Computers and smartphones and all the other incarnations of our modern technologies carry our electromagnetic doubles from one end of the planet to the other. They sometimes wander without limit in the atmosphere: we have all become mediums. To the cosmic waves and gamma rays that saturate the void through which we communicate, human voices are added, personal messages, collective discussions, essential information, anecdotes.
It was in the second half of the 19th century that the invisible began to be seen. Chemists, physicists, engineers, inventors, mediums, theosophists and other men of science collectively plunged into a great bath of substances distinct from matter, and yet no less real. This medium, which some called the “ether” and others “fluid” or “body,” was traversed by forces, by effluvia, waves emanating from animate or inanimate beings: cosmic rays, human thoughts, the vital fluxes of plants, the energy of mediums, the voices of the dead. To these, nowadays, are added satellite and wifi data, radio waves and phone conversations.
Each in their own way, chemists, physicists, engineers, inventors, mediums, doctors and theosophist – sometimes together – imagined apparatuses for detecting and harnessing all these forces. In doing so, they appropriated apparatuses that had just been invented or discovered new ones that would sometimes be finalised and produced for other purposes: biometer, dynamometer, stenometer, stereometer, psychoscope, necrophone, psychophone, perpetual motion machines, phonograph, telegraph, telephone – all these apparatuses are composite assemblages of measuring instruments. They make no secret of the fact that they are shaped by the forces they detect just as much as they shape them.
They make the forces tangible by translating their effects into the form of photographic images, traced graphs, movements of objects, strange sounds, etc.
This episode from 19th-century science offers unexplored possibilities for conveying the density of the “void” through which we communicate. Ondoscope reopens it in order to imagine other relations to what we do not see.