Jon Fawcett brings hoaxes and physics-bending to life with Whum and EIR at Tate Modern

By Ben Miller | 23 July 2012
A photo of a woman with her eyes closed in a restful pose while walking down a street
Jon Fawcett, Radiance (2011)© Courtesy Jon Fawcett
Exhibition: Jon Fawcett – Whum; EIR, Tate Modern, London, August 16-17 2012

Last year, Jon Fawcett used walkie-talkies to hypnotise a group of women across London into becoming a network of “energy generators”.

A year earlier, at A Foundation, he masterminded Blessor, a working quadracopter drone spurting a cloud of tangerine-flavoured icing sugar, manned by a mercenary bearing a replica machine gun outside the gallery.

Now, for The Tanks at Tate Modern, he’s made Whum, a slowly rotating wheel of engineering precision which spans a seven-metre wide rim of cylindrical vessels and a wheel circumnavigated by ten pods.

At each turn, the force – or “torsion”, as he calls the push and pull between the vessels – affects passers-by, developed from extensive research into an Einstein’s unfinished Unified Field Theory and the Philadelphia Experiment, a physics-defying 1940s military experiment which has been widely dismissed as a hoax.

A set of six booths will be positioned next to it for EIR. Each will be manned by a psychic, who will question members of the public on their beliefs, political preferences and skills, allowing a decision to be made on their suitability for recruitment to a secret organisation.

“The materials used in Jon’s work reads like a crossword puzzle made from the remixed narratives of JG Ballard and Philip K Dick,” reckons Mark Waugh, a colluder in Fawcett’s show at A Foundation.

“His work quietly explodes reductive, institutional definitions of what is real and what is possible.” When even the curators sound like they find him mysterious, you know you’re in for the unexpected.

  • The Tanks programme runs at Tate Modern until October 28 2012. See our write-up. Eir is part of Undercurrent, ten days of events and installations by audio, visual and digital and performance artists for 15-25-year-oldsas part of The Tanks from August 16-27 2012.

More pictures:

An image of a computer-generated graphic of various pods floating around a space
Whum (2012)© Courtesy Jon Fawcett
A photo of two men setting up a structure in a misty field surrounded by horses
Wheel (2007)© Courtesy Jon Fawcett
A photo of a thin black bird-like sculpture on the grey floor of a dimly-lit gallery
In Terms of Cognition Pandimensionality is not Best Accessed Through Mathematics (2010). Graphite, ginseng extract, griffinola seed extract, powdered silver, jesmonite, styrofoam, aluminium, polyester, polystyrene© Courtesy Jon Fawcett
A photo of a security guard in black uniform holding a gun outside a gallery entrance
Guard© Courtesy Jon Fawcett
A photo of a metal plane-like figure passing through a cloudy sky above a building
Blessor© Courtesy Jon Fawcett
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