sound and light. As with all of Burtons work, Impacts strives to reveal a new form of expression and experience available only through the use of new-media and creative technology: an "impactful" experience which at once arrests the viewer, but also brings into question topics of sci-art, the material, and the possibility of creating new, unknown experiences by renewing previously monumental scientific findings with the technology we have now learnt to harness and utilise as a creative force.

The Tesla coil is an emblem of scientific discovery which still, centuries later, has the power to intrigue, fascinate and -pardon the pun- spark the imagination of not only scientists, but also artists, and the general public.

Burton's piece takes the hardware and scientific thought behind the Tesla coil and animates them for a digital age with custom-built, self-modified software. Burton's interest in technology is dedicated towards creating a new sensibility, specifically for digital works. Minimal and uncomplicated, his work focuses on writing and the organization of relationships amongst various modes of expression.