Physicists pylon the praise for artist's insight

February 20, 2004

It is only as the sun sets that the collaboration between installation artist Richard Box and Bristol University's physics department comes to life.

A sea of household fluorescent tubes lights up around an overhead power line close to the M4 motorway, giving substance to the otherwise unnoticed electrical field that permeates the area.

The work, dubbed Field , was inspired by Bristol physicists' pioneering work on the effects of magnetic and electrical fields on human health.

Mr Box has spent the past year working at the department. He mostly collaborated with its glass-blower to create art from neon tubes. But he also talked with Denis Henshaw, professor of human radiation effects, whose research has inspired an investigation by the National Radiological Protection Board.

"I wanted to describe what happens within the field," Mr Box said. "There is always a power loss along any overhead power line, and the fluorescent tubes - all 1,301 of them - make the power loss visible. The result has surpassed all my expectations."

Professor Henshaw praised the artwork. "It is very hard to explain to the public what these fields are - that's the beauty of Richard's work," he said.

"To have an artist make something about quite specific physics in an artistic way is inspiring to us."

The amount of light emitted by the tubes varies according to the weather, and the presence of someone walking among them can plunge those tubes near them into temporary darkness.

The Bristol physicists will visit Field for a private view next week.

Details of Field can be found at

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