Expliciting the invisible: magnetic movie and pollstream

Two interesting projects that I ran across recently and which aims at making invisible phenomena more explicit: Magnetic movie b Semiconductor (Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt) shot at the NASA Space Sciences Laboratory, UC Berkeley, California, USA.:

"In Magnetic Movie, Semiconductor have taken the magnificent scientific visualisations of the sun and solar winds conducted at the Space Sciences Laboratory and Semiconducted them (...) In 1744 a simple experiment was conducted in Sweden to reproduce the underlying cause of the Aurora Borealis in a laboratory, what we would now think of as a room. A small hole in a shade "the size of a large pea" let through a ray of sunlight that then was refracted through a prism. The small patch of light broken into a spectrum of colours then traveled through a medium of turbulent air directly above a warmed glass of aquavit. (...) scientists at the SSL at University of California in Berkeley theoretically model, conduct experiments, and develop instruments to study the magnetic fields of the sun. They study them deep inside the sun's core, their effect on the looping of the corona flaring above its surface (the photosphere, that lights our days), and the solar winds of charged particles that interact with the earth's own magnetic field, creating the auroral displays at the poles. Magnetic Movie is the aquavit, something not precisely scientific but grants us an uncanny experience of geophysical and cosmological forces."

The Pollstream series

"Pollstream is a collection of ideas, forms and images that explore man-made clouds. We are fascinated by clouds because of their movement, and because of their natural undefined form - which makes them difficult to be fixed in time. Across a number of projects, clouds are used as a visual metaphor to aestheticise emissions and chemical toxins. (...) This project is an intervention in environmental ethics. It creates a series of environments and processes to monitor and localise pollution at the very same time that it is produced. (...) Pollstream, using visual, kinetic and sonic technologies, undermines these typical defences of disengagement by speeding up the normal time it takes for our actions in and on the environment to have consequences. Across a number of projects, a sense of constant rather than delayed feedback is created. Thus, in its final form, color coded communal information is projected onto the vapor of a power plant that is visible to all residents. The movement of the green vapor emission changes size to show levels of energy being consumed at any given time; the chimney becomes a community measuring tape, a shared canvas. Nuage Vert is the ultimate aesthetisation of pollution, while seeking to draw critical attention to it. "

Why do I blog this? two "pervasive art" projects that I've found intriguing recently, when looking for documentation before preparing the talk I gave last week in Torino. Can this be part of the "4D urbanism" described by Dan Hill?

Beyond the aesthetic of these projects I am often amazed by how recurring is the visualization of pollution in new media project related to ubicomp. Of course there's a growing concern about the environment but it's interesting to see how the locus of representation is geared toward this topic.