Allora & Calzadilla
Allora & Calzadilla’s Electromagnetic Field series, initiated in 2018, take electromagnetism, one of the four fundamental forces of nature, as its subject and medium. The artists experiment with electromagnetism to create forms that are at once abstract and referential. They drop iron filings on top of a canvas and place it above an array of copper cables connected to an electrical breaker in their studio in San Juan, Puerto Rico. When the breaker is turned on, the electrical current forces the particles into an arrangement of shapes and patterns governed by the electromagnetic field. Attraction and repulsion, strength and weakness, accumulation and dispersal are some of the tools the artists employ to find formal resolution in the electromagnetic works. However, the rhythmic balance achieved does not mute the pulsing forces that condition the very appearance of the artwork – from stock market cycles to fossil fuel combustions. The parenthetical component of the work’s title, a lengthy sequence of numbers and letters that they took from their studio electric bill, refers to the politics related to the generation, ownership, and distribution of electricity.
Allora & Calzadilla have an ongoing interest in using electricity to probe the many facts and figures involved in energy consumption in Puerto Rico and beyond, from the oil futures market and trans national holders of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s bond debt to the local consumers who suffer the consequences of the bankrupt power authority’s fiscal mismanagement. Their artistic experiments with electromagnetism are in equal part an exploration of formal principles and a way of confronting the complex nexus that is the energy grid. Michelle White, head curator of Houston’s Menil Collection and the artists’ solo exhibition ‘Specters of Noon’ in 2020-21, remarked on their approach in her essay: “From the beginning of their partnership in 1995, the duo have explored how socioeconomic inequalities in our contemporary moment collide with the natural world, with all of its marvels and increasingly frightening and overwhelming phenomena. They delight in this discordant and illuminating interaction, which delves into unlikely connections and ignites revealing conversations. Pulling substances, materials, and sounds out of particular contexts, histories, or sites, these works move the viewer through wildly divergent temporal, material, political, and theoretical terrains."
Electromagnetic Field (July 27, 2020, Meter Number 96215234, Fuel Charge Adj 2,800kWh x $0.05534, Purchase Power Charge Adj 2,800kWh x $0.046489, Municipalities Adj 2,800kWh x $0.004094, Subsidies, Public Light & other Subv HH, 2,800kWh x $0.008991, Subsidies, Public Light & other Subv NHH, 2,800kWh x $0.001357), 2020
Magnetite on linen
243.8 x 182.9 x 4.4 cm
96 x 72 x 1 3/4 in