Momentary Lightbulb

I have been attempting to pass an electric current through a lead (and alternative substances) filament in order for it to glow and burn out.

There have been a few different setups. The first I tried uses eight size D batteries to make a ‘supermagnet’. I connected copper wires to both ends of the supermagnet, and then connected the ends of the wires to crocodile clips that were resting on a toilet roll. I then put a lead mechanical pencil refill in the crocodile clips. After a while, the electric current regulated, and the lead started to glow.

The other setup is identical, except that I used a Panasonic 9v battery.

Substances I have used as a filament have been: lead (mechanical pencil refill), a nail and insulated copper wire.

I created this piece as a response to being given a lightbulb for the ‘Exchange’ project. I decided to produce this sculpture to show the elements that come together to make the everyday lightbulb work even more plainly obvious. An energy source, something that can ignite… a controlled incendiary. My ‘lightbulb’ burned out immediately because the incandescence wasn’t kept in a vacuum or an argon-nitrogen gas mixture. As it is, it is a useless object, it existed for this project. I see how this work could relate to William Heath Robinson’s elaborate, rickety contrivances that perhaps worked but did so cumbersomely – inventions that visualised plainly the processes that went to make the whole machine work. Fischli and Weiss’s ‘The Way Things Go’ works as a giant machine, although it isn’t finely polished.

‘Momentary Lightbulb’

Pencil Filament

Crocodile Clips

Batteries

Toilet Roll Holder

Electrical Tape

Dimensions Variable

2013

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Below is a picture of me demonstrating the work at the private viewing of the ‘Exchange’ exhibition. I enjoyed the performative aspect, connecting the wires then hurriedly crouching behind the plinth I had covered with cardboard.

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