How much trash is passing by right now, over your head, unnoticed?
The Armillaries are a series of interactive light sculptures tracking live satellite orbits and realtime space debris passing by above. The amount of debris affects the installation and the sound emanating from each Armillary, creating a beautiful and at times cacophonous data soundscape.
The sculptures are inspired by the ancient Ptolemaic armillary spheres invented by the Greek and Chinese to track celestial objects in the sky, documenting a worldview which placed Earth as the center of the universe, with all other planets orbiting it, even if the math didn’t logically add up. Positing that humankind has not strayed far from this worldview, The Armillaries similarly center a smoke engulfed polluting earth at their core.
The modern Armillaries in the installation track satellites, the very web that support human culture from communication and GPS navigation to research, entertainment and finance. The incessant hunger for new technologies cause ever more satellites to be launched and humankind is steadily sealing itself inside a shield of shrieking metal moving at 18,000 miles/hour.
As of September 2021, 23,516 satellites are orbiting the Earth. 13,382 of these are classified as debris.
On average one of these burn up in the atmosphere a day, as gravity draws it back down towards Earth.
Once a day, this moment is commemorated with a roaring sound from The Armillaries.
With this installation we are reminded that information isn’t free, storage doesn’t live in the ‘cloud’, and all technology is manufactured using precious earth resources, which must eventually turn to trash and burn up in our atmosphere.
Data calculations are implemented based on the visualization from stuffin.space and the space-track.org API. Space-track.org is managed by the U.S. Strategic Command to provide Space Situational Awareness (SSA) information.
Fabrication in collaboration with Sid Chou.
Photography by Robert Meares.
The Armillaries are a part of an ongoing project raising attention to the downside of human invention, questioning technocentrism.
Illumination Light Art Festival, October 7-9, 2021
Illumination, New York, link