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Exploring the hidden world of space junk

Special preview commissioned by Meta.Morf / Funded by The Space (@thespacearts)

Cath Le Couteur (UK) / Nick Ryan (UK)

Adrift (@projectadrift) is an arts project and experience that seeks to reveal the intangible world of space junk by making it personal, visible and audible. Adrift is funded by The Space (@thespacearts) and the project will launch in the summer of 2016.

For Meta.Morf, the artists have transformed existing space debris into a live holographic experience. Using a 16th Century optical illusion technique ‘Pepper’s Ghost’, made famous by British scientist Professor John Pepper in 1862, the artists have created a ghostly apparition of the earth. Working with creative technologist Daniel Jones, the artists have elevated this apparition into the 21st Century by integrating 13,000 pieces of live, tracked space junk as it circles the earth. A short essay film runs alongside the installation, giving audiences a glimpse into the world of one piece of debris – a dropped spatula from the International Space Station.

Adrift is a digital arts project about space debris in the form of a documentary film, sound installation and interactive database. The first phase of the project is premiered at Meta.Morf 2016. More than 500.000 pieces of debris, or “space junk,” between 1 – 10 cm in size, and more than 20.000 bigger than 10 cm, are until now tracked orbiting the Earth. The debris travels at speeds up to 28,000 km/h, fast enough for a relatively small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or a spacecraft. In addition there are millions of pieces of debris that are smaller then 1 cm and hence challenging to be tracked. The increasing amount of space debris heightens the potential danger to all space vehicles, but especially to the International Space Station, space shuttles and other spacecraft with humans aboard.

Adrift will eventually deliver an experience of the seemingly hidden world of space debris. The interactive component offers audiences a chance to adopt an existing piece of debris by Twitter; the piece of junk will communicate with the user as it orbits Earth in real time. A sound installation will use live debris data to enable audiences to experience the abstract notion of space debris in a sensory and tangible form. Adrift will as well entail a film that explores specific individual’s relationships to space debris that opens up a wider exploration about our own human frailties and limitations.

In seeking to explore the hidden world of space junk, the installation reveals the mysteries, fragilities and contradictions of space junk; alone, repellent, beautiful, soundless, absurd and destructive.

Cath Le Couteur studied Directing at the National Film and Television School UK. Her films have screened at festivals around the world including Cannes and Berlinale. Recently she was awarded the Sundance Alfred P Sloan Development Award to develop fiction feature ‘Bed’ and in 2015 with Nick Ryan, received the inaugural Open Call Award from The Space to develop interactive art project ‘Adrift’. Cath is a fellow of the prestigious MacDowell Colony and Rockefeller Bellagio Artist Residencies. She currently sits on the board of Directors UK and is a co-founder of Shooting People, the renowned online independent filmmaking collective (UK/NYC) of over 38,000 members.

Cath Le Couteur / Nick Ryan

Nick Ryan is an audio specialist, sound designer, composer and artist, widely recognised for his uniquely conceptual approach to creating audio experiences. Much of his work involves applying emerging technologies to the making process, or introducing people to new ways of thinking about audio. He is regularly invited to perform his work and speak about the future of sound at venues throughout the world such as The MIT Media Lab, The BBC, The BANFF Centre for the Arts and The Royal Institution. He is the recipient of a BAFTA for Technical Innovation and The PRS New Music Award and is an Honorary Doctor of Music at Plymouth University. website: twitter: @musicandsound

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