James Hankey has spent time researching the history and future of Goonhilly Earth Station, with a particular interest in visualising the motion of waves.
The Goonhilly Heritage Society (GHS) holds weekly meetings in their HQ at ‘B-site’, on Goonhilly Downs; all of them ex-BT employees, some of whom had worked there in excess of 30 years.
I have been joining some of these meetings, arriving to find the Society members chatting around a small table, cup of tea in hand, in a room packed with incredible and strange instrumentation, and with an agenda that seems to quickly fade when I ask some naïve technical questions.
Though these questions lead to often over-my-head answers, it is through them that wonderful, anecdotal histories of the site and its inhabitants (human or otherwise) emerge. Our conversations, a blend of the prosaic and the scientific, have sparked ideas for work which brings them together.
How is information carried through the air on a radio-wave or micro-wave via a satellite? What forms do these waves take? How can we visualise these invisible forms?
Robin Ridge from the GHS was kind enough to help me introduce my workshop ‘Visualising Waveforms’ at the WWII secret radar bunker, the ‘Happidrome’, a few weeks ago. Robin, a radio wave wizard, explained to the workshop participants the history of communication using radio and micro-waves and delved into the fundamentals of electro magnetic (EM) waves.
The rest of the workshop was spent visualising waves through long exposure photography, using torchlight to map physical movements through the bunker space – resulting in some wonderful imagery and hopefully a greater understanding of EM waves.
Beyond the workshop, I am developing work from ideas generated through the GHS meetings that utilise parabolic mirrors. These mirrors mimic the form of the large antennas at Goonhilly, and allow me to manipulate a different form of EM wave: visible light. Initial experiments have led to unexpected outcomes, a few moments of which are included here.
James is approaching his commission from multiple angles, and his work will be on display in the Happidrome at The Gathering on 18th May.