Friday, 13 September 2013

Two artists reflect on what Voyager's departure really means


The press release is available here.

Andrews and Verdugo have been engaged in work on the Voyager space probe since 2010. Kevin Andrews an Artist and Economist from London, UK says:

“As would be expected when the official announcement is made there is a lot of publicity about the craft at its amazing achievements, but it will take some time for the cultural significance of the Voyager to filter through.”

Two key cultural aspects are firstly what Voyager means in terms of a commemorative memory of life on Earth and secondly the perspective it gives on migration and border crossing on Earth.  These are the two themes addressed in the Migration and Memory project: From the Island.

As Andrews says: “Voyager’s Golden Record is a very imperfect memory of life on Earth.  Given Voyager will outlive us and the solar system because of the preservative nature of deep space, the memory on the Golden Record is set to last a very long time indeed: billions of years.  Its architect, the visionary Carl Sagan in putting together the Golden Record as a remembrance also undertook an act of forgetting – everything not on the Record itself. That’s what interests me.”

The contents of the Golden Record include music and images.  Given the time available to Carl Sagan and his team, however, this collection is highly idiosyncratic and personal: including as it does a record of the brain waves of Ann Druyan – later to become Sagan’s wife – as she thought about the object of her love – Sagan himself.

According to Andrews: “What’s as significant to me as the Golden Record itself is what it says about the species that created it. I think it’s a very poor record of life on Earth.  It is not an objective portrait.  There is for example no reference to war on the record; neither does popular 20th century culture get a mention (aside from a Chuck Berry record).”

Andrews continues: “I think this means the Golden Record is ripe for a re-imagining by artists, musicians, photographers and if that is a consequence of the publicity regarding the departure of Voyager then that would be fantastic.”

The second theme is that of migration. 

Enrique Verdugo a Chilean Photographer and film maker working in London notes: “Voyager represents the ultimate in border crossing for humans.  As a migrant myself I was very interested in this aspect.  We travelled to the Canary Islands to take a picture of the region of Space where Voyager is from the Nordic Optical Telescope in 2012, as Voyager was leaving the solar system.”

The Canary Islands represent a very significant location in the landscape of migration – being the point of first arrival for many migrants from Africa who make an arduous sea journey to the Islands before trying to get into mainland Europe.

As Verdugo notes: “The juxtaposition of these ideas about migration are very interesting.  I hope it helps us reflect on the fact that while we celebrate the movement of Voyager beyond the solar system, we are much more ambiguous about the movement of people – particularly those from low income countries.”

Verdugo continues: “Money moves around the globe, goods move around the globe, even ideas move around and if you are someone from a middle or high income country you move around too.  But if you are born in a low income country, almost regardless of your ability to contribute to life on Earth, you have less ability to move around than a can of coca-cola”.


Kevin Andrews (46, UK/CANADA) and Enrique Verdugo (44, CHILE/UK) began to collaborate in 2010 when they realised that the projects they were working on (Voyager and migration) were actually very interrelated.  Since starting to collaborate they have produced a number of outputs including films, photographs and installations:
Between Islands – a film made following the visit to the Nordic Optical Telescope reflecting on the location and its significance for the themes of migration and memory. Between Islands was recently shown at Kinston University as part of an installation at the degree show.
Black is the colour of memory – a film of an impromptu performance at an installation at the Ars Electronica festival reflecting on the Voyager’s intergalactic greetings.
HM’s Dream – a film made in response to the theme of this year’s Ars Electronica festival: Total Recall: The Evolution of Memory.  This film combines the Golden Record and ideas about memory from the patient Henry Molaison – the most famous patient in Neuroscience who led to the development of new theories about memory formation.
Migration and Memory Diptych – a photograph taken of voyager in October 2012 as it crossed in to inter-stellar space merged with a picture taken by the Suomi NPP satellite of North Africa showing the routes of migration at night.
Memory and Migration Triptych – a composite photograph which inserts an image from a man and an observatory between the Voyager and migration route pictures.   

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Black is the Colour of Memory (Video made at Ars Electronica 2013)

This video was made at Ars Electronica in Linz in September 2013.  It uses footage from an intervention by Hydraprojects on an existing installation Souvenir by Artists from Italy and Austria*.

The video is also available on YouTube

This was an unscripted and impromptu intervention: contributing to the realistic look of surprise from the cosmonauts in the bubble.

The video uses audio from the Golden Record which is attached to the Voyager Space probe: namely the Messages from the UN Delegates.  This includes parts of poems by Baudelaire and Harry Martinson as well as greetings in Arabic, Indonesian, French, Punjabi, German, English, Efik (Nigerian), Spanish, Flemish, Persian, Esperanto and Swedish. It ends with the words:

We saw a nebula in a telescope
A golden mistcluster we thought we saw....

