NASA's "Blue Marble" Photograph Fifty Years On
This is a showcase of the various works that have been generated by contributing artists, designers and photographers in response to the blue marble image.
Taken by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft on December 7, 1972, the Blue Marble became a symbol of environmental activism; a message for humans to understand the fragility
of our planet and take better care it.
50 years later and planet Earth has never looked or felt as vulnerable as it does now.
This experimental digital poster is a response to the original blue marble image being considered as one of the most reproduced and widely distributed images in history. Using the original unedited image as a start-point, a photocopy of
a photocopy was carried out 50 times – one for each year since the image was first taken. The sequential image degradation you can see, or generation loss as it is correctly known, is a comment on planetary deterioration and the environmental messages missed or ignored over the last half a century.
It is also a comment on what has been lost, and how each generation is suffering from the poor choices of those before them. As the blue marble image breaks down, and the years count upwards, a column of text appears; a game where
a list of the various environmental disasters that humanity
is currently facing is temporarily revealed.
As the sequence plays out, the image becomes unrecognisable, psychedelic even. The final photocopied image has taken on the form of a mushroom cloud - a natural byproduct of the creative process that serendipitously references and amplifies the artwork's message. At its most abstract, the image is visually and literally as far away from the Blue Marble title
as it could possibly be within the space.
See more of Dan's work here: https://graphicamusing.co.uk/
Time After Time
Time after Time is a series of three hand-crafted scrolls, each measuring 42cm x 182cm. The scrolls illustrate selected elements of the extraordinary social, political and environmental global events that occurred between 2016 and 2021, events that are bookended by the presidential elections in the United States of America. The scrolls also include more personal narratives and corresponding macro, micro and nano discoveries that situate our human concerns with a broader context of existence and offer a sense of scale, perspective and connection: an overview.
Time after Time is informed by the traditions of narrative scrolls and also art-as-activism, particularly collage artists and feminist print-makers. As visual autoethnography, the scrolls present subjective perspectives whilst simultaneously inviting audiences to reflect on collective experiences. As social justice, the work encourages reflection and offers space and time to think about the past, present and future in a manner that offers hope and encourages action.
The first of the three scrolls, 2016-17, is complete. It is entirely hand-crafted using a range of methods including screen-printing, drawing, painting, lettering and collage. It is characterised by the striking use of colour, pattern and harmonious shape and also layered imagery and tiny details which are full of meaning and symbolism; the scrolls are intended to look attractive but also contain events that are shocking and sad, mirroring the complexities and contradictions of existence.
Click works to expand
Scales of Resistance
Scales of Resistance is a piece of practice-based research by Daniel Alexander, working in collaboration with scientists at the University of Nottingham and 3D imaging studio ScanLab Projects. Scientists developing bacteria resistant surfaces to combat antibiotic resistance produce image data recording the behaviour of bacteria. This data is normally presented to the public as 3D false colour illustrations, which the scientists reported made the data seem less real to their audiences, and carried associations of cartoons, creating barriers to engagement. This project investigated and developed
methodologies for visually communicating scientific information to the public, without resorting to illustrative imagery, and researched the possibilities of re-purposing
operative images produced by ‘seeing machines’ such as microscopes, LIDAR scanners, satellites etc for narrative means. The two-year research project identified the key
scientific information to be communicated and established a methodology of using architectural visualisation software to locate images captured at micro and macro scales
in accurate spatial relationship to one another.
See more of Daniel's work here: http://www.danielalexanderphotography.co.uk/
Looking at Mountains
Looking at Mountains is a series of works exploring issues such as photorealism, verisimilitude, landscape photography and our changing relationship to this medium in the digital age. The images seen here are simulated photographs of Mount Everest, created using open-source Geological Elevation Data. The height of the Earth’s entire surface has been mapped through obtaining data from a variety of sources, from NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, LIDAR data collection, conventional topographic maps, to traditional ground surveys. All data is available in the public domain. This data was imported into 3D modelling software and output as algorithmically generated photo-style images that intentionally, directly reference those produced by John Noel in his landmark documentary film The Epic of Everest (1924).
Evoking Noel's spectacular analogue imagery has a dual effect: on the one hand, drawing viewers in to a powerful historical epic, featuring real explorers, spectacular visages, acts of derring-do, and potentially life-threatening situations as Noel and his team scaled the mountain. On the other hand, however, the very fact that these new photographs are entirely generated (bearing no direct relation to their referent, Everest), brings into sharp relief a sense of disconnect and detachment. Indeed, as Ziggy Kolker noted at the end of her talk (see the recordings section), perhaps a revisiting of analogue photography today - whether that be Noel's of Everest of NASA's Blue Marble - also forces us to confront our own "sense of detachment" in an age when so many of our interactions and life events take place in a virtual online world. Perhaps, then, such images can "serve as metaphors ... as much of our lives, and certainly many of our experiences, have become dematerialised like the photographic process we used to record them."
There Is No Planet B
Simone Gumtau has devised a series of artworks exploring the visual culture of the Blue Marble photograph and its relationship to new technologies, space exploration and our perception of our world. In these artworks she is utilising interactive broadcast technologies, creative coding and AI image generators. Participants of the symposium will be invited onto an immersive stage, where they will be enveloped by the photograph on a large scale and asked to respond to the question “What Do You See?”.
The Blue Marble photograph also serves as the basis for the animation, which features lit up lines emanating from the planet, like spaceships leaving the Earth on mass to find a Planet B - taking the subheading from the Whole Earth symposium, while we watch the spaceships escape in optimistic pioneering fleets, we are reminded that this hope may not be justified and perhaps we should look back and preserve the beautiful planet we have been given.
In a third set of experiments, Simone started to interact with other entities - in this case an AI image generator called midjourney, and 2 colleagues from architecture, one of whom is also interacting with another AI entity called Flow. We are exploring the relationships of words and images in the instructions we give the AI (in the case of Flow, this is a conversation) and what conclusions we can draw from the responses we have seen.