Hyper-object is a radiation detector that expresses itself through color and ambient sound.
Radiation is not easy to gauge. It’s invisible to human senses and can persist for millennia.
The hyper-object is a Geiger counter (radiation detector) that communicates quickly and easily through color and sound.
Using a range of colors—cool to warm—it immediately expresses the amount of radiated particles in the environment. A further option allows ambient (background) radiation to be expressed musically, revealing the ubiquitous nature of radiation in our world—a force that is common, yet not commonly understood.
I was living in Tokyo during the catastrophic 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. As government officials remained unclear about the breadth of radioactive fallout across the country—and the world—I was increasingly frustrated by how expensive, inaccessible and difficult most Geiger counters were.
When I returned to America with elevated thyroid levels, a clear warning sign, I decided to create my own easy-to-use Geiger counter—one so simple that even a child could operate it.
exhibition + development
The hyper-object is currently being exhibited as a site-specific installation around the States and Japan as a part of my series, “Nuclear Plants.”
However, this is not only an art object—my goal is to empower, educate and engage concerned citizens around the world. This is only the first manifestation of what will be a final, color/sound expressive radiation detector: an accessible device—easily legible to both children and adults—that pairs with a smartphone app. It will be able to continually upload data, posts alerts, and provides access to a crowd-sourced radiation map.
Hyper-object speaks to the fields of art history, philosophy, music and science.
The project is named after eco-philosopher Timothy Morton’s "hyperobject"—a massive force, such as climate change or radiation, that transcends individual perception and hemispheres alike. Aesthetically, it's inspired by my study of Nuclear Semiotics, particularly the story of “Ray Cat"—a real proposal to the US Department of Energy to develop genetically engineered cats that change color when they encounter radiation. Similarly, artist Yves Klein wanted to color all atomic bombs with his International Klein Blue—a literal dyeing of radioactive fallout (Explosions Blues, 1958)—and many artists, musicians and soundscape ecologists have worked with the "sound" of radiation.