Bottle in the Cosmic Ocean
“The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about life on this planet.”
Carl Sagan on the Voyager Golden Record, 1977
Who’s Your “Us”?
“So much of what is at stake is the definition of ‘us’, ‘ours’ and ‘we’. ‘We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union,’ says the preamble to the Constitution. It was murky about who ‘we’ were, and who ‘the people’ were. That document gives only some white men the vote and apportions each state’s representation according to ‘whole Number of free Persons, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons’. ‘All other persons’ is a polite way of saying enslaved black people, who found the union pretty imperfect. ‘Who’s your “us”?’ could be what we ask each other and our elected officials.”
Rebecca Solnit, “The American civil war didn't end. And Trump is a Confederate president,” The Guardian, Sunday 4 November, 2018
The Elements as Media
“… before the word media became associated with these communication technologies, it referred to the elements: to the surrounding atmospheres of air, water, earth, and fire. And if focus were given to the medium—to the field instead of the object, the ground instead of the figure—our sense of the world would be inverted.”
Keller Easterling, “The Year in Weather”, Artforum, December, 2017
Project 3: Life on Earth
Two weeks: final critique Mon Nov 5
Carl Sagan, Frank Drake, Linda Salzman Sagan, and others attempted to encapsulate the story of Earth in graphic marks, through sound, and accompanied by images with a clarity, simplicity, and technological sophistication that could potentially be understood by any extraterrestrial intelligence who happens across them, in the many thousands of years it will take for those messages to travel. But I’d argue that we have enough trouble communicating such fundamentals to terrestrial intelligence (or lack thereof), our fellow earthlings, right now, let alone in the distant celestial future.
Through critical analysis of the various attempts at interplanetary communication, this assignment asks for a more urgent, more localised message to be composed, inscribed, or packaged, and communicated through a specific medium and system determined by you. What kind of message, principle, phenomenon would you deem fundamental and crucial for live transmission to our fellow human beings? Which kind of format and network would enable its effective dissemination?
Sagan et al piggybacked off NASA’s cosmic infrastructure, with their objects hitching rides bolted onto the side of space probes jettisoned out into the galaxy. How might your message find a similarly parasitical mode of dissemination by borrowing or subverting an existing system? The Pioneer Plaque was limited to monoline diagrams engraved into aluminium, and the Arecibo Message was reduced to binary digits transcoded into crude bitmaps. Your message might necessarily take on any number of constraints: that of time (the amount of seconds allotted to a given ad on a digital billboard), of material (ink, typography, illustration, texture, sound) and fidelity (monochrome, colour, line, audio, projection, etc.). To operate on a more universal (not even interplanetary) level and attempt to transcend language, culture, nationality, your message might have to find a comparably reduced form, or perhaps operate on a more visceral, emotional, sensory level.