The video is in response to the discussion at the Ars Electronica Symposium on Total Recall: the Evolution of Memory: since Voyager, and its Golden Record, is at this moment the only long term memory of the human race which will outlive the the planet and the solar system.

* Souvenier was produced by:
Alias Rosalie (AT/IT)
Giovanni Jussi (IT)
Mario Stadler (AT)
Maria Spanring (AT)

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

HM's Dream (prepared in response to the Ars Electronica Festival: Total Recall)

HM's Dream (2013), 4 minutes and 37 seconds.

If the video doesnt want to play you can find on youtube here.

HM's Dream is a short video prepared in response to the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austia (5-9 September, 2013). The festival, Total Recall, is about memory.  Hence the piece plays on the idea of Henry Molaison's (HM's) dream which he refers to in the quote:

"Right now I'm wondering if I have said or done anything amiss. You see, at this moment, everything looks clear to me, but what happened just before, that's what worries me.  It's like waking from a dream I just don't remember"

You see Henry Molaison, the most famous patient in neuroscience (Patient HM) could not form long term memories. The Golden Record aboard the Voyager space probe, is (at this moment) the only record of the existence of mankind that will outlive mankind and the solar system. Everything else is just Henry's dream. Something to be experienced but not set to last.

The video uses stills from the Golden Record along with twelve composite images prepared for the project.  These are combined with images of Henry's Brain and of memory neurons. The underlying image is of the star field (in constellation Ophiuchus)  where Voyager is at present.  This picture was taken with the help of the Nordic Optical Telescope in October 2012.  A last picture of Voyager on the day the BBC reported it had left the solar system.  A huge debt to Supersimmetria's documentary (Voyager). The project uses processed video and audio from that project which itself uses footage from the Voyager project.  Other audio is taken from NASA Voyager Space Sounds releases (Symphonies of the Planets - Jupiter). These are mixed in Resolume Arena. Live improvised performances of the piece use the Korg Monotribe Analogue Ribbon Station (v2) to trigger and overlay sounds.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Golden Record Gist

I produced a series of images based on combining the photos on the Golden Record.  The Golden Record is a cultural memory.  Memories change over time and these images attempt to capture that quality.  Below is an example:

There are many holes
Other images in the series can be found here.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Migration and Memory Triptych

Combining the photographs from the Migration and Memory Diptych with a third image taken at the Nordic Optical Telescope, this image helps to bring the two ideas of memory and migration together and focuses on the location of the telescope as the point of intersection of two stories - where the microcosm and the macrocosm come together.

Migration and Memory Triptych, 2013

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Memory and Migration Diptych

This diptych combines two images.  One of the region of space where Voyager was when it entered inter-stellar space and one of the migration routes from Africa to the Canary Islands, taken at night by the Suomi NPP sattelite (part of the Black Marble photograph). Together they appear to form one continuous starfield.

Migration and Memory Diptych, 2013
In October 2012 in the first stage of the From the Island project, Andrews and Verdugo travelled from London to the Roche de Los Muchachos Observatories on the Island of Santa Cruz de la Palma in the Canary Islands.  They were granted permission to use the Nordic Optical Telescope to take a photograph of the region of space where, somewhere in the blackness between the stars, the tiny space probe makes its momentous journey –taking mankind out of the confines of the solar system for the first time. This is the first time artists have used the telescope to take such a photograph.  It’s a testament to the management of the observatory to allocate this precious time to help to document a very special stage in man’s journey.

As Andrews and Verdugo took the photograph in La Palma the Suomi NPP satellite passed over head.  In its mission it orbits the Earth 14 times a day using its camera to take incredible photographs of light from the planet.  From an altitude of 500 kilometers it’s able to capture the light from isolated fishing boats as well as the intense light from the cities. In this region of the world the bright lights of the Canary Islands show strongly against the relative darkness of Africa.  As with the Voyager somewhere in the darkness between the lights are thousands of migrants making journeys towards the brightly lit cities of Europe.   

Sunday, 26 May 2013

From the Island is an umbrella project focused on the juxtaposition of ideas about memory and migration.  By weaving together narratives about space exploration and human migration it facilitates consideration of the processes by which we remember, summate and communicate feelings of home and foreignness, the limitations of memory in a human and cosmological context and wider issues of identity, globalization and border activism.

The Memory and Migration photograph (above) taken in October 2012 pays homage in part to the Pale Blue Dot photograph taken on Valentine’s Day 1990 when Voyager’s camera was pointed back to Earth to take one last photograph.  The photograph was taken at the Nordic Optical Telescope in the Canary Islands on the day the BBC announced that Voyager had left the Solar System – becoming the first man-made object to travel to inter-stellar space. The Canary Islands are also the destination of migrants from Africa, wishing to make their way to Europe. After travelling in their small fishing boats for days they land in this rocky outpost of Europe seeking a better life in the Land of Stars.  

You can download and read the current project note here.