It was a hit with the public and invited multi-user interaction. Kids went crazy for it. Adults seemed to enjoy the square-waves of audio glitch all night.
So yes, perhaps a tad abrasive, but it was also widely popular.
A number of people were intrigued by the water samples and electronics with what looked like a tangly mess of wires. It was actually a solid wiring job and nothing broke!
After working at the Exploratorium for a couple of years, I adjusted my approach to public engagement so that anyone can get something from this artwork.
How does it work?
The electrodes take a reading of the electrical current flow in various water samples that I collected throughout New Mexico. If more current flows through the water, then this means there are more minerals and salts, which is usually an indicator of less clean water.
The technical measurement is electrical conductivity, which correlates to total dissolved solids, which is one measure of water quality that scientists frequently use.
The installation plays lower tones for water that is more conductive (less pure) and higher tones for water that has less pollutants in it.
The results are unpredictable and fun, with 12 different water quality samples.
The light table is custom-built with etchings of New Mexico rivers and waterways, indicating where the original water sample was taken.