Visable Light, Audible Sound and

Invisible Magnetospheric Propogation

I guess that the first time I was impressed with lightning was in about 1960 when I was on top of a 10,000 foot mountain in Wyoming. A thunder storm moved in right over my head and I heard the thunder and saw the flash at the same moment. Talk about Hi Fi, as it was called in those days, this was my most exciting moment observing the Earth's power and mystery. I recall this often and remain fascinated with the most powerful and subtle, natural Earth events I can find, especially those with "unseen" components always present but hard to comprehend, like the weather. And I am equally fascinated with the efforts of mankind to understand and appreciate these events.

So, what does this have to do with being an artist and teacher? Earth-stuff is the source of my work.

Recently, I discovered through my friend Steven McGreevy the wonderful sounds coming from lightning that can only be heard with special radio receivers operating in the audio part of the spectrum, but unheard by the human ear. It seems that lightning storms on the far side of the planet cause very low frequency waves, invisably propogated by the Magnetosphere. The Aurora does a similar thing too and it is his dream to videotape the Aurora and add these normally unheard sounds. I now have one of his receivers and listen for these strange sounds.

What this research proves to me is that natural phenomena here on our home planet are rich in multimedia events. My goal is to create personal responses to some of these events using my experience in sculpture, sound and photography. Continual research shows me new processes and tools by which I can learn more and express what it is I find intriguing and hopefully universal for others. I admit to also being fascinated with the new digital tools for exploration of the Earth. I hope to use these analytical tools for aesthetic aims in a project I call Site Moments..


Natural Radio
Theater of Electricity
The Aurora Page

My Home Planet

I've been fortunate to travel a bit but will never see most of the Earth. I am also interested in places where people have discovered truths about the planet. I think of the great observatories in India and the American Southwest. But I am equally intrigued by people who have built monuments which still puzzle us like Stonehenge and the other stone circles in England and sites in Latin America like Monte Alban. Without pronouncing judgement, as an artist I am free to include both the scientific and mystical in my research. I am especially interested now in how technology can enable us to keep tabs on our Earth through remote sensing devices such as weather buoys. All this data I present has a functional aim, but I am drawn to its aesthetic quality.

For example I am currently working on a project with HP engineer Glenn Elmore to our unique, Sonoma County high speed, amateur radio, digital network. His OCAR (On Channel Active Repeater) pages reflect the work that he and I are currently doing. I have an in-progress page on helix antenna construction as well. This project has grown out of another Gateway project where multimedia, interaction and remote sensing research interests led us to establish an internet-to-amprnet gateway in my office at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Digital Landscape

Traditional maps are abstractions of the real world, a sampling of important elements portrayed on a sheet of paper with symbols to represent physical objects. People who use maps must interpret these symbols, but they can be equaly appreciated visually. Topographic maps show the shape of land surface with contour lines. The actual shape of the land can be seen only in the mind's eye. Graphic display techniques in Geographic Information System's make relationships among map elements visible, heightening one's ability to extract and analyze information, but for me it simply adds more layers of visual richness.

The Electromagnetic Spectrum

Bucky Fuller said about the Electromagnetic spectrum: "Up to the twentieth century, "reality" was everything humans could touch, smell, see, and hear. Since the initial publication of the chart of the electromagnetic spectrum ... humans have learned that what they can touch, smell, see, and hear is less than one-millionth of reality. Ninety-nine percent of all that is going to affect our tomorrows is being developed by humans using instruments and working in ranges of reality that are nonhumanly sensible."

Electromagnetic spectrum research is so broad a field that I specialize in a small area for which I have some experience and tools. While many artists limit their aesthetic research to the visible spectrum, I have broadened mine to include some invisible parts of the spectrum. My interest in amateur radio over the past 30 years gives me some insight and ability to include information from another narrow part of that spectrum. Sight, or more specifically, Line of Sight becomes very important for certain parts of the spectrum and for the "catching the ghosts" as Alice Aycock calls those unseen forces around us. Radio frequency research often takes me to the field and I really like this topographical contact with nature. My tools include receivers and transmitters operating from the audio frequencies to near light, global positioning spread spectrum receivers using satellites and high speed data wireless networks linked to the internet.

John Watrous