Gert Aertsen


The first public message sent through the transatlantic telegraph cable, from Queen Victoria to President James Buchanan, was 99 words long and took about 16 and 1/2 hours to transmit. Receiving Presidents Buchanan answer, which was about the same length, took another 30 hours. As more attempts were made to establish communication, signals only grew weaker. And eventually within a few weeks the cable fell silent.
This was due to the fact that the two main engineers, Whitehouse and Thomson, who had been working on the project thoroughly disagreed on how much energy there was needed to carry a signal over that long distance. While Thomson argued that only a little amount of energy was needed, Whitehouse insisted on using a 2000 Volt system. They opted for the high voltage system, which inevitably damaged the cable and made it unusable.
These days, in times of instant messaging and wireless communication, all this sounds hard to imagine. Each day we use our wireless devices to pick up the messages that travel in the air, without considering the energetic and electrical nature of the communication.
The ATKN project explores the fundamental precondition of wireless communication: you need energy to communicate! A windmill with vertical axes uses the displacement of air to harvest energy. Only when an efficient amount of energy is reached it will establish a wireless link with a remote site (another windmill).
The speed of the windmill and the amount of energy generated defines the quality of the connection. Energy is directly coupled to communication. Air will generate energy which will produce communication and fill the airspace. Sound and image will be sent back and forth from one location to the other, if conditions allow it.



Gert Aertsen, born in Brasil in 1975, lives in Brussels. Involved in new media since 2001, he has been working as an artist, organizer, technician and programmer, and has collaborated with different organizations. He is part of Machine Centred Humanz, a multi-disciplinary collective of artists exploring the different fields of technology, arts, robotics, and experimental music. He was one of the core members of Code31, an open studio for research, development and discussion about techniques and methodologies in media art. And in 2004 he co-founded OKNO, an artist run organization based in Brussels.