The Geiger Counter Chandelier Is a Dark Data Visualizer

Four years after the Fukushima disaster, Phillip Stearns' 'A Chandelier for One of Many Possible Ends,' makes us painfully aware of radiation.

by Beckett Mufson
Mar 10 2015, 1:30pm

Images courtesy the artist

Tomorrow marks four years since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown, but the resulting radiation still lingers on in the bodies, land, and minds of those affected. The disaster soldiered on for artist Phillip Stearns, too, when he designed A Chandelier for One of Many Possible Ends, a room-sized chandelier made from Geiger counters and flickering LEDs.

"The chandelier is something of a cosmic wind chime in that it responds to radiation present in its immediate environment," Stearns explains to The Creators Project. Whenever the Geiger counters detect radiation, the lights flicker and a dangerous "crack" sound fills the room. This happens quite a bit more often than you'd might expect; radiation isn't just for nuclear reactors, says Stearns, "there is a continuous stream of radioactive particles passing through us and interacting with matter, the raw stuff we self-identify with."

The "cosmic wind chime" is also a one-of-a-kind barometer for harmful radiation. A startling line in the project description reveals its function as a visualizer of deathly data, reading, "A source of radioactivity strong enough to cause the installation to remain solidly lit would be fatal to any living organism in the room, as in the case of a nuclear catastrophe."

Stearns makes it clear, though, that A Chandelier for One of Many Possible Ends isn't pessimistic about humanity's relationship with radiation. Instead, it reflects hope, despite the scary facts. His research into Fukushima led him to information about naturally-occuring radiation, some of which hits Earth from deep space, and some of which keeps Earth's mantle flowing.

"In reflecting on the tragedy, I kept coming back to this place where in all the sorrow, there was still hope," he says.
"I aimed to create a space for contemplation of the impacts of humankind's use of nuclear technologies, both positive and negative, as well as a reminder of the fact that radioactivity is ubiquitous, ever present and essential. In regards to our own awareness, there is much to be done."

A Chandelier for One of Many Possible Ends will be on display at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, NY through March 29. Visit Phillip Stearns' website for more.


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data visualization
light art
Sound Art
Phillip Stearns
light sculpture
installation art
geiger counter
Burchfield Penney Art Center
a chandelier for one of many possible ends