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Julian Priest

Splore Festival, Auckland

17-19 February 2012 

Free of Charge is a participatory artwork based on an airport security check procedure. The procedure checks visitors for electrical charge and then grounds them - electrically connects them to earth - thereby removing any electrical charge they maybe carrying. Festivalgoers pass through the procedure and initiation as part of their grounding in the Splore community. They enter barefoot and equally free of charge.

As we move about in our daily lives, we collect small amounts of electrical charge from our environment from proximity to electrical devices and electrosmog. This may be removed by grounding or connecting our bodies to earth which is most directly achieved by just standing barefoot on the ground.

The idea of grounding is promoted as a new-age health practice with proponents claiming great health benefits though there is little scientific research on the claims. Free of Charge doesn't make or dispute any of these health claims, though it has the intention of creating a security apparatus that promotes wellness, equality and re-connection with nature.

The work is part of a wider series Letting Space has commenced nationally called Community Service, where leading artists are commissioned to work with communities to enable social change. 

Julian Priest is a Whanganui based artist and researcher. He was an early community wireless networker in the UK and became an activist and advocate for the free networking movement, exploring wireless networking as a theme in fields of arts, development, and policy. Since 2005 he has developed an artistic practice around participatory and collaborative forms and shows internationally, most recently at the Dowse Art Museum and as part of Performance Arcade, Wellington. His current interests are themes around the physical and cultural boundaries between technology and the environment, and the connection between energy and information. He is a board member of the Aotearoa Digital Arts trust and lecturer in creative technologies with the Interdisciplinary unit at A.U.T University in Auckland.