Data as Culture (DaC), the arts program of the Open Data Institute (ODI), presents a new 4-channel digital cinematic installation by artist-in-residence Rohini Devasher. Inspired by the concept of digital twin models, 100 years of solar data and conversations with the ODI team, Devasher has created a series of what it calls “Analog Twins of the Sun”. hundred thousand suns explores the relationships between observation and experience, information, data and truth. It is organized by the director of the DaC, Hannah Redler-Hawes.
Rohini Devasher is an international artist and amateur astronomer based in Delhi, India. Her practice spans film, drawing and printmaking, mapping the “antagonism” of time and space.
hundred thousand suns is another type of rendering of the Sun, assembled from both historical and contemporary data. This data is collected in the form of photographic glass plates, hand-drawn drawings and calculations from the archives of the historic Kodaikanal Solar Observatory in southern India. Kodaikanal is one of only two observatories in the world to have more than 120 years of continuous data from the Sun.
hundred thousand suns The work explores the notion that there can be multiple readings and avatars of data depending on the site, the observer, the mode and method of observation, collection and preservation.
These observations are further overlaid with datasets from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Science Visualization Studio, the Solar Dynamics Observatory Science Team, and the Virtual Solar Observatory. Devasher also relies on interviews she conducted with eclipse hunters and her eclipse observations and data collected in 2009, 2019, and 2021.
On a planetary scale, digital twinning begins with the presumption that something like Earth is essentially knowable. It got me thinking about the nature of modeling systems, the distance between the “truth” of a model and what it actually embodies. The final piece is less of an alternate digital twin and more of a speculative and metaphorical assemblage of ways the sun has been recorded and observed.
Rohini Devasher, artist in residence
The work consists of 4 “paradigms” explored through separate digital channels broadcast simultaneously on four large screens. This work will be the first publicly accessible art installation on display at the ODI offices in Kings Place since the start of the pandemic.
Paradigm 1 Sun drawings explores the notion of observation in time from naked eye drawings of the solar disk made between 1902 and 1904. It explores the nature of the drawing when faced with an object that is not only unknown but most often difficult to understand, see and to design.
Paradigm 2 twin suns considers the Sun as knowable and unknowable. It focuses on collections of lost moments, which will never be repeated, captured using 19th century glass plate photography. Devasher superimposed these moments with carbon paper drawings on copper sheets. She says: “Most of the copper on Earth was forged in very massive stars. These supergiant stars then exploded as supernovae, catapulting the newly minted copper into space.
Paradigm 3 Site features the instruments and people of the historic Kodaikanal Observatory, some of whom have observed the Sun for four generations.
Paradigm 4 Eclipse offers a meditation on the light of our Sun captured in the beam of the 60-meter tunnel telescope of the Kodaikanal Solar Observatory. The data voices of the eclipse hunters who dedicate their lives to standing in the shadow of the Moon form the soundtrack.
Each paradigm within hundred thousand suns also contains a specific acoustic rendering of the sun, using data, voice, music and sound.
“Much of my work deals with the role of ‘observation’ and ‘field’ or ‘site’. But I had never thought of myself as working with data. ODI helped me recognize that data is how we observe what interests us. It can be a mirror. It is not a natural phenomenon. I wanted to do work that goes slightly against the idea that data is detached, disinterested or neutral. What is most exciting is the data created not by a single person, but through a collaborative effort. »
Integrating an artist into the work of ODI is a key part of the structure of the organization. The residency ran from July 2021 to March 2022 online, with Devasher participating in the Open Data Institute Global Summits in 2021 and 2022.
We were drawn to Rohini Devasher’s work for its poetic beauty and fluid engagement with complexity. The moment she visually merges traditional eclipse photographs with the pupils of our eyes reminds us that we have evolved physically precisely in relation to our position in the solar system. Our eyes have formed the way they should receive light from the Sun. Her interest in scientific processes and her practice as an artist and amateur astronomer means that she brings a unique approach to generating and exploring ‘evidence’ in order to gain insights. hundred thousand suns takes us on a journey through the vast amounts of data held at the Kodaikanal Solar Observatory in India. This raises questions about the act of observing, how we know our nearest star, and how knowledge of the larger universe brings us closer to understanding ourselves.
Hannah Redler-Hawes Director, Data as Culture
Devasher had one-on-one feedback and brainstorming sessions with key ODI staff, including Head of Research and Development Olivier Thereaux, Director of DaC Hannah Redler-Hawes, Artist and Artistic Associate from ODI, Dr Julie Freeman, Public Policy Officer Dr Mahlet (Milly) Zimeta, then Vice President Dr Jeni Tennison, Communications and Marketing Director Emma Thwaites and team members enlarged.
“The world of data can be a place of high abstraction and cold, hard technology, so it’s great to have Rohini as our artist-in-residence, to help us think differently about why and for whom we collect and use data. Watching our conversations evolve into jaw-dropping visual material has been a treat, and I can’t wait for his work to inspire people for years to come.
Olivier Thereaux, Research and Development Manager at ODI
ODI continues to work as an influential partner in business, the public sector and the third sector, helping to both shape and map the data economy. His current projects explore everything from the value of insurance and data sharing to the scope of digital literacy, while providing important insights into data regulation and the space for truly open thinking.
One Hundred Thousand Suns by Rohini Devasher May 6 to December 2022 The Open Data Institute, 5th Floor, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9AG (Kings Cross), London culture.theodi.org/100000suns/
The work is accessible to all by appointment during office hours from Monday to Friday from Friday May 6th. Email [email protected] to schedule an appointment.
Mark Westall is the founder and editor of FAD magazine, founder and co-editor of Art of Conversation and founder of the @worldoffad platform