Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Celestial eavesdropping

"A graphic design agency is employed to create a billboard advertising an unused frequency on the radio dial, which will produce white noise static, hiss & crackle. The work is an instructional performance piece, where the audience is the performer (the turning of the dial) and the sound is composed by the universe. At least one percent of all radio and television static is cooling radiation from the Big Bang, echoes of Genesis.

In 1964 physicists Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, working for Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, discovered unidentifiable background 'noise' with a radio telescope. Mystified, they began a process of elimination which ruled out stars, galaxies, interference from local signals, even bird droppings on their antenna. The source lacked the energy output of celestial phenomena and the noise was isotropic - coming from everywhere in the sky at once. Their eventual conclusion was that the noise was residual radiation from the Big Bang. The low energy level explained by it having been created over 13 billion years ago. The two published their findings in the Astrophysical Journal in 1965 and were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics thirteen years later."

This piece is one of three contributions I have to the LOLA festival in London, Ontario, later this fall. The others are Pop Quiz and Life and Death (more on that in a later post). Also taking part are my friends Laurel Woodcock and Kelly Mark, as well as half a dozen other visual artists. The event is curated by Paul Walde. Musical performers include Sandro Perri, Holy Fuck and DoMaySayThink.

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