Zoom Blue Dot
- two-channel kinetic video instalation
- stero sound by Phill Niblock
On February 14, 1990, before permanently turning off its cameras, NASA’s Voyager 1 briefly turned towards Earth to snap one last picture. Shot from a distance of 4 billion miles, our planet appears as a pale blue dot, suspended in a sunbeam.
Zoom Blue Dot is constructed as a kinetic two-channel video installation where a custom-made robot with two video projectors, facing opposite directions, slowly traverses a darkened exhibition space in a curved trajectory. The continuous movement causes the projections to continuously shrink and expand across the gallery environment, reflecting and deforming the architectural boundaries. The key focus of Zoom Blue Dot is the current mediatized representation of Earth as a scalable interface, facilitated through a combination of remote sensing technologies and data analyses software.
The video images in the installation can be seen as the continuation of the visual communication research conducted by Ray and Charles Eames in their legendary film Powers of Ten (1977). As opposed to Eameses’ camera that travels through the galactic constellation back to Earth’s surface and into the molecular structure of a human body, the camera in Zoom Blue Dot zooms into the Pale Blue Dot displayed on a smartphone screen and penetrates into the fabric of the electronic image’s material support—in this case the multilayered assemblage that constitutes the Liquid Crystal Display—with the help of diverse scanning and electron microscopes at the University of California, Berkeley.
The work centers on how the composite mediation of Earth is inextricably tied up in multiple ways with the notion of the Anthropocene, a proposed epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth's geology and ecosystems. Today, the aerial view is in motion, not only through the physical attachment of cameras to mobile machines but most prominently in the way these technological mediations are distributed and networked between billions of portable electronic devices, merging news feeds and entertainment with intelligence operations. The history of mapping is a history of territorial claims. Digital imaging itself is essentially a process of mapping, a translation of electromagnetic radiation into discrete electric pulses, organized in a grid of pixels. In Zoom Blue Dot Bull.Miletic take the concept of 'counter-mapping’ to a media-archeological perspective, by challenging the globe from "nowhere" that does not exist.
As a way to additionally destabilize the spatial relationships in the installation, Bull.Miletic constructed a reflective Mylar curtain that covers the venue’s glass wall facade. Micro movements in the reflective curtain caused by the airflow in the room produce continuous deformations and changes in the projected images. Reflective metalized Mylar is largely used both in space exploration and LCD technologies.
The acclaimed American composer Phill Niblock created the original soundtrack for the installation. The soundtrack is not in sync with the video, i.e. the relationship between the sound and the image is in perpetual development. Niblock’s soundtrack is periodically “interrupted” by fragments of selected compositions from the Voyager Interstellar Record (1977).
Informed by scholarly and artistic practices across the aerial view, cinema, cartography and contemporary art, this work mobilizes counter-mapping strategies as a way to re-approach and make visible the ever-lasting grid equally underpinning cartography and the aerial moving image. Bull.Miletic considers the installation as an experiment where de-stabilization of both the display technology, image construction, and gallery space can, in a new way, reveal the grid structure that is a base for both the traditional cartography and digital imaging. The same grid is also an active player and founder of the idea of an all-encompassing visual control.
The production of the work was generously supported by Arts Council Norway, Arts Research Center and Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, & Society at University of California, Berkeley. The work was realized during a semester-long Arts + Science Residency at University of California, Berkeley in collaboration with Holly L. Aaron at the Molecular Imaging Center, Danielle Jorgens at the Electron Microscopy Lab, Vasfi Burak Ozdol at the Molecular Foundry, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Christopher Myers at CITRIS Invention Lab.