Allergic to the internet?

Virtual art duo Pinar & Viola investigate the sci-fi extremes of electromagnetic sensitivity

EHS statement piece

We, Pinar & Viola, just like the rest of our generation, consume and produce on the internet. Our laptops are the extension of our hands. We can work anywhere as long as we have our laptops and a fast connection (you can keep track of us on Instagram here).

But it seems the times we used the internet as a means of escape are over. Instead, more often than not, we’re trying to escape the internet. As an artist duo, we are kind of internet-tired: no more browser buttons in our work. This probably has to do with the mainstreaming, and subsequent overkill, of post-internet aesthetics. We feel like closing our digital windows; we're longing to touch the real-life earth with our bare feet, leaving our phones in airplane mode. But what if that’s not enough to discharge ourselves?

EHS symptoms range from acute headaches, skin burning, muscle twitches, chronic fatigue and other 21st century malaises

Imagine a day when you develop an allergy towards the internet, your iPhone, or even worse, your brand new Galaxy S4. Imagine that data-roaming and scrolling through Instagram makes your skin itch, while tweeting leaves a metallic taste in your mouth. With red, irritated eyes, you find yourself changing your FB status: “Electromagnetic hypersensitive.”

Electromagnetic bathing

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity sounds like a futuristic nightmare but, for a group of people, it is a RL status. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) might be a new malady or maybe an up-to-date, hypochondriac conspiracy theory. What many of us don’t realise, though, is that the radiation we’ve been exposed to over the last ten years has been hundreds, even thousands, of times higher than in our pre-wireless age.

Scientists agree that electromagnetic fields are dangerous at high levels, but it's kind of agreed that the low levels emitted from our devices are safe. However, institutions like the National Cancer Institute now acknowledge that more research regarding our recent "electromagnetic bathing" is needed.

Electromagnetic fields, like o.a. GSM and wi-fi, cause electromagnetic hyper-sensitives a wild range of symptoms. According to sufferers, EHS symptoms range from acute headaches, skin burning, muscle twitches, chronic fatigue and other 21st century malaises. It’s a fascinating, electro-phobic cocktail of anxiety and science-fiction spookiness.

As “normal people”, we don't realize that our society is actually an electro-dictatorship where it is impossible to escape from man-made radiation

To date, EHS has gained little acceptance from the medical and scientific community. As there is no specific medical test for it, all EHS sufferers are self-diagnosed. Nevertheless, the number of people around the world claiming to have EHS is growing. Similarly, research into this controversial condition is increasing and EHS charities are fighting to get the surreal malaise officially recognized. Sweden is the only country where EHS is recognized as a valid medical condition, while the rest of the scientific world laughs or waits for more evidence. 

But just because there’s no evidence (yet) doesn't guarantee that something doesn’t exist. Plus, these kinds of weird, sociological phenomena can be very intriguing. Plumbing through blogs, we dug into this modern folklore-meets-conspiracy theory. What we discovered was electrifying! 

Radiation free nights
Radiation-proofing a bedroom

Allergic to modern life

The survival methods of electromagnetic hypersensitives are bizarrely thrilling. As “normal people”, we don't realize that our society is actually an electro-dictatorship where it is impossible to escape from man-made radiation. Electromagnetic emissions, known to EHS suffers as electrosmog, are beaming at us from every corner: radiation, 24/7. 

EHS sufferers are only safe in a reclusive rural life, in tech-free fortresses where it is impossible for electrosmog to creep in. It's sad, but the most extreme EHS sufferers claim to have no choice but to live in a Farady Cage.

For desperate electromagnetic hypersensitives, their condition demands creative solutions. Some EHS solutions resembles a neo form of Art Brut. They look like visionary creations, reflections of our own excessive lives and paranoia. Cool, pure silver relieves wifi-burn the best. Their inventions are harsh and drastic, with an obscure poetry.

The shielded lives of EHS victims are extreme extrapolations of the influence that technology exerts on our lives

Lightning-proof fashion

Many EH sensitives dress with an uncalculated, atypical sophistication, their aim to bounce the radiation right off. EHS fashion is dramatic and evocative; forceful looks of oversized spy-wear couture. In their outfits, the mystical and the militant blend seamlessly, their layers of futuristic monochrome silver tones powerful enough to knock out submarine radar. Outfits are finished with EHS accessories like silver plated beanies, foil-lined brain coats and grounding gloves. SS13’s metallic trend fades next to the utility statement pieces of the electromagnetic hypersensitive. 

All electromagnetic (EM) protective fashion, with a shielding effectiveness of 99.99%, is made out of high-tech textile with fine weavings of silver wire. Crafty EHS sufferers weave metres of EM-shielding fabric into wifi-proof curtains and bed-cages. On several websites you can find many more EHS products: computer and cellphone shields, shielding paints, foil-lined wallpaper, earthling products, radiation detectors, educational kits… The list goes on.

Silver mesh with shielding effectiveness of 99,99%
Silver mesh with a shielding effectiveness of 99.99%

Technological ignorance

The shielded lives of EHS victims are extreme extrapolations of the influence that technology exerts on our lives. In their wifi-free minds, they merge the philosophical with the factual (some, for instance, believe that PCs literally fry your brain). It's obvious that electromagnetic hypersensitives are eccentric, but their bizarre theories reflect on our common future: their self-diagnosis is an amplified version of the stress we face with our 'always on' lifestyles. 

More Arts+Culture