Sporobole has the honour to welcome the artist Jean-Pierre Aubé for the BetaLab1019 in October and November 2019. This is the second phase of a research and creation project that began in April 2018 during the Interface: Art & Science residency where Aubé worked for a year with researchers from iREX, the Mont-Mégantic Observatory and the Astrolab in Mont-Mégantic National Park. A video work – Du Mont Mégantic aux exoplanètes – emerging from this context was created and presented at the Astrolab of national park of Mont-Mégantic in the summer of 2019 as part of the triennial EIM produced by Sporobole.
As part of this BetaLab, the artist will develop two other artistic proposals inspired by his residency. A sound immersion device for 16 loudspeakers will be installed in the main gallery and will allow the artist and his collaborators to develop a sound work evoking the research of the German physicist, astronomer, mathematician, musician and theologian Johannes Kepler. In 1619, he published the treatise Harmonices Mundi, in which he attributed a musical theme to the planets and expressed his convictions on the connections between the physical and spiritual worlds justified by mathematics, physics and astronomy. The second project to be developed there will use as its primary material the raw data collected by modern tools for observing the far reaches of the universe in search of exoplanets. This data will serve as the basis for the work, which will take the form of a video installation.
Text by Sporobole
The film proposed by Jean-Pierre Aubé is the result of a one-year residency (2018-2019) – as part of Sporobole’s “Interface” program – at the Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic, the iREx and the ASTROlab of the Parc National du Mont-Mégantic. Du Mont-Mégantic aux exoplanètes is presented as a journey in three steps through all the seasons: we start as close as possible to nature, we follow the mountain path and then we are directed towards the telescope of the Observatory which already redirects us towards the sky and the stars, in the distance. From there, the tangible world shifts to that of data and algorithms. The film is a crossing and it carries within it an observation: by arranging passages from the micro to the macro, it brings to the forefront the space-time scales and their impact on our perception of the world.
The star to which the film goes back is called GU Psc. Scientists at iREx have discovered a planetary mass orbiting it: an exoplanet whose distance from its star is 2000 times the distance from the Earth to the sun, while the star itself is 1.45 million billion km from the Earth. From where we are, it is a tiny point in the universe, a star among many others. Yet this distance is what allows us to measure the extent of our vertigo.
On the borderline between documentary neutrality and scientific objectivity, Du Mont-Mégantic aux exoplanètes questions the mechanisms of the gaze as much as those, more obscure, of the increasingly complex instruments that allow us to collect masses of data. Monitored and analyzed, examined and processed, these data – with what they reveal and conceal at the same time – remind us that the universe constantly escapes us.
Text par Sporobole
Jean-Pierre Aubé draws inspiration from Expo 67’s Kaleidoscope pavilion, which was sponsored by six Canadian chemical companies. The pavilion was designed by Morley Markson, who created a dynamic psychedelic experience of colour and experimental music as visitors walked through three film projections refracted by multiple mirrors. Aubé’s installation consists of short videos that show the time-lapse crystallization of chemicals purchased through the deep web. Adopting a scientific method, Aubé modified a microscope and used polarized lighting to reveal colour within the crystals, making their internal structures and materiality visible. Each of the short videos is then analyzed in real time using a facial recognition algorithm and relayed to a network of analogue synthesizers. The original soundtrack for Kaleidoscope was by Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer, known for having coined the term “soundscape”; Aubé, for this work, has modified a track from Voïvod’s Killing Technology album of 1987, referencing the dystopian avant-garde music of thrash metal.
The video Jean-Pierre Aubé à Venise was made following the Venezia performance. This educational documentary shows and makes audible the radiofrequencies presented in Venice during the opening of the 56th Biennale. During the day, the performers Mathieu Latulipe and Myriam Laplante walked around equipped with micro-computers to record the signals transmitted by the connected devices of the visitors of the Giardini and Arsenale. At nightfall, at Campo Santa Margherita they deployed their portable and self-sufficient radio recording material. Traces of the visitors’ cell phones then appeared on a makeshift screen.
Original duration: 25 minutes 20 seconds.
A project by Jean-Pierre Aubé, images: Frédéric Lavoie, performers: Mathieu Latulippe and Myriam Laplante, curator: Louise Déry, production: galerie de l'UQAM and kloud.org
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During the 56th Venice Biennale, from May 6 to 8, I produced several recordings of radio frequencies at the sites of the Biennale by collecting, documenting and recording the transmissions coming from personal telecommunication systems. Equipped with a portable apparatus made up of several networked radios, antennae and computers, I scanned the Venetian sky with the assistance of the performers Myriam Laplante and Mathieu Latulippe.
