Two stones lie on top of a balanced steel plate. The aim of the machine is to create a perfect equilibrium state by moving the stones to the appropriate positions. In an perpetual process the system succeeds to prevent the imminent divergence again and again by its permanent endeavors, only to intervene somewhere else one moment later. Instead of the pursued state of well-adjusted stability, the work arrives in a permanent state of incessant motion – a fragile but constant situation between fall and float. The concept was developed during a residency at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. ESO currently runs the largest and most modern ground-based telescopes on Earth. Following the degree of precision to which modern research instruments advance, their vulnerability rises and with it the necessity to compensate for even the smallest disturbing influences. Supported by a machinery of sensors and men, the facilities perform an endless dance of observation and calibration.
The aesthetics of man-made objects in space, their appearance and especially their orbits are transformed into a minimal audiovisual performance, showing the poetic dance satellites and their trash perform while revolving around us. Seemingly chaotic paths mutate to amazing patterns of an almost organic nature—all of it due to pure physical necessity. When we started working with global satellite data, their information was based on a website maintained by the US Air Force. Yet after some time, based on information from the Union of Concerned Scientists, we discovered that some objects were missing. Fortunately the data on classified satellites is generated by enthusiastic amateur astronomers observing the night skies. Merging the two sources, balancing between artistic autonomy and the necessary scientific rigorousness, the performance is an aesthetic and intuitive live experiment, revealing this new layer of human infrastructure.
The positions of objects in Earth’s orbit can be calculated based on TLE data. Besides accredited online sources such as the US Air Force, other collections exist as well, publicly available but not officially authorized. One database gathers only classified data, based on observations of (amateur) astronomers. It contains identified secret satellites, but also the ugly by-products of satellite technology: related space debris and even some completely unknown objects. The orbits of those approximately 50 utterly undefined elements are recorded for several weeks. For each one a unique pattern evolves: fluid, ephemeral traces, transmitted with a laser onto black-anodized aluminium tiles. The leftovers of space exploration, invisible to the naked eye, are transformed into beautiful aesthetics, into fine, silvery lines forever capturing their unofficial existence.
Quadrature is an artists collective by Jan Bernstein, Juliane Götz and Sebastian Neitsch, based in Berlin. Their artistic exploration gravitates towards scientific interests and physical experiments, using new technologies or academic research as sources and inspiration. They all share a love for machines and outer space.
They have been awarded multiple prizes and grants, including a Residency and Award by the European Digital Art and Science Network in collaboration with ESO (European Southern Observatory), an honorary mention at the Prix Ars Electronica, an Artist-in-Residency Stipend by Akademie Schloss Solitude as well as a working grant by Kunstfond Bonn.
Their work has been presented in international festivals and exhibitions, such as in Ars Electronica Museum, CYNETART in Hellerau, Künstlerhaus Wien, International Digital Arts Biennial in Montreal, at The Modern Art Museum Santralistanbul in Istanbul or Frankfurter Schirm-Kunsthalle.