Electric paint – repurposing the line

Had the opportunity to attend a workshop led by Fabio Lattanzi Antinori explaining the technology behind his V&A installation

“Dataflags – Lehmann Brothers”. This is based on the share price of Lehman Bros before and after their collapse. Fabio is part of the “Executive Chair” group of artists, who “examine the worlds of work and finance and how art and technology can be used to cast a light on the diffuse boundary between work and life”.

For the Dataflag, Fabio used electric paint, which conducts an electric current, and a BareConductive Touch Board, which is a version of the Arduino board with external electrodes that act as switches when touched (or, when in contact with electric paint, if the paint is touched.) It was a ‘hands-on’ seminar – playing with the board and with electric paint gives you a tangible experience that no amount of reading about it can equal.

I was amazed by the power of the human electrical field. When the board is at full sensitivity, if you attach a crocodile clip to one of the electrodes on the board, you only have to put your hand within about three inches of the wire, not to touch it at all, for the board to switch. Also, the electric paint itself is not very robust, and flakes off easily. However, even if painted over (lightly) or varnished, it can still receive a current when the artwork is touched.

Fabio’s ‘artist statement’ says that “Working across a range of mediums including sculpture, print and interactive installations, my work examines the language of power and control of corporate systems and its effect on the belief systems of the individual. Through my practice I aim to explore the opaque mechanisms by which the dominant political and economic powers shape reality and ultimately inform notions of faith and trust in the society at large.”

Big data and the economy is quite a hot topic at the moment: Furtherfield is currently holding an exhibition, and there’s also the intriguing sounding London School of Financial Arts. Both of these seem rather more ‘activist’ than Fabio’s exploratory approach.

Watermans have a great Digital Weekend of events coming up this weekend, Executive Chair included.

Photograph and video are (c) Fabio Lattanzi Antinori and reproduced with his kind permission.

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