Electrosmog Venezia wa produced by the Galerie de l'UQAM, curated by Louise Déry and supported by the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ).
About the project, Galerie de l'UQAM
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At Cesano, in the suburbs of Rome, there is one of the world’ biggest radio transmitters: Radio Vaticana. On over 400 hectares, dozens of antennae make it possible to transmit everywhere on the planet. Fenced in and under high surveillance, Radio Vaticana’s antennae have received special attention. Indeed, the station which was created by Marconi himself, has for a long time received criticism from activists and been the target of acts of eco-terrorism. Its director, Cardinal Roberto Tucci, was even convicted by the courts for non-compliance with Italian telecommunication regulations.
It is unlikely that these controversies will spell the end of the Cesano transmitters. In fact, the pope himself recently set up a commission to reform the Vatican’s media. Since communication via radio waves has become obsolete in the era of the internet, the possibility of shutting the station has already been considered.
I filmed this video in Rome and Cesano around the antennae installation field. The soundtrack is made up of audio recordings of the many Radio Vaticana stations.
Produced by the Galerie de l'UQAM, as part of the Electrosmog project, curated by Louise Déry at RAM Radioartemobile in Rome, May 2014.
Abbattute le prime antenne di Radio Vaticana: esultano i cittadini di Cesano
Vatican Radio officials convicted
Le pape nomme une commission pour réformer les médias du Vatican
There are lists of satellites hidden away on the internet. These lists contain information about thousands of artificial objects orbiting the Earth. On the basis of this data one can calculate the position of satellites at any given time.
Sous surveillance is a computer generated image that uses this information in order to make the satellites flight path visible. To make this image, I programmed a software that draws lines based on the position and speed of the orbiting objects.
Sous surveillance uses data about spy satellites, i.e. considered to be “classified” transmitting countries. This data is compiled by hackers, who use telescopes to locate the objects that are being hidden from view. Like a sky chart, the image shows 28,800 passages of spy satellites above my studio over a 30 day period. Each passage in the sky produces a line that varies in position and colour on the basis of the satellite’s orbit.
In the 1960s Arno Pensias and Robert Wilson accidentally discovered cosmic background radiation. It is during research on communication with artificial satellites that they discovered the presence of a radio signal from the depths of the universe. This signal is in a way the residue of the energy emitted by the Big Bang. Since then, the mapping of the cosmic background has revealed microscopic variations in temperature. These variations confirm the theory of the Big Bang. In extrapolating beyond the cosmic background, scientists created a chart of the Universe’s evolution. Among other things this chart shows the evolution of the temperature, dimension of the horizon and the emergence of matter.
100 000 000 d'années après le Big Bang is video-sound installation that makes use of data. To make it I created an animation system comprising a camera, a VBR 64 LED matrix, an Arduino platform and Processing software. Image by image, the software modifies the colour and intensity of the LEDs and recreates the proportions of the Big Bang on a tiny scale.
The soundtrack was created according to the same procedure, but the interface now controls synthesizers. The chart and the spreading of the Big Bang here becomes a musical score.
The NGCC Amundsen is a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, as well as a scientific research vessel. It was outfitted with equipment and instruments in order to explore the Arctic ocean. Every summer, the ship travels through the Northwest Passage with forty or so scientists on board. In 2014, I was invited to take part in leg 3, the last stage of its voyage in the arctic archipelago from Kugluktuk to Quebec City. For 3 weeks, I filmed from the deck of the boat.
In the beginning, the images show ice forming, up to the Ice Floe, as the vessel moves towards the north. Afterwards, at the exit of the passage, after Bylot Island and the east coast of Baffin Island, the boat drives dozens of kilometers deep into a bay with the aim of mapping the ocean floors. The video shows some of the world’s most isolated landscapes scrolling by at the speed of the boat, interspersed with views of laboratories, scientific equipment and marine biology research samples.
Filmed in October 2014, in the arctic archipelago, Victoria Island, King Edward Island, Bylot Island and Baffin Island.
This work was carried out as part of the BB POLAR transdisciplinary project. The artist would like to thank Philippe Archambault, Research Professor at the Institut des sciences de la mer in Rimouski, Frank Michel, Independent Curator, as well as the Coast Guard crew and the scientists who participated in leg 3, 2015 of the NGCC Amundsen, as well as ArcticNet.
