Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Field Experiment

The Field Experiment tests the power of human mind, as participants are challenged to connect to the cosmos by "imagining a field"

NEW YORK, November 10, 2010 (updated January 2, 2011) -- The Behring Institute for Medical Research in Dresden, Germany, has selected MomenTech’s Field Experiment, a psychological meditation-based audience participation project that utilizes cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR), for inclusion in the 2011 publication “Placebos for Art.”

The Field Experiment is an interactive, site-specific audiovisual project that explores meditation, self-hypnosis, the media and our cosmic origins by asking participants to imagine a field after having stared into live television static for a period of 10 seconds.

Anyone can participate in The Field Experiment.

To create an installation to conduct The Field Experiment, organizers will need:

- one (1) functional analog television, set to static
- one (1) white Greek column, preferably Doric, with a height no greater than 5'
- one (1) set of instructions to participate in The Field Experiment (as noted below)

Set the TV on top of the column. Plug in the TV, turn it on and set it to a channel that receives only static. Turn the volume knob to its highest possible setting. Mount a piece of paper with the following instructions, or place the instructions directly on a nearby wall. The following instructions should be readable by viewers standing directly in front of the TV.

(instructions start)


1. Stare directly into the static on the television.
2. In your head, count slowly the numbers backwards from 10 to 1 (at the rate of approximately one number per second)
3. When you get to the number "1," close your eyes.
4. Imagine a field.

(instructions end)

The amount of time the participant stays in this position, with eyes closed in front of the television, is up to the participant.


"A small percentage of the static that you see on an analog television, when it's tuned to an empty channel, is from the Big Bang," notes artist Rick Doble, who uses analog television static in his work, in an NPR interview with Guy Raz.

"It's really the echo of the Big Bang. It's called cosmic microwave background radiation or CMBR. And this is being picked up by the television signal."

The Cosmic Microwave Background temperature fluctuations from the 7-year Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe data seen over the full sky. The colors represent the tiny temperature fluctuations, as in a weather map.
(image: NASA/WMAP Science Team).

Raz: So, this echo from billion of years ago...
Doble: Right...
Raz: still echoing...
Doble: 13 billion years ago.
Raz: communicating to us through terrestrial television.


In a world where digital television is the norm, the ability to access live static is getting more and more difficult. It can also be argued that in a world increasingly inundated with information, it is increasingly harder to find moments of quiet reflection.

Information/media overload, meditation, hypnosis, and the cosmos are all themes explored in Field Experiment, which recalls Nam June Paik's 1974 sculpture/installation "TV-Buddha," in which an antique statue of Buddha "watches" itself on a closed-circuit television.

But the Buddha is also being "watched" by the video camera. As Hartmut Neven, a computer scientist and vision expert at Google, said, "Machines will definitely be able to observe us and understand us better. Where that leads is uncertain."

Nam June Paik. TV Buddha, 1974
closed circuit video installation (video camera, monitor) with bronze sculpture

In Field Experiment, Paik's mediated gaze shifts from the other (Buddha/no ego) to the self (ego) and back again (Nirvana), as viewers are invited to participate in the experiment, simply by standing in front a television displaying pieces of information, some of which have taken 13.7 billion years to travel from the beginning of time (i.e., the Big Bang) to Earth at the present time.

Viewers, then, become vessels that channel the Universe's earliest signals of activity through their mental ability to, quite prosaically, "imagine a field" through the use of self-hypnosis.

It is relatively easy to meditate in a quiet environment. But one's true ability to meditate is demonstrated by meditating in the most chaotic of environments -- to "imagine a field" through the static.

Wikipedia defines meditation as "any of a family of techniques that involve the self-induction of a mode of consciousness in order to realize some benefit."
For the deepest meditation, one has to not only focus on one object, but to make the awareness itself be that object. This way the focus of consciousness is turned back to the self. In this sense, The Field Experiment might simply be used as a meditation technique.

However, a successful installation of The Field Experiment also offers a way to (re)connect with the origins of the cosmos in the form of the cosmic microwave background radiation that is readily accessible through an analog television that is tuning in a "non-channel."



Producers of The Field Experiment are encouraged to gather the following data, but it is not required for a successful installation:

1. the age/gender of each participant
2. the length of time each participant stays in front of the television with their eyes closed
3. the size of the television
4. the decibels (db) of the audio of the level (i.e., the volume level of the static)
5. any post-experiment participant comments

This data can be displayed to the public in conjunction with the installation of The Field Experiment, and can also be sent directly to MomenTech for analysis.

For more information, email MomenTech:

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