600 People – Project Development

Rebecca Seetanah/Beth Sutton-Jones/Jannika Evans

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The Voyager 2 space probe were launched on August 20th, 1997, from Florida aboard a Titan-Centaur rocket. On September 5th, Voyager 1 launched from the same location aboard a similar rocket. Between the two, they explored all the giant planets of our solar system, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, 48 of their moons and the unique system of rings and magnetic fields that those planets possessed.

The Voyager Spacecraft will be the third and fourth human spacecraft to fly beyond all the planets in our solar system. On the 17th February 1998, Voyager 1 became the most distant human-made object in space, reaching the very edge of our solar system.

On both spacecrafts, a greeting from earth is being transported. A greeting to any form of life, should it be encountered. The message is carried by a phonograph record – a 12 inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images associated with earth in order to portray the diversity of life and culture on earth. The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University. They assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds, as well as a mix of musical selections from different cultures and eras and spoken greetings from “earth-people” in 55 different language.

After reading through the brief to pinpoint exactly what is required of us, we realised that it was very much open to interpretation. We began by discussing what aspects of graphic design we all excelled at, by doing this we figured out how we could work together to the best of our abilities. By combining our specialisms we were able to tackle the brief with a broad range of possible outcomes. In order to narrow down the possibilities we decided to concentrate on one of the following; Show Promotion, Presentation of the Script or Data Visualisation

By re-watching the video footage of the performance, notebooks in hand, we refreshed our memories and jotted down some initial themes/concepts that we could use later on. What struck me initially was the incredibly descriptive list of Life on Earth. Moving swiftly onto different moon names, taking us to the edge of Our Solar System and Onwards. Speaking hypothetically regarding extra terrestrial activity;

Key Quote: I’d better warn you, there isn’t any”

We discussed the tone of the video, and how the information could be portrayed. The overall informative, yet relaxed, tone of the video gave us an insight into the attitudes behind the performance, we had to decide whether to challenge it or support it. We decided to support it. Similarly to documentaries and conspiracy theory related videos, the target audience is 15-18 years of age – the age whereby teenagers begin questioning what they thought they knew. By securing a potential target audience to begin with, we aim to avoid going off on a tangent about aliens and outer space in fictional sense.

The theme we came up with was Perspectives. Using the three main perspectives that stood out the most, Life on Earth, Our Galaxy, and Outer Space, we wanted to emphasise the insignificance of our existence in relation to the rest of the universe. At the same time we wanted to portray the sheer amount of information we have about ourselves, and our planet, and the lack of everything outside of that.

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To get the creative juices flowing we looked at how other ‘creatives’ had tackled the theme of perspective in the past. We had previously been shown the short films by Charles and Ray Eames ‘Powers of Ten’ and recognised the similarities in the concepts. Both films depict the relative scale of the universe in order of magnitude based on a factor of 10.

“First expanding out from the Earth until the entire universe is surveyed, then reducing inward until a single atom and its quarks are observed.”

The Eames’ film is a great demonstration of perspective and association. The sun is a mere pin point and a proton is a unfathomable force. A micron and a galaxy portrayed to be equal in the complexity of the universe. The simple act of zooming in and out is captivating and also helps to highlight to the viewer the sheer size of the universe.

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Another artistic impression of perspective would be that created by German Road singer 1010. By using spray paints and large spaces he creates astonishing layers of depth to drab facades and empty gallery walls by painting concentric levels of colour.

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Although these pieces of work don’t specifically tackle the theme of perspective. It is an extraordinarily simple way of displaying depth. Something that, with regards to outside of our solar system, could work particularly well. The “portals” of colour liken themselves to black holes in the universe. As it stands, we do not know what lies beyond these black holes. This sense of the unknown draws us back to the idea that we still do not know whether there is or isn’t alien life beyond our galaxy. A key point narrated in the 600 People Performance was the voyager reaching the very edge of our solar system, whatever comes next is completely unknown. The voyager itself ventured into the abyss in search of alien life, this ‘abyss’ is precisely what could be represented in a similar way to this. 

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Another designer, Mikayel Ohanjanyan, created an interactive sculpture in 2011 called “Perspectives”. After researching form and space, Ohanjanyan aimed to encourage his audience to discover other dimensions within the sculpture.

“In formal and spatial terms, the work crosses the boundaries of form itself, in that, it tries to represent the introverted dimension of form and space, where it highlights the contrast between the One, its versatility, its stillness and its dynamism, inside-outside… Relationships that, despite the seemingly timeless aspect of sculpture, directly reflect the nuances of our modern society, with all its contradictions and tensions, and which give each visitor the opportunity to interpret the work in a very personal way”

The designer himself talks of how the surfaces, whether they be full or empty, represent a possibility of a new vision of the same space, therefore, a continuous journey and a myriad of perspectives. I like the way the object is hanging freely within the space – it invites the audience to enquire allowing time for thought and questioning. I also believe that in a series this could increase the feel of a continuous journey, similarly to the one the voyager is taking, and communicate our concept accordingly.

As there are three of us, we assumed it would make sense to design three boards, each displaying the information known about the main themes expressed in the performance. By focusing on the amount of information we know about earth, gradually expanding outwards until we reach outer space, we can aim to bring the audience’s attention to the lack of information we have outside of our galaxy. At the same time we are hoping to outline the belief that there COULD be life outside of earth, by highlighting how much we are yet to discover. We believe we are naive, if not arrogant, in thinking we are the only ones here.

As well as the three boards, we are designing an accompanying publication to highlight the focus of our project. By doing this we can encourage the audience to question their own belief of life outside of earth, as well as inform the viewer in more depth regarding the subject of this project.


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