Usman Haque «Sky Ear» 2004.
Sky Ear, aiden flight, July 4, 2004, Fribourg, Switzerland
Belluard Bollwerk International festival.
As people using phones at ground-level call into the Sky Ear 'cloud,' flying up to 100m above them, they are able to listen to distant natural electromagnetic sounds of the sky, including whistlers and spherics. Their mobile phone calls change the local hertzian topography; these disturbances in the electromagnetic fields inside the cloud alter the glow patterns of that part of the balloon cloud. Feedback within the sensor network creates ripples of light reminiscent of rumbling thunder and flashes of lightning.
«Sky Ear is about making visible the invisible, giving form to an electromagnetic space that is just beyond reach of our natural perceptions. It encourages people to become creative participants in an interactive performance.» ~ Usman Haque.
Electromagnetic fields exist just about everywhere in our atmosphere. Urban locations in particular have a diverse and vibrant 'hertzian' culture, with mobile phone calls overlapping text messages, combining television broadcasts with garage door openers that interfere with radio transmissions and wireless laptops, etc., not to mention the natural EMF that already exists in the atmosphere. Sky Ear is a spatial investigation of some of these phenomena.
Sky Ear is a non-rigid carbon-fibre 'cloud,' embedded with one thousand glowing helium balloons and several dozen mobile phones. The balloons contain miniature sensor circuits that respond to electromagnetic fields, particularly those of mobile phones. When activated, the sensor circuits co-ordinate to cause ultra-bright coloured LEDs to illuminate. The 30m cloud glows and flickers brightly as it floats across the sky.
Sky Ear had its last full-scale public launch on September 15, 2004 at Greenwich Park, London.
Sky Ear shows both how a natural invisible electromagnetism pervades our environment and also how our mobile phone calls and text messages delicately affect the new and existing electromagnetic fields.