Less Remote Arts and Humanities Symposium :: Willow Weiland + Nicky Forster

29 September – 3 October, Glasgow ScotlandWe are two of the principle collaborators on Yelling at Stars (YAS) – an ongoing science/art project investigating interstellar communication. In September 2008 we were supported by ANAT to give a presentation about the YAS project at Less Remote Arts and Humanities Symposium – futures of space exploration, in Glasgow, and create the Less Remote closing event at the Centre for Contemporary Art.

Yelling at Stars is a bit of complicated project so here’s a quick summary:
YAS/1 is a web-based artwork created in collaboration with Monki web design.
was Australia’s first intentional interstellar transmission. Performed live at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl on the closing night of the Next Wavefestival 2008, it was attended by 500 people.
YAS/3 was a performance research installation held at the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) in Glasgow, which gathered audio from delegates to Less Remote Symposium and the 59th International Astronautical Congress (IAC).
YAS/4 is in research and development phase, and will utilise the audiocollected in Glasgow.

The Less Remote Arts and Humanities Symposium is part of the 59th International Astronautical Congress. The Symposium saw a cross-section of artists and cultural professionals working in the space context engage with thespace industry on issues such as astroethics and politics, space flight as art, postcolonial space exploration and the cultural utilization of space.

Artists whose work resonated with our own practice included Agnes Meyer Brandis, Tomas Saraceno, Laura Cinti and Howard Boland, Zbigniew Oksiuta, Sarah Jane Pell, Melody Burke and Frank Hoppe, and Anna Hill. Some of these standout wonders investigated the potentials of biopoetic archaeologiesand meteorologies; pillow cities of the sky; satellite art research outcomes for disaster preparedness; and methods for the vivid communication of astronautexperience to the public.

A variety of cultural professionals contributed their insights, including post-Colombus pioneerism from Hans-Arthur Marsiske; the potentials for queer culture in space by Frank Pietronigro; post-Cold War rocket geopolitics from Melbourne geographer Fraser McDonald; the permeability of the human body by bioethicist Andy Miah; and some recent news from SETI Institute courtesy of Douglas Vakoch. We were particularly excited to sit on a panel with Douglas as he is the Director of Interstellar Message Composition at SETI, and one of our key inspirations. We made strong connections through conversation (and whisky) with Arts Catalyst directors Rob la Frenais, Nicola Triscott, and Leonardo/ISAST Chairman, Roger Malina.

Our own paper presented findings based on each phase of the Yelling atStars project, addressing the following themes:

  • The implications of composing an interstellar message comprised of poetic and personal content, which rejects universality in favour of specificity;
  • Analysis of the paradigm shift that has taken place since interstellar messages were dominated by a positivist agenda;
  • Challenges faced in developing an artistic practice appropriate to the scale of interstellar messaging.

Beyond the Symposium, we had the opportunity to meet lots of people at theAstronautical Congress. Willoh met the Head of the Korean Space Agency, and discussed how his childhood obsession with the spinning part of UFOslead to his research into creating inertia in space. We also met astronauts! They are basically rockstars for nerds, and we stalked them in pink astrodresses until they were interviewed against their will.

With ideas for future projects we made contacts at Virgin Galactic, and satellite communications and technology companies working within international and suborbital travel.

We were also invited to present a performance installation at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, which constituted the closing event of the Less Remote Symposium.

Having sent our own transmission into space, the purpose of this phase of Yelling at Stars was to give members of the space/arts communities an opportunity to provide both feedback and reflection on the act of communicating with space. The environment of the installation allowed theaudience to navigate at their pace, and compose, test, and record their own interstellar messages with the help of YAS team.

The responses from the audience were enthusiastic – nearly everyone decided to record their own message –  and there was also clay balls thrown and messages written on the floor about Sarah Palin.


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