Audrey Wilson, ‘Geissler Tube’, 2016, Alida Anderson Art Projects

Image rights: Anything Photographic

Context Art Miami 2016

A Geissler tube is an early gas discharge tube used to demonstrate the principles of electrical glow discharge, similar to modern neon lighting. They were the first form of gas discharge tubes, and have had a large impact on the development of many instruments and devices that depend on electric discharge through gases. Geissler tubes were mass-produced from the 1880’s as novelty and entertainment devices, with various spherical chambers and decorative serpentine paths formed into the glass tube. A novel effect could be obtained by spinning a glowing tube at high speed with a motor. When the hand touched an operating tube, the shape of the glowing discharge inside the glass often changed. This is due to the electrical capacity the body can hold. Simple Geissler tubes were used in scientific research as high voltage indicators. When a tube was brought near a source of high voltage alternating current, such as a Tesla coil or Ruhmkorff coil, it would light up even without contact with the circuit.

About Audrey Wilson