When we look up, we also look back at ourselves. The Hypatia Project harks back to the ancient Skywatchers and their contemporary lineage, the scientists and astronomers of New Mexico. First we derive inspiration from Hypatia, the first female scientist of antiquity. Hypatia, (born 350 BCE) as recorded in the Greek anthology, was the first woman to “look up” intellectually and make a substantial contribution to the development of mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy. She was a teacher, accomplished public speaker, and made significant improvements to the astrolabe, an ancient astronomical computer for solving problems relating to time and the position of the sun and stars in the sky. The lights in the sky have unified all of us on earth with ancient and contemporary stories alike. Santa Fe ancestors looked up to the heavens to discover many tales such as “How Coyote Spilled the Stars” (Cochiti Pueblo). They drew depictions and pictographs of these astronomical formations. Likewise European ancestors, observing the very same sky, recorded their own stories in stone and papyrus to pass on. Looking to the stars embodies the wonderment and curiosity that is at the core of humanity’s quest to better understand where we come from and where we are going as a species. Santa Fe residents and visitors alike will attest to the magical window to the universe that is the night sky in northern New Mexico. For more information or to find out where Hypatia and the Skywatchers will perform next, you can go to http://www.projectinmotion.com
This is an 8:14 excerpt from the 27 minute film titled, Through The Portal, 2015 The sound track for this film was captured by, and is unique to, the EAR1 Instruments (sculpture) at each location. An alternate soundscape may be perceived in this composition.
The EAR1 Project is currently in the development stage of two new Earth Vehicles (EVs). These two art/object-science/instruments are slated to launch in the second and third quarters of 2015. The new EAR1 SA-X Lander will explore remote areas of drought stricken deserts on Earth. It is is powered by three solar panels. Onboard the instrument are 7 sensors, including contact and condenser microphones, temperature sensor, CO2 sensor, and a moister probe, all of which are designed to listen to the environment and access the viability and evidence of alternate ecological perception. Above is an image of the EAR1 SA-X Lander near completion. Photo courtesy of The EAR1 Project Mission Control.
“This planet is not terra firma. It is a delicate flower and it must be cared for. It’s lonely. It’s small. It’s isolated, and there is no resupply. And we are mistreating it. Clearly, the highest loyalty we should have is not to our own country or our own religion or our hometown or even to ourselves. It should be to, number two, the family of man, and number one, the planet at large. This is our home, and this is all we’ve got.”
— Scott Carpenter, Mecury 7
EAR1 Project’s second mission involves a near space vehicle.(NSV) (See artist rendering below) The Remote Station Satellite mission is equipped with four contact microphone antennae designed to record the ambient sound. The vehicle (sculpture) will draw and record a sound line from terra firma to the stratosphere (about 125,000ft) The Remote Station Satellite will be launched to this altitude by it’s transport vehicle (weather balloon) and will take approximately 90 minutes to reach its maximum altitude. Also onboard will be a CO2 sensor continually translating carbon dioxide levels, PPM (Parts Per Million) into sound data. Cameras will collect Overview Effect images. The project is currently looking at two sites, one in Nevada and one in New Mexico, in which to launch the mission. Photo courtesy of The EAR1 Project Mission Control.
I am constantly thinking about how we might perceive environment in alternate ways and how I may engage in this experiment with my art practice in a meaningful way. We are faced with ecological challenges like never before and yet it often feels as though change is slow, or even non-existent. The EAR1 Project (Earth Aural Rover) is interdisciplinary as well as multidisciplinary designed to explore how we may perceive environment in alternative ways. The project is manifested through my research of neuroscience, music, ecology, psychology and the related biological mechanics of each.
In recent years neuroscientists have been placing musicians in functional MRIs in an effort to study how their brains work while they are listening and playing music. What has been discovered is that music activates our brains more than any other activity. This fact has inspired me to use music as a voice in my art. I reason that if our brains are most engaged with music, then this is a perfect material for me to explore with. It is interesting that both musical and scientific devices share the word instrument. On a certain level these instruments as objects serve the same purpose for art and science by providing exploratory agency. I experiment with what these objects can tell us and by what processes we may think through them.
