JAMES CLERK MAXWELL was a Scottish physicist and mathematician. Born in Edinburgh on the 13th of June 1831 he became one of the greatest scientists of his time.

He took the first colour photograph, defined the nature of gases and, with a few mathematical equations, expressed all the fundamental laws of light, electricity and magnetism - and in doing so provided the tools to create the technological age, from radar to radio and television to mobile phones.

"The theory I propose
may be called a theory
of the Electromagnetic Field
because it has to do with
the space in the neighbourhood
of the electric or magnetic bodies,
and it may be called a Dynamic Theory,
because it assumes that
in that space
there is matter in motion,
by which observed
electromagnetic phenomena
are produced."
(James Clerk Maxwell)
THE SPACE
AROUND THINGS

THE ELECTROMAGNETIC SPECTRUM

Maxwell's main body of research concerned him with the exploration of the space around things.

He discovered that the "void" or space, which surrounds things, is made up of dynamic waves with an array of frequencies and wavelengths, whose understanding is crucial for our modern communication systems.

Maxwell paved the way to the existence of the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation.

Defining fields as a tension in the medium, he stated his belief in a new concept:

"Energy resides in fields as well as in bodies."

 

COLOUR
PHOTOGRAPHY

One of Maxwell's many interests included the perception of colour. This led him to invent the trichromatic process.

Using red, green and blue liquid filters, he produced the first colour photograph (of a Scottish tartan ribbon). This process was the forerunner of today's modern colour photography.

Maxwell's discoveries and research in the field of electromagnetism and light brought awareness to the importance of the space around things and visually he managed to manifest this "space" through his play and manipulation of light.

 

The space around things is not something we can see or touch, yet this space and the electromagnetic waves that travel through it shape the way we communicate in the modern world.

The concept for the character intervention came through an exploration into bringing awareness to this space which surrounds us.

Manifesting this "space" can take on many forms and initially artist Rachel Whiteread and her notion of "mapping" negative space, was used as inspiration.Her interpretation involves casting space into a solid object using concrete.

 

BRINGING AWARENESS
TO THE SPACE AROUND US

The chosen art form for the character intervention became a non site-specific installation.

The installation sought to find a physical way of manifesting an aspect of the space which surrounds us. It also sought a way to bring awareness to the space we inhabit.

In contrast with Rachel Whiteread's approach, soft materials, which follow the colours of the electromagnetic spectrum, were chosen and used in a way which encourages interaction and allows people to touch a physical manifestation of this concept. Reflective elements were introduced to experiment with the behaviour of light.

Although built as a stand alone piece, the installation may be more suited to being placed in a circulation space where people would be forced to walk through it and hopefully slow down to take account and connect with the space which surrounds them.