Arts Council England International Fellowship: Art and Space Science at UC Berkeley Space Sciences Lab (2005-2006)

Todd Hoeksema, solar physicist, Stanford Solar Observatory

In 2005 we were awarded the ACE international fellowship to spend 5 months at the UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory, California, USA. We ended up spending six months there initially, as there was so much to do, and we were thoroughly immersed. We went back in 2006 to interview and photograph for our moving image work Magnetic Movie. Returning in 2014 to say hi.

Scientist’s office at Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley

Forest Mozer, Physicist, Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley

Forest Mozer (above) took us under his wing after we gave a presentation to him and his colleagues, a room full of rocket scientists! He gave us tours of the laboratory and introduced us to his fellow scientists who worked across the field of planetary, solar and interplanetary magnetic fields. This sowed the seed for our journey and the research route we would take.

One of the five satellites that make up THEMIS in a clean lab at the Space Sciences Laboratory

SSL was our first residency in a science laboratory. We were in the lab everyday exploring, researching and interviewing. Space scientists take actual measurements from satellites which they design, build, capture data from and analyse. They do all of this at SSL and we started to gain an insight into how in science all the different roles from experimenters to theorists to engineers come together to realise one goal. Here they are working on one of the five satellites that make up THEMIS.

Janet Luhmann, Solar Physicist,  Space Sciences Laboratory , University of California, Berkeley

Solar physicist Janet Luhmann challenged us to question science as a human invention and as a result she inspired us to ask more philosophical questions of science, which filters through all of our work today. In Magnetic Movie she talks about hairy balls and sausages on the Sun.

A sample of Aerogel the lightest solid in the world, at SSL

The Wilcox Solar Observatory, Stanford University, California

We went to Wilcox Solar Observatory at Stanford University, and learnt about how they have been collecting daily observations of the Sun’s global magnetic field since 1975 with the goal of understanding changes in the Sun and how those changes affect the Earth.

David Brains images of magnetic fields on Mars

Experimenting during the development of Magnetic Movie at Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley

The top image above shows David Brain’s images of magnetic fields on Mars. They were made using actual data collected by a magnetometer orbiting Mars. Scientists can learn about magnetic fields on Mars and their anomalies. This visual language, where the fields are represented using colour coded lines, inspired the beginnings of Magnetic Movie. You can hear David Brain in Magnetic Movie talking about what it would look like if you could see Mars’s magnetic fields.

Ruth’s desk at SSL (above) the colourful tabs are playing with the visual language scientists have developed to convey information about magnetic fields. These experiments led on to what became Magnetic Movie.

Stephen Mende, Senior Research Scientist, Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley

Stephen Mende would talk to us about the Aurora Borealis. That is his thing, and he describes it in Magnetic Movie. There’s a great picture of him in a book called Majestic Lights, as a student huddled up in the red cabin you can see in a photo on his desk, collecting data.

Iain Hannah and Stephen Christie, post doctoral researchers at Space Sciences Laboratory of the University of California, Berkeley, who we worked with to access the archival images of the sun

After seeing an unusual image of the Sun on a scientists wall and a bit of research post doc researchers Iain Hannah and Stephen Christie taught us how to access archives and download scientific images of the Sun, taken by satellites and ground based observatories, in differing wavelengths. The beginnings of Brilliant Noise was born.

One of the 100,000’s of images of the sun, taken by a satellite as a single snapshot that we used when creating Brilliant Noise [add link]

NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre

During our time at SSL, they sent us off to other NASA ‘bases’ we visited NASA Ames and NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre.

Ilan Roth, Physicist Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley and Ruth

Prelinger Library, San Francisco, California – research beyond the lab


Yosemite National Park, California – exploring the local areas on foot and bike

Yosemite National Park, California

View from SSL over San Francisco Bay

The premiere of Brilliant Noise at Recombinant Media Labs, San Francisco, following our residency at SSL

Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory:
The wilcox solar observatory:
NASA Ames Research Centre:
NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre: