Interactive light installation "Builders of the Universe"

Interactive light installation “Builders of the Universe”

Builders of the Universe

Builders of the Universe is an interactive light and new media installation at The Soap Factory designed and built by Aaron Marx for Art(ists) on the Verge.

A review of the show can be found here.

This project or investigation has fallen under the broad framework titled “Builders of the Universe,” based on a historical text of the same name. It evolved out of my own struggle to understand the contradiction between faith and reason. For me, science has continued to inspire a deeper connection to being; for example, the second law of thermodynamics in fact shows us that a cloud never dies.

Builders of the Universe from kwae on Vimeo.

*This video was in the City Pages Top Music Videos, it was part of a large scale public projection at the Northrop.

Builders of the Universe is artistic exploration and urban intervention considering the role of memory on the perception of space and our place in the cosmos. By considering the non-linear shifts in our understanding of the universe through a study of Einstein’s Builders of the Universe, this project considers the significant paradigm shifts in science over the course of history, and asks questions about the nature of our relationship with the metaphysical nature of the universe. Some questions this work addresses are: How do shifts in our understanding of the universe help us to come to terms with the ever increasing demand for technology in art and architectural design? What can we learn about memory in the built environment by examining the most prevalent shifts in science and the construction of the astronomic world? How has the art and science of creative practice changed over time?

The physical manifestation of this project will begin with the concept of progress. Related to the idea of poetic analogy, this project will explore how physical, digital, and full size models can be used as a process of visualizing, thinking, and contemplating. Starting with Richard Pousette-Dart’s “process” work, where he documented the transformation of his painting Cathedral, this project will attempt to bring form to, and push the boundaries of, abstraction in three-dimensional form. It will be accomplished through a series of public art interventions, collaborative art making exercises, and a gallery installation – consisting of projections, environmental sensors, and energy parasites.

The goals of this project are to explore the relationship between artistic process, digital technology, and representational abstraction in 3d form and to develop compelling uses for new technology in a contemporary public and media art practice. There are many questions to be considered in this process:  How can the traditional modes of making and the artistic transformation found in Pousette-Dart’s painting practice be applied to a technological, digital art practice? In what ways can digital art and a systematic documentation processes help to bridge the gap between science and art? How can digital technology and media art inform questions about memory in the built environment?  And finally, can sustainability and source created energy be used to build awe inspiring interactive environments?

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I recently discovered a book assembled by Albert Einstein titled Builders of the Universe. It is a primary source work that covers the most significant scientific discoveries in history. Interestingly, the first chapter is Genesis, an interesting choice that creates a dialogue between science and religion – one which inspired this project.

This dialogue is apparent throughout the text. Included is, On a New Star, Tycho Brahe’s 1575 account of his discovery of a new star, and the amazement it inspired. Torn between the fixed nature of scientific understanding and his observations, he compared this star to be “similar to the one which appeared to the eastern Magi, when the Savior of the world was born.” In another chapter, by Nicholas Copernicus, one finds a description of the astronomical studies used to verify that the earth moves, and the sun stands still. Surprising, much of this research begins at the birth of Christ.

Inspired by this, I used internet technology and digital modeling techniques to develop a scale star map from the moment a star was born, the birth of Christ. As a site specific installation I chose Minneapolis as the location, and set the time to year zero. This map was then developed into a digital model and projected onto the surface of a sphere. Interested in digital fabrication techniques, but skeptical of computer driven art, I deconstructed this map and developed a system to laser cut the parts, but hand assemble the sculpture. These pieces were then reconstructed into a sculpture through an intuitive and ad-hoc assembly process.

Along side this process, the idea of light played a significant role. In the beginning, the earth was “without form and void,” and the first thing God created was light. As a way to connect to this primal moment, light is used throughout this installation as a material and thematic element: powerful lasers cut the sculpture, films capture the poetic nature of sunlight, and artificial lights are installed within the reconstructed star map, responding to environmental stimuli.

Builders of the Universe is a project is inspired by the potential of discovery. It is an exploration into our relationship with the past, and a work that looks toward the boundaries of the future, while speculating on the divide between science and spirituality. It looks for new forms of interaction between person and environment and wonders about the awe inspired by our vast universe.