The charts of Electrosmog are computer generated images that have been printed on paper. They were made using data on the presence of radio waves picked up by my e-smog-scan. Each of the 6000 circles comprising the image is linked to a frequency. Those outside of the disk correspond to low frequencies (0,1 Mhz) while those in the centre correspond to very high ones (144 MHz). The brightness of each of the circles varies according to the power of the radio signal. The colour of the graph corresponds to the colour of the sky at the time of the data capture.
There is an inherent logic to the chart’s circular format. In fact, if one takes the physical properties of radio waves, the lower the frequency, the further the waves travel. Inversely, high frequency have a penetrative capacity, but do not travel far. In addition to seeing the quantity of waves that are present, the charts also make it possible to have an idea of the relative distance that each one travelled.
8 charts have been compiled up until now: Berlin, Istanbul, Mumbai, Hong Kong, San-Francisco, Montreal, Venice and Toronto.
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The radiofrequency spectrum is at the heart of telecommunications, used by police, emergency personnel and public transport services, as well as the armed forces. Every day, this spectrum ensures the proper functioning of mobile phones and wireless devices. Seen as an essential resource by some and as a health hazard by others, the electromagnetic fields generated by radiofrequency spectrum activity have multiplied exponentially since humans first learned to harness electricity. In his Electrosmog series, Jean-Pierre Aubé searches out ambient radio frequency activity in the urban landscape of Montréal, which for Aubé forms a singular territory, characterized by its density in the city and by the political and economic issues that accompany it. Equipped with a radio, an antenna, and an instrument of his own creation, the artist sweeps the titular spectrum of radio frequencies. Every tenth of a second, the device takes a snapshot of its readings – a measure of electromagnetic activity on a specific frequency. This information is then paired with images of Montréal, digitally altered by these same measurements, to create a “documentary in sound” of the city’s spaces.
For 20 years, many scientific teams have been searching for exoplanets. Using various techniques, these stellar bodies are being discovered at an increasing rate. These discoveries are shared and uploaded regularly.
Exoplanets is an automated diaporama that uses scientific databases, a computer, a quadrophonic sound system and a synthesizer. To carry out this project, I initially programmed a datamining-1 software. Each day, the system probes scientific sites on the internet in order to download the latest list of exoplanets. As new discoveries are added to the official lists, the software downloads the corresponding image of the solar system and adds it to the diaporama. Afterwards, a mathematical formula evaluates the radio waves emitted by the exoplanet. This simulation is then interpreted as a score by a synthesizer that “plays” the frequencies calculated by the software.
In 2010, during the fist presentation of the installation, around 180 exoplanets were known. The diaporama therefore lasted 40 minutes before completing the loop. In June 2015, the system had more than 1900, for a duration of 7 hours. Just in our galaxy Astronomers estimate the quantity of exoplanets to be 1.6 billion. Hence, in the near future hundreds of thousands of exoplanets will have been discovered. According to this logic, it is inevitable that the diaporama will no longer be able to close the loop.
Side A : 18 lines from the Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations
Database etched on vinyl, using the Geographical Area Search set with my studio coordinates of 45°3124 North and 73°3516 East, Source : Industry Canada
Side B : Electrosmog 824 – 890 MHz
USB control radio receiver connected to a computer, 800-900 MHz Yagi antenna, homemade scanning and recording software, 18 simultaneous played audio tracks of radio scans between 824 and 890 MHz. Cellular phone, microwave tower and Paramedic communications. Recorded in Montreal September 2010 play time 12min32.
Artwork : All the antennas in a 120 km radius of my studio
Geographical coordinates and height of 28 840 antennas, home made imaging and cartography software and data base. Source : Industry Canada
record Oral #54 — BUY
Video of a solar transit in H-Alpha, 31 radio frequencies in the LF ranges, Analog Solutions Leipzig-r synthesizers, DIY Atari Punk Console, Icom PCR-2500, E-Smog-Scan software developed with Processing.
31 soleils (Dawn Chorus) is a video installation that makes use of a software (e-smog-scan) an antenna (G5RV) and a USB radio (Icom PCR) to detect the appearance of radio stations at dawn. The system automatically tunes to a radio frequency, analyzes the presence of signals and records and compiles them in a database. For each day of recording the system creates a graph that shows the movements and power variations of the waves induced by the sun.
