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Fuel (Alimentation)

New City Gas, 2012

Fuel-Alimentation is a concert of electromagnetic fields and water-based electronics, the most recent investigation of transformations and exchanges of matter and energy, from steel as an industrial material or a medium of magnetism, to the temporality and phase changes of water.
About New City Gas: this imposing industrial building once provided gas to the city of Montréal; now it is a place to explore modulations of the electromagnetic spectrum and the arcana of electricity. I kept a studio in the building for five years.

     In experiments leading to FUEL-Alimentation, I probed the sonic possibilities of thermal shock in melting ice, constructed circuits to receive 'Natural Radio' emissions and a cigar-box sized 'electromagnetic tableau'. I boiled many gallons of water and perpetually drank tea, pondering water in all its forms, as a nourishing or destructive force, as something to be brought into balance to ensure the continuity of organic life. Water is an image of fear, salvation, generation and decay. Decanted and infused, it represents the vital dimension.
     I quietly observed the process of water boiling and tea infusion, exploring the temporal sensibility of tea and the phase changes of water, from freezing-melting-liquid-boiling-gas. The leaves unfold, bleeding their oils and pigments into the water. This is meditation in sound and color. The original compositional basis was the time scale of boiling water; it undergoes changes in pH balance as it is heated. Bubbles begin to form and grow larger; the water 'quickens' (1) suddenly at high heat. Now it is hissing and agitating, giving sonic cues.
     'When I hear the wind in the pines and the rain in the cypresses, I make haste to remove the bronze heating pot, with its bamboo cover from the heat, then I wait for all sound to cease... ‘
Lo Tai Ching, 11th c. (2)

     What Traditional Chinese Medicine calls Qi (loose definition: energy or life energy) is more or less interchangeable with 'electromagnetism'. In Polestar QiGong one begins by observing the position of the north star, then aligning one's own magnetic field with that of the Earth. The field lines take the same path in a solenoid, an animal body or the earth itself; they travel through the interior, radiating outward and wrapping back in on themselves. By 'massaging' them it is possible to purify and diffuse the Qi throughout the body. T'ai Chi and Aikido also manage the accumulation and discharge of breath energy, the source of vitality. The French Sinologist François Jullien describes the manifold implications of QI:
     ''This Sinogram includes the element vapour above the sign for rice, indicating its nutritive function, or it appears above the sign for fire, thus representing its capacity for emanation and diffuse circulation. The formation of both men and things is to be taken as a condensation or coagulation of this continuous primal current, represented by an image that adequately expresses both the efficacy and the temporariness of the phenomenon: just as water condenses and ''freezes into ice'', so, too, does qi ''condense into man,'' and just as ice, by melting, once again becomes water, man, by dissolving at death, (re)joins a diffuse and invisible source of energy that wends its way ceaselessly through the world, animating as it goes.'' (3)
     The French word alimentation refers both to nourishment and electrical current. Just as we are dependent on electricity and water to survive, their influence is pervasive. EM fields penetrate and pass through solid objects just as water seeps into every crack and pore, of concrete, wood, metal or stone.

1. Sha Xin Wei, personal correspondence 2011; 2. Gauthier, Lydia: Tea: Aromas and Flavors Around the World. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2005, p. 127;  3. Jullien, François: Vital Nourishment: Departing from Happiness. Trans. Arthur Goldhammer. Zone Books, New York, 2007, p. 76

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