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Elektrostatic Interference by Barry Schwartz and Arterial Group

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The following is an excerpt from http://www.realtimearts.net/article/45/5962

The huge, wide walls of the Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Hall wrap around us, flooded with images moving slowly, vertically, the effect is vertiginous. In the centre of the hall digital images play on a large screen above a collection of bright metal sculptures standing just above water. A projection on another wall picks up artists and technicians as they move purposefully about the space. A choir appears on various levels delivering text in song, chatter, chirp and mutter. The recorded voice of an elderly one-time Powerhouse worker, Max Ham, intones the fun of working life (including his workers’ skiffle group, The 5 Kilowatts) and the horrors of a building then awash with asbestos and machines that chopped off fingers and limbs. A long row of artists and technicians sit at a bank of computers, lighting and sound desks. Centre stage is the American Barry Schwartz (electro-mechanical structures, RT#44) and, constellating about him, the Belgian Bastiaan Maris (chemo-acoustic installations), the Brisbane artists Andrew Kettle (sound) and Keith Armstrong (visual production) and others in their coveralls.

As the installation-performance slowly unfolds over the hour, sparks begin to fly, shooting out of the top of a condensor accompanied by shards of sound. Schwartz activates the sculptures. The stroking of a large metal disk yields eerily primal metallic groans. The artist lowers what looks like a huge, smoking turntable arm onto the same disk unleashing pure, massive cymbal-like tones. The pace of the work accelerates, the tone growing more ominous, the choir heralding something apocalyptic, Ham telling of death by electric shocks, death by asbestosis. Schwartz dons long, protective, insulated yellow sleeves and big gloves, dips them into water and turns to the big screen, now streaming with water. He strikes, igniting the water with balls of electricity that travel up and fade, as others climb higher and higher, each stroke ringing out like chorded bells heralding the end of time. Unlike the workers in the Powerhouse who were electrocuted and resuscitated or died, Schwartz is safe, transforming danger into awesome, if grim beauty.

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