These images/graph are then used as a score: they are linked to the radio frequencies and the modifications they undergo. A series of synthesizers replay this score and give rhythm to each of the 31 analyzed frequencies. When the void of the radio silence is broken by a radio station, the synthesizer’s rhythm makes way for the tuned-into station. One then hears the voices of American preachers, Cuban propaganda, Radio Taiwan, or even a signal from a Russian submarine, because they are made audible through the power of the solar star.
The image of the sun was filmed with the help of a H-Alpha (Coronado PST) solar telescope. This type of optics only lets red light through and this in a very precise wavelength; that of hydrogen. Since the sun is mainly made up of hydrogen, the resulting image accentuates the differences at the surface. Through the telescope the sun appears in a monochrome red. The texture at the surface reveal sunspots that are hundreds of times bigger than the earth: at the centre of the image a pixel corresponds to 26,000 km. At the zenith, the contour of the red disk reveals solar prominences, these ejections made up of plasma. Filmed on the same days as the radio recordings, the video shows the state of the sun, its activity, the one that modifies the propagation of radio waves
On January 14,2005, after a 7 years and 3.2 billion kilometer trip, Huygens an automated spacecraft hit the surface of Titan, a moon orbiting around Saturn. After its descent, the drone sent a 2 minutes 30 seconds radio message. The sound file contained the data collected by the various scientific instruments. In fact these data are a log book, the history of a fall from a never visited before place.
Nowadays these data are available as computer files from the European Space Agency. Titan, and Beyond the Infinite uses these data, and scientific tools.
To produce the video I started by programming a software which organises the data and arranges them in charts. The title is a direct reference to a 2001 : Space Odyssey scene, Jupiter, and Beyond the Infinite, also known as the Stargate Sequence. The scene was created by Douglas Trumbull. At the time, Trumbull was a graphic artist for the NASA. He adapted for cinema a technique named slit scan and used before by photographers. Using long exposure time with camera motion, the technique creates the illusion of movement. In my video, the Huygens data are parsed in a database and then organized into graphics. The data like the altitude and the speed of Huygens or the density of the atmosphere of Titan are analysed by my software creating images using the slit-scan technique.
For the last few years, I've been using an early eighties model General Electric fridge called Élégance. The fridge occupies the sound space in my apartment, and several alterations have changed its acoustic properties over the years.
To explain phenomena captured by sensors in Save the Waves (2004-2005), I used the analogy of noise generated by fridges - those common household objects that start humming when their compressors decide to kick in. Indeed, electrical appliances oscillate at the same frequency as the system supplying their energy - 60 cycles a second (60Hz). Élégance - General Electric, circa 1982 employs the same sound techniques as recording studios. Invisible to the world, microphones are strategically positioned inside the fridge, which I subject to close, meticulous observation, its least vibrations captured and amplified a thousand times.
In The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World (1994), R. Murray Schafer explains that some studies have shown our ability to elide certain sounds from our audio environment; among them, the vibrations induced by our appliances' 60Hz frequencies. Ever since the "electric" revolution, all our urban environments have been humming to the tune of these appliances. Everything, from the lowly light bulb to towering generators, contributes to the complex harmonies of our audio landscape. Lately, as the city sleeps, I've been listening to my fridge.
Spying the electromagnetic workforce is the domestic version of Save the Waves. This installation monitor in real time the fluctuations of the magnetic field in the exhibition space. To do so, I have been inspired by spies who uses Very Low Frequency receivers to find electrical bugs like cameras and microphone hidden behind walls.
The system is build around 2 antennas and a VLF receiver, a mixer, a microcontroller and 4 speakers. The microchip automaticly tunes a frequency, its scans wide band of radio and sound frequency. The 4 loudspeakers, inspired by vintage electronics are tuned to a specific frequency captured by the receivers.
Multiple signals influence the sounds coming from the installation, the time of day, the strength of the electrical grid, technologies present in the exhibition space or even the state of the energy produces by the sun.
Every 10 seconds, a microcontroller queries a photoelectric cell glued to the window of my Montreal studio. Generally speaking, the less light there is, the more the photoelectric cell resists. The value of the resistance varies according to the intensity of the surrounding light. The relative data are first determined by an analogue/digital decoder, then transmitted to a microcomputer. There they are stockpiled in a database and filed in chronological order.
1 figure = 1 pixel = 10 seconds – ((1 day = 1440 minutes) x 10 seconds) x 72 dpi = 44 inches
These figures are then analyzed and converted into pixels, at a rate of 8646 figures per day. The device thus works to create paintings out of sunlight. Digital technology works with surgical precision: the 12-bit analogue-digital converter that I use allows for 8192 shades of grey.
