The 4th State

The 4th State
27 May - 18 Jun 2016 18:00 - 23:00
Circular Quay

Artist: Sinclair Park (Australia) 

The crackling, buzzing sound of 150,000 volts fuels this mesmerising celebration of the the fourth state, plasma. The installation is displayed on a simple plinth on which a flowerlike helix of wires rises upwards. As electricity snakes through the wires, plasma is discharged, manifesting continuously as jagged bolts of dazzling white light that hum and buzz and crack.

Plasma—from the Greek noun πλάσμα, meaning ‘something formed’: the body, as formed by the creator—is one of the four fundamental states of matter, the others being solid, liquid, and gas. A plasma, however, has properties unlike any other, it is truly the stuff of the heavens.

Every star is made of plasma, including our Sun, as well as much of interstellar space and intergalactic space, too. Even black holes, which are not directly visible, are thought to be fuelled by plasma. Despite being so abundant in the universe, it is the least understood of the four states of matter. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that plasma was able to be controlled and studied, and much remains a mystery.

As time passes, our relationship with plasma has changed. Millennia ago, our ancestors gathered around the campfire – our first experience of harnessing the power of plasma in the form of flames. Since then, we have sought to tame and constrain plasma’s power, trapping it inside glass tubes with vacuums and noble gases, phosphors and filaments. These days we are surrounded by ‘tamed’ plasmas: fluorescent tubes, discharge lamps, neon lights, cold cathode tubes – from laptops and plasma televisions to fusion reactors.

This artwork seeks to release plasma from these constraints, allowing it to express itself freely and naturally, as dancing arcs of light, climbing ever upwards, returning to the heavens from whence it came.


Country represented by Installation: Australia