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til_23 Feb

14 Nikola Tesla, with

14 Nikola Tesla, with his equipment for producing high-frequency alternating currents, 1901. ELECTRICITY: THE SPARK OF LIFE AT WELLCOME COLLECTION From the structure of the atom to the function of our brains, an electric charge is hidden within every object on earth. Electricity: The Spark of Life, which opens this week at Wellcome Collection, will trace the story of mankind’s quest to understand, unlock and master the power of electricity. This major exhibition will show how this invisible yet vital force is fundamental to human life and has captivated inventors, scientists and artists alike for centuries. It will feature three new commissions by international artists John Gerrard, Camille Henrot and Bill Morrison, and bring together over 100 objects from ancient spark-inducing amber and early electro-static generators to radiographs, photographs, paintings, models and films. Electricity: The spark of Life will cover three core themes – generation, supply and consumption. ‘Generation: The Great Invisible’ will show how the history of our enduring fascination with electricity can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and our early encounters with natural wonders, such as a burst of lightning or the mesmerising sight of the Aurora Borealis. It will consider how the late 18th century pioneers and philosophers looked to nature to reveal the physical presence of static electricity, and began to unravel its secrets. ‘Supply: Wiring the World’ will explore how scientists, inventors and innovators of the 19th century were responsible for harnessing, converting and storing electricity, resulting in a power source that would transform the way we live. Objects will include a voltaic pile (1800-1824) – one of the first batteries – made possible by Allessandro Volta, and ‘Barlow’s wheel,’ an instrument made in 1822 in order to demonstrate how electricity could be converted into movement. In the late 1880s, the challenge of creating an electrical network resulted in the infamous ‘war of the currents’ involving Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison in the USA. This fierce battle between competing energy companies over the use of direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC) raised questions about safety and the transportation of power over large distances. ‘Consumption: the silent servant’ will look at how electricity has come to define the modern world. It will feature a new work by the celebrated artist Camille Henrot, which will consider our energydependent lifestyles, as well as the relationship between humans, technology and the environment. This work will be shown alongside early examples of neon lighting and lightbulbs, photographs showing the ‘all-electric house,’ as well as tea towels produced by the Electrical Association of Women in the 1930s offering practical safety advice for the use of electricity in a domestic setting. At a time when we are more reliant on electricity than ever before, the exhibition will ask us to contemplate our ongoing relationship with electricity, the environmental impact of our choices and imagine what the future might look like. t h i s i s l o n d o n m a g a z i n e • t h i s i s l o n d o n o n l i n e

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