Inspired by NASA’s Curiosity rover mission to Mars, the Earth Aural Rover (EAR1) project deploys sculptural objects built from musical instruments to resemble machines of science. A piano, trumpet, drums, banjo, Victrola, cymbals, and a clarinet all become a new form of instrument with which to explore. The EAR1 Rover roams landscapes in search of sound. The Remote Station Cello and Remote Station Violin collect environmental music previously unheard before. These hybrid apparatuses allow me to rethink the engagement of both science and art with our environment. The EAR1 Project performs missions of exploration, traversing the terrain of city and countryside alike, making recordings, taking photos, shooting video, and performing compositions in a collaboration between artists, scientists, musicians and nature alike. By blurring lines between the art/object and the science/instrument, these new objects create opportunities to delve into new modes of perceptions. I view these new modes of perception as harmonies we can listen to and express with, and to aid the discovery of new relationships between environment and us.
The EAR1 Command Module, 2013 (ECM) is an interactive sculpture designed with three main sections. The forward compartment is the map room, equipment storage, and sleeping quarters. The center section is the control center for sound recording and reinforcement, and the back section of the ECM is the area for transporting the rover and offloading it by ramp in various environments. I once again turned to NASA and science for inspiration in designing my command module. I’ve often contemplated the environments space explorers are confined to during their travels in orbit and to the moon. The vehicles, like the international space station and the lunar command module are not only sophisticated exploratory instruments they are environments to sustain life away from Earth. In essence they are environments constructed to explore environments. This basic idea is how I began constructing the EAR1 Command Module.
My first night to sleep in Mission Control was unusually cold for the Petrified Forest National Park (PEFO) in April. The temperature outside was 21 degrees Fahrenheit. I was granted a mini residency at the PEFO that included permission to park the Command Module on the premises and explore the environment for four days in exchange for a public presentation about the EAR1 project. I explore Jasper Forest, the Painted Desert badlands, and the Teepees areas during the days and returned to the Command Module to sleep at night. On my third night at the Park, I had retired to my sleeping bag.
It was unusually dark due to the full lunar eclipse. As I lay there listening to the sound recordings from Jasper Forest, I periodically heard packs of coyotes singing. My entire day had been spent actively listening to the natural and geological story of the park and I hadn’t heard a single sound associated with our modern world. I found myself contemplating connections with space explorers, or perhaps explorers in general. I had not blasted beyond our stratosphere atop a rocket. I was not floating weightless in space on a collision course with the Moon. I was not confined to my Command Module due to the harsh vacuum of space. However I was in an environment I constructed to explore an environment. My one purpose of that day was to explore the environment, make focused observations, collect information, and return to the command module to log what I had found. I believe I was experiencing an altered perception to the noisy world I normally lived in. The sound of Jasper Forest collected by the Remote Station Violin harmonizing with the coyote calls in the darkness of the eclipsed moon created a beautiful composition.
I could never have imagined the experience the canyon turned out to be for me. I am altered, yet I cannot adequately say just how yet. I am convinced this is the perfect place to explore perception.
Thank you Marna Bastian and Rene Westbrook for all your help in making the canyon a profound experience.
After completing my artist residency at the grand canyon, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do a mini-residency at the Petrified Forest National Park. (PEFO) I was able to work for several days and spend my nights sleeping in the Command Module at the park RV hookups. My final night I gave a presentation of my work in exchange for time to work there and was able to have many wonderful conversations with PEFO scientists and Interpretive Rangers.
I was interested in exploring the stomping ground of John Muir at Jasper Forest. This place was a lush and wet conifer forest about 225 million years ago. What is even more incredible is that where this forest was growing, in what is now the northern Arizona desert, was then located just north of the equator.
Thanks to Kip Woolford and Rene Westbrook for bringing me there, and to all the other PEFO folks who made my stay a wonderful experience.