The televised broadcast of the Berlin Olympics in 1936 was humanity’s first media transmission powerful enough to pass through Earth’s ionosphere and travel into deep space. From that point in time our signals have radiated into the universe, creating an ever-expanding globe referred to as Earth’s Radiosphere. In the 73 years since that defining moment, our communications have reached nearly two thousand other known star systems. Data_Sea is a real-time virtual environment based upon this relationship between broadcast media and astronomy. The core geometry of the artwork is directly derived from the actual positions of all catalogued star systems residing within the Radiosphere. Obtained from current astronomical databases such as the Hipparcos star catalogue, these scientific measurements have been translated into a three-dimensional structure constructed in VRML (Virtual Reality Modelling Language). Each star system’s basic properties affect its aesthetic manifestation within the virtual realm. Star type is represented by shape, with normal stars appearing as full spheres, ‘failed’ stars (brown dwarfs) as incomplete spheres and ‘dead’ stars (white dwarfs) as compressed crosses. The stellar nodes are connected to a central spherical body (representing our solar system) by line structures that are coloured according to spectral class of the individual stars. Systems that are known to contain exoplanets are surrounded by concentric ring structures. Live media from the BBC world news service is streamed into the environment. The virtual elements are textured with images from today’s events, while layers of live audiocasts are blended into a persistent soundscape. These mediated reflections of the present are in constant flux, forever shifting as they drift into an endless sea of virtual space.
Michael Takeo Magruder is an American artist based in the UK working with New and Technological Media within Contemporary Arts practice. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1996 receiving a BA (Hons) in Biological Science. He is a long-standing member of King’s Visualisation Lab in the Centre for Computing in Humanities, King’s College London. Through this organisation he undertakes research, development and implementation of emerging technologies; including motion capture, immersive space and virtual environments, for use in contemporary creative and academic practice. His artworks have been showcased in over 180 exhibitions and 30 countries, including venues such as the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, EAST International 2005, Georges Pompidou Center, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography and Trans-Media-Akademie Hellerau. His works are regular inclusions in international New Media festivals, such as Cybersonica, CYNETart, FILE, Filmwinter, SeNef, Siggraph, Split, VAD and WRO. His artistic practice has been funded directly by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Arts Council England, The National Endowment for the Arts, USA and numerous public galleries both within the UK and abroad. He is also recognised for his on-line arts practice and has been commissioned by leading portals for Internet Art such as Turbulence.org and Soundtoys.net. His work blends Information Age technologies with modernist-like aesthetics to explore the formal structures and conceptual paradigms of the networked, digital world.