I Do Not Know What It Looks Like When Someone Dies - Electric Chair [1998, 2008]
Glass tube, kanthal wire, electricity 26V/5A; Houses: 5 x 13 x 3 m
more images from the installation in Bornholm 2008
Images from the performance and exhibtion 1998
The piece was originally a performance where the audience entered a small confined room with a little glass chair sitting on the floor. The chair was made of bent glass tubing and had a high resistance wire inside, connected with wires to a dimmer switch on the wall. The electricity was slowly turned up and the chair warmed up into a yellow glow. It moved a little while the wire expanded but then settled. After a few minutes the electricity was slowly turned down and because the wire contracted, the thin glass tubing cracked with a little ticking sound. Finally the chair collapsed from the cracking and appeared to "die."
In an exhibition at the Sunderland City Art Centre, UK, this piece was exhibited in a show lasting for 50 days. I made 50 chairs, each left turned on for the whole day and turned off at night. The dead chairs were collected in a pile by the gallery attendant.
For an exhibition at Bornholms Kunstmuseum, DK, I made one chair for each day of the show, 35 chairs in total, each left turned on for the whole day and turned off at night. Here the chairs were smaller and I used thinner the glass tubes, which resulted in the chairs slowly slumping backwards by the heat.
Glass is commonly used as an insulator for electricity in order to protect us from something potentially lethal. The piece is a social/political statement as a criticism of capital punishment, in its demonstration of the fragility of life.