Through the Aleph: A Glimpse of the World in Real Time

net art + time-lapse video

html, css, jquery, javascript, processing, after effects :: 2015–2017


Through the Aleph is a net art project offering an unprecedented visual and interactive experience where many places on Earth and in space can be seen simultaneously in an instant. It visualizes the diversity of human civilizations (microcosm) and the unity of humanity without borders in the ever-changing universe (macrocosm); it draws the connections between individuals and the global environment, Earth and outer space, eternity and time, and art and science. With an unexpected approach to surveillance cameras and global networks this meditative web project uses live data to create an abstract landscape in an open source environment. It not only embraces the dream of peace on Earth but also explores the bond between humankind and nature through time and space in the present moment.

* The project title was inspired by two great literary works—The Aleph and Through the Looking-Glass. Perhaps the computer screen is our modern day looking-glass, and we are all Alice as we peer through our screens at an alternate reality.

Credits and data sources: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Johnson Space Center; SOHO—Solar and Heliospheric Observatory by the European Space Agency (ESA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); Astronomy Club, School of Physics and Astronomy and the Wise Observatory, Tel Aviv University, Israel; OPAG Online Promotion AG; World Sea Temperatures.


video and screen recording

STATEMENT

What is an Aleph? In his short story The Aleph (1945), Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges described that an Aleph is one of the points in space that contains all other points—the single gigantic instant where millions of acts in the unimaginable universe can be seen simultaneously from every point and angle.

Although a real Aleph might never be found, following Borges’s vision Through the Aleph is a net art project offering an unprecedented visual and interactive experience where many points on Earth and in space can be seen simultaneously in an instant. It contains 142 live surveillance webcams selected from seven continents with multiple cultures, real-time water temperatures of four oceans—Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans—which play a crucial role in shaping the global climate change, twelve constellation maps alternating dynamically every month, a thin rotating line in the background representing the passage of time—as the line moves like a second hand as it sweeps around the face of a clock, the latest NASA solar image updated every twelve hours, NASA International Space Station videos of Earth, and satellite time-lapse imagery of the solar system planets. The video component of this project consists of twelve-day time-lapse screenshots of the net art in twelve months—one day per month—from September 2016 to August 2017. It captures not only the shift of day and night, but also the change of seasons—the infinite and transitory nature of life on Earth.

Inspired by the life changing power of seeing Earth from space, Through the Aleph visualizes a pair of opposites—the diversity of human civilizations (microcosm) and the unity of humanity without borders in the ever-changing universe (macrocosm). It serves no practical and material end, but an end in itself. It offers no purpose other than the joy of contemplation, the need of human consciousness, and the curiosity of exploration. Although in recent times some creative and research works have used IP camera live stream and their linkage to the social environment also with the political scope to highlight the implications of this technological Panopticon, the artwork here presented utilizes surveillance cameras and global networks from a grand viewpoint to observe people, environment, and space within a philosophical and literary framework. Using live data to portray the Earth’s pulse and human existence, this meditative web project creates an abstract landscape in an open source environment, reveals an emerging totality visible to the human eye through distant points of perceptions, and gathers all realities into the glimpse of the Aleph, where we could experience humanity as one in the unimaginable space—therefore, the unity in infinity.

RATIONALE

      Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. — Mark Twain

As an avid traveler, I followed my curiosity to explore and study many places in the world. I have experienced diverse cultures and the beauty of nature, but also observed the lost wilderness, cultural globalization, and the growth of human population, while global tourism and global warming continuously increase.

Meanwhile, recent creative and research works by artists, such as Kurt Caviezel, Nye Thompson, and Pierre Derks, on live surveillance cameras and global networks (and how these emerging technologies affect people’s privacy) have caught my attention. Inspired by the life changing power of seeing Earth from space, I started to wonder: Where were the eyes of the Earth? How could we see the world in real time at a glance? How could I offer a different perspective on life using surveillance cameras in my work? From then on the seed of this project was planted.

Soon after I began this project, I was introduced to Borges’ The Aleph. This inspired me to broaden the concept. After 70 years, Borges’ vision in the 1940s has been realized in this networked age—to visualize millions of acts from every point and angle in the unimaginable universe in a single gigantic instant. Hence, space-related content was integrated into the artwork. Through this grand viewpoint, we experience the totality and unity of humanity in the infinite space, which hopefully could hint at the brevity and fragility in life and raise, through this perspective, questions about the reality of human existence.

In The Aleph, Borges mentioned a feeling of "infinite wonder, infinite pity."This is one of the sensations that I want my viewers to experience. I hoped that by observing humanity, Earth, and space from a distance this project could stimulate deeper feelings and thoughts. Perhaps with humbleness and egolessness we stand closer to the greatness and wonders in Life.


ABOUT THE ARTIST

Please visit her online resume.


EXHIBITION / PRESENTATION


2018 ISEA—24th International Symposium on Electronic Art, Durban, South Africa
2018 xCoAx—6th Conference on Computation, Communication, Aesthetics & X
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and Museo del Traje [exhibition], Madrid, Spain
2018 MidAmerica College Art Association (MACAA) Conference International Exhibition
University of Nebraska Lincoln, USA
2018 Creative Technology: Art and the Digital Future National Juried Exhibition
St. Thomas Aquinas College, Sparkill, New York, USA
2017 ISEA [exhibition]—23rd International Symposium on Electronic Art, Manizales, Colombia
2017 EVA London—Electronic Visualisation and the Arts International Conference
British Computer Society, London, United Kingdom
2017 Balance-Unbalance International Conference [selected]
i-DAT, Plymouth University, United Kingdom
2017 Codes and Modes: Reframing Reality, Virtuality, and Non-fiction Media
Hunter College and New York City College of Technology, New York, USA
2017 The Video Show, International Juried Exhibition of Video and Media Installation
Raritan Valley Community College, New Jersey, USA
2017 STEAM2017 Art Exhibition, University of West Florida, USA



DIAGRAMS OF "THROUGH THE ALEPH"