There is a macro-phenomenon at work here at an astral level: that of the earth’s rotation around the sun. On such a large scale, these phenomena become quite predictable. We are able to predict, even tens of thousands of years into the future, at what time the sun will set in any given spot. On my window, on the other hand, the luminosity is affected by a multitude of micro-variations: clouds, artificial lighting in urban areas, atmospheric pollution, etc.
Next to the Darling Foundry, a huge Hydro-Quebec transformer generates a 60-cycle-per-second hum, the official wavelength of the American power grid. This is the sound of electricity, the contemporary soundtrack of our domestic life. It will be captured by 4 VLF antennas placed in the old foundry.
For the VLF.Nvartual Radio project, I had to travel to remote places since VLF receivers are extremely sensitive to the electromagnetic fields created by power lines. The difficulty that I experienced in finding spots sufficiently isolated from the electrical system led me to experiment with VLF receivers within an urban environment.
4 antennas were installed in the former foundry to capture in real time the perturbations generated by the numerous electrical components nearby. A computer, acting as a simple digital console, would receive the signals from the 4 antennas. A second computer would send commands to the first, and cause the sound signals to oscillate through a software. This software would act as a tuner: it oscillated and circulated the sounds using a simple mathematical formula, that of a sinusoidal curve.
In order to amplify the signal, I constructed a huge octophonic sound system made up of 24 horn loudspeakers. Located at the centre of the foundry, these loudspeakers would broadcast the sounds of the magnetic field in all directions, modulating them in accordance to the wavelengths occasioned by the mathematical formula of the software.
Jean-Pierre Aubé remercie André Théberge, Christian Bouchard, Mathias Delplanque, Emmanuelle Léonard et Michel de Broin
2 horn loudspeakers (1200 watts), 1 subwoofer (800 watts), 2 computers, 3 schooldesks, micro-chip, 2 photocells, 8 LED, video projector
NOCTURNE – A PIECE FOR 2 PHOTOELECTRIC CELLS AND 8 LED
On the island of Ouessant, France’s westernmost point, the lighthouse of Créac’h protects passing ships against the treacherous Breton coastline. This lighthouse, one of the most powerful in the world, emits 2 light signals every 10 seconds. I began by making a video of the lighthouse at night, from which I derived a 10-second film loop. The light emitted from the lighthouse was then analysed by 2 photoelectric cells glued to a computer screen. When this light reached a certain degree of luminosity, the light sensors would send out a signal to a microcontroller, which would set in motion a series of events. Functioning as a digital console, the computer would receive the data from the microcontroller and create a sweeping sound in step with the rhythm of the lighthouse.
The system of horn loudspeakers was created specifically for Passerelle. The two main components were designed to optimize the directional effect of the sound, with the aid of a sound-compression system. The design of the subwoofer was inspired by an Electro-Voice model from the 1970s.
The Earth is surrounded by a powerful magnetic field known as the magnetosphere. Since the earth is not a stable system, the magnetosphere is influenced by numerous natural phenomena : lightning, northern lights, solar storms. When a lightning bolt strikes, for example, a powerful electrical signal dissipates through the air and oscillates the magnetic field of the earth. A VLF receiver acts like a radio ; it captures the variations of an electrical signal at a predetermined frequency. For very low frequencies, the receiver is tuned at the magnetosphere and therefore captures the perturbations created by natural phenomena. That is why we called these sounds Natural Radio.
Reflections on the anticipated disappearance of a natural phenomenon :
VLF frequencies are almost unclouded by man-made telecommunications transmissions. But as the digital and wireless technologies evolve, the use of these frequencies for communications is overriding the naturally produced waves of the northern lights and other climate-related signals. For example, Russian nuclear submarines and American military beacon use VLF frequencies to communicate. These man-made signals override the natural phenomena active on the low frequency spectrum. Eventually, VLF waves will be completely drowned out by the signals of various telecommunication systems.
Participated a this project since 2000
Mathias Deplanque aka LENA, Mathieu Marguerin de Mainsdoeuvres, The centre culturel Canadien à Paris, Quartier Éphémère, André Théberge, The Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec,EST-NORD-EST, Emmanuelle Léonard, Rikka Suomi from the Finnish Artits Studio Foundation Peter Ride from the Centre for Arts Research, Technology and Education CARTE.