On September 15th 2017, NASA terminated Cassini's 20-year lucrative mission exploring the Saturn system in a high-profile "Grand Finale" where the beloved space 'probe" was programmed to harakari-crash into Saturn so as not to corrupt the potential of life thought to exist on moons Enceladus and Titan (based on data collected by Cassini itself).
For many of us this was a tragic event, Cassini having performed a mission of heroic proportions, condemned to dissipate in the planet it, and vicariously we, had become so intimate with, in all its rings, moons and magnetic glory.
A collaboration between creator and director Tyler Bowers of WOW inc and NYC-based artist Gabriel Pulecio the immersive art installation "BEYOND CASSINI" was conceived with the intent to celebrate and humanize the life and death of the probe and its mission.
Exhibited at hprgp GALLERY NEW YORK from 2017.09.15 to 2017.09.27, the installation is completely driven by TouchDesigner which synchronizes and plays back all the video and LED animations in the installation. We spoke with the artists to learn more about their incentive and methodology.
BEYOND CASSINI uses as it's narrative the adage that just before a person dies their life’s most potent memories flash before their eyes. In the case of one of the most prolific satellites in NASA's history with 395,927 raw images to its credit as well as the more processed, hall of fame composites, the deep and far-ranging wealth of 'memories' is staggering.
The proposition thus is that as Cassini begins its final and fateful flight into Saturn's upper atmosphere that visuals "flash back" through it's memory providing viewers with highlights of the doomed satellite's life. These fleeting moments and glimpses of the stunningly sureal Saturn system draw viewers into a celebration of Cassini's accomplishments through an intimate and palpable experience.
Derivative: Tyler, how did this project come into being?
Tyler Bowers: "Earth Life Science Institute (ELSI), astrobiologist Kosuke Fujishima had asked me to create a short video pitch for a future NASA mission to bring a peptide specimen back to earth from the moon Enceladus. This video got the JPL/Cassini team excited and they contacted WOW to see if I could re-edit this film for their Cassini efforts. Because this film was specific to a different mission I didn't feel it made sense to try and rework it for the Cassini mission but it did get me thinking about doing something interesting for Cassini.
After doing more research and realizing the Cassini's mission was coming to an end soon with what NASA was calling the Grand Finale, I felt there was an opportunity to do something special in a more interactive way. I felt there would be plenty of highlight videos circulating the internet showing the 20 year history and achievements of Cassini, but an interactive installation was an opportunity to perhaps reach a different audience outside of the science and tech communities.
Once this decision was made I knew Gabriel would be the perfect collaborator and we both set out to create together what became BEYOND CASSINI."
The stage is set inside Gabriel Pulecio's TouchDesigner-driven Infinity Room, a cube made up of mirrored tiles, precision-fabricated with laser-cut see-through mirrors panels rigged with LED strips and rear projection that create the optical illusion of boundless and infinite space.
Entering the cube, the subject is immediately immersed, even suspended in a space that through the use of mirrors, rear projection and a LED light floor, extends as far as can be conceived - to "outer space" it feels like.
Onto this new suspended state of reality WOW paints a holographic CGI world based on Cassini's captured imagery that is synced to the LED light floor. Though in the abstract, WOW depicts many of the Cassini mission highlights, such as the Venus-flybys, the plumes of Enceladus, and encounters with some of Saturn's many moons.
The 2-dimensional video of these representations becomes part of the 3-dimensional space, bending perception and creating an intense experience for the viewer as both perspective and experience become Cassini's, immensely beautiful and terminal. The experience is visceral and a little bit sad as we experience Cassini's memories through evocative media synchronized with intricate sound design produced by composer Jeff Dodson.
Derivative: Gabriel we've written about your Infinity Rooms before as this is an iteration of work that premiered at Panorama Festival's The Lab. Please describe the process of building the room for BEYOND CASSINI.
Gabriel Pulecio: In this case also the installation is completely driven by TouchDesigner which triggers the video and LED animations perfectly synced with the audio. To fully flesh out Cassini's "memories" we used video as well as LED. Previous Infinity Rooms used multiple Kinects to track people's activity in the room and run animation accordingly. This time we did not use the Kinect but we did use limit switches in the door so that as soon as a viewer enters the room and shuts the door the experience begins.
The software is also controlling and mapping all the LED floor animations in both the active and passive states. These animations are sampled based on the LED locations and the sample data fed into Serial Out CHOPs to two teensies running OCTOWS2811 and fastLED. The floor consists of 10 individual modular panels, with 400 LEDs each. Video is played back and rear-projected onto projection screen fabric on the walls of the cube.
Big thanks Tyler Bowers and Gabriel Pulecio for this beautiful, commemorative work and for talking to us about it.
For our readers in Japan, please note that early this April 2018, WOW will be exhibiting WOW20, a huge retrospective installation of their ground-breaking work over the past 20 years."Past, Present, and Future of Visual Design Studio "WOW"".
Learn more about the Cassini Legacy | October 15, 1997 - September 15, 2017
BEYOND CASSINI Credits
WOW inc. Design Team w0w.co.jp
Beyond Cassini original concept,
Visuals Direction / Production
Tyler Bowers tylerbowers.tv
Gabriel Pulecio Studio gabrielpulecio.com
Programming / Production
Direction, Design, Programming,
Infinity original concept:
Gabriel Pulecio gabrielpulecio.com
Kouhei Nakama kouheinakama.com
Hiroshi Takahashi w0w.co.jp
KANDO Executive Producer:
Jeff Dodson, Rainfall Film rainfall.film
Additional Sound and Music:
Lucas Morgan & Gary Lee and Derivative team / TouchDesigner
Covalent artists, NYC Publicity Executive Producer, Erica L. Bernhard, P.A., Susana Lopez covalentartists.com
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