15,000 Volt Fractal Madness – Lightning on Wood as Art

finished board

I saw this a few days ago, and I was blown away by it’s awesomesaucedness.

That’s right, awesome-sauced-ness.

Meet Melanie Hoff, a woman who figured out that 15,000 volts attached to a wood panel will result in a beautiful wood erosion technique that is really quite stunning:

15,000 Volts from Melanie Hoff on Vimeo.

From the video:

High voltage wood erosion.

Soundtrack: Aire De Zamba by Agustín Barrios Mangoré

To learn when wood pieces will be available to buy, send me a message with your email or follow me on twitter.

The finished board:

What Melanie is doing here is creating what we call a Lichtenberg figure, which is what happens on occasion when high voltage bursts of electricity run through some sort of insulating medium.  This could be glass, acrylic, wood (in Melanie’s case, or even skin, in the case of human lighting strikes.  Like this:


Also, here’s the case of around two million volts having been passed through a block of acrylic.  Notice the three-dimensionality of this work!


Wow.  I wonder what this would look like cranked up to, say, 100,000 volts?  Yeah, that’s why I don’t play with electricity outside of the confines of distribution equipment.  Consequently it’s also why I don’t ride a motorcycle or 4-wheeler.  I’d give myself a lifespan of about 3 weeks.

Check out Melanie’s other works, Melanie’s Twitter feed, and Melanie’s Squarespace page!  Cool stuff!

Thanks to Wikipedia for the non-Melanie images!

How It’s Made – High Voltage Pole Transformers

Happy Tuesday, everybody!

Another light-related How It’s Made video – this time of the process of fabricating high-voltage pole transformers.  You know, the things that go POP when the power goes out?  Yeah.  I’ll never forget the hellacious ice storm from the winter of 2007 in Oklahoma City that killed transformers all over the city – the power went out for days, and in the dark night time sky, you could see the green lightning of these things popping all over the place.


Check out the How It’s Made video on these things – I had no idea!

Also, not to be outdone – videos of transformers EXPLODING!

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s “Lighting Fields Composed”


Artist and photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto has a series of really beautiful photographs of electricity.  The only thing that’s different in these photographs, however, is how Hiroshi took the photos.  By taking a high voltage source and applying it directly to the film, Hiroshi made these absolutely amazing works.

One thing I like almost more than a work of art itself is understanding where the inspiration came from to create it.  From Hiroshi Sugimoto’s website:

The word electricity is thought to derive from the ancient Greek elektron, meaning “amber.” When subject to friction, materials such as amber and fur produce an effect that we now know as static electricity. Related phenomena were studied in the eighteenth century, most notably by Benjamin Franklin. To test his theory that lightning is electricity, in 1752 Franklin flew a kite in a thunderstorm. He conducted the experiment at great danger to himself; in fact, other researchers were electrocuted while conducting similar experiments. He not only proved his hypothesis, but also that electricity has positive and negative charges.  In 1831, Michael Faraday’s formulation of the law of electromagnetic induction led to the invention of electric generators and transformers, which dramatically changed the quality of human life. Far less well-known is that Faraday’s colleague, William Fox Talbot, was the father of calotype photography. Fox Talbot’s momentous discovery of the photosensitive properties of silver alloys led to the development of positive-negative photographic imaging. The idea of observing the effects of electrical discharges on photographic dry plates reflects my desire to re-create the major discoveries of these scientific pioneers in the darkroom and verify them with my own eyes.

Beautiful. I highly, highly recommend checking out some of Hiroshi’s other works, as they a brilliant – full of contrast and wonder.


Thanks, Kottke!

DA Therrien’s Beautiful Light

The above video is of the installation Beautiful Light from DA Therrien – the installation is over, but it was in Scottsdale, AZ on the 16th and 17th of January.  This is a huge installation – 500 kW – and according to the Beautiful Light website, Beautiful Light “explored the purity of white light, the mystery of language, the precision of digital codes and the magic of 4 letters – A, C, G, T – representing the DNA code, and consequently, all known life.”

This thing was 80 feet wide – white light – high voltage.  A wonderful statement in the dark desert – I would have loved to see this from far away, several miles in the desert – I imagine the ambient light illuminating the desert night from this piece was stunning.

From the DA Therrien website about Beautiful Light:

Installations in the BEAUTIFUL LIGHT series are derived from ideas that I have been fascinated with since childhood, most specifically, the phenomema of light and electricity and the role of light in our belief systems, language, biology, natural world and cosmology – light as illumination, energy, information – and as a metaphor for good and evil. It is also one of our earliest technologies – fire to drive out the night.

The term “Beautiful Light” is double edged, describing both the observable physical nature of pure light and representations in various belief systems and cultures – Egyptian, Greek, Judaism, and later, Christianity. In Egyptian mythology, the god Taht (Apollo in Greek) was represented as a “beautiful light” and this light represented knowledge itself. In the Bible, angels are described as beings of light – messengers of light.

In addition to my interest in light and electricity, I have a fascination with language and the codes that represent it, both analog and digital. The 4 LETTER WORD MACHINE, the first installation in the BEAUTIFUL LIGHT series, explores the purity of white light, the mystery of language, the precision of digital codes and the magic of 4 letters – A, C, G, T – representing the DNA code, and consequently, all known life.

This thing is awesome.  My friend Erica sent me the link.  Thanks, Erica!