Faraday’s Synaptic Gap

Faraday’s Synaptic Gap is a project that encompasses video and sound works, a print series, an audio piece for headphones and walking across Waterloo Bridge, small scale installations, drawings and text works, in addition to research documents, writing, and interventions within a library catalogue system. These elements were the basis of a solo exhibition held jointly at the National Poetry Library in the Southbank Centre and the Book Library at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.

As the bridge is crossed between the north and south banks of the river, sound results from magnets affecting the left and right ears – as faint electrical signals attract and repel a coil of copper wire, which, in turn, moves a diaphragm: pushing air, and with it, sound waves into the ear canal.

Michael Faraday was the son of a blacksmith, an apprentice bookbinder, and a self-taught chemist and physicist who became director of the laboratory at the Royal Institution. At high water, the 1,326 feet which separated the north and south banks, occupied his thoughts.

Submerged Thought: in the interval where the ears hear their apparatus. Human ears milled from wood that was taken from the failed foundations of Waterloo Bridge after it was demolished in 1936. The ears were installed either side of the second incarnation of Waterloo Bridge in two locations: the left ear at the Poetry Library, Southbank Centre; the right ear at the Book Library, The Courtauld Institute of Art, on the north bank of the Thames. Collection: The Library of Congress, DC.

Approximate Total Thought: The approximate distance between the pre and postsynaptic neurons, multiplied by a conservative estimate of the number of synapses in the cerebral cortex. Theoretically, and physically, the sum of space in the human brain where all thought takes place.

In 1832 Faraday conducted an experiment in which he suspended a length of copper wire across Waterloo Bridge. Each end of the wire was joined to a copper plate that was submerged in the River Thames below. In so doing Faraday made a circuit comprising the wire, joined by a galvanometer and completed via the electrical conductivity of the river water. With this experiment Faraday hoped to observe the electricity generated as the river flowed between east and west across the Earth’s magnetic field.

Installation views:
The National Poetry Library, Southbank Centre and the Book Library at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.

Faraday’s Synaptic Gap, solo exhibition, jointly at the National Poetry Library, Southbank Centre and the Book Library, the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 2015 – 2016