Vertical Atlas – world.orbit is a public research project focusing on a critical and generative engagement with satellite data. In a series of workshops, artists and designers can learn how to find, read, process and translate satellite data. Alternative digital cartographies can identify other ways of representing global and local developments in narratives that help us to see Earth anew.
Seeing Earth anew
Satellites play a central role in witnessing and understanding events on the global scale. Circling the world in rhythms that range from a near-live, hourly recurrence to slow 12-day cycles, they read the entire atmosphere and surface of Earth and its oceans. With a plethora of sensors scanning in a wide range of electromagnetic bandwidths in a huge diversity of global observation missions, they trace water cycles and temperatures; witness the presence and flows of various gases; see the growth and decay of forests and vegetation; and monitor life in cities and observe mobility flows through visible or hidden infrastructures.
The images constructed from satellite data tend to focus on particular information qualities, catering for scientific analysis or giving the coordinates for commercial opportunities and technological interventions.
Like no other instrument, Earth-observation satellites feature in narratives of neutral knowledge, of quantifiable representations of states-of-affairs observed from a detached perspective. As such, they provide a powerful anchor point for the western, techno-scientific cosmology, in which nature is objectified and seen from the outside by human subjects enhanced by technologies. At the same time, satellite observation of Earth offers humans the possibility to perceive the planet as a connected whole, adding a vital, shared dimension to the increasingly fragmented perspectives that rule the destructive events on the surface of Earth.
Vertical Atlas is a research and publication project about techno-politics around the globe, in relation to techno-cultural worldviews. Vertical Atlas – world.orbit acknowledges that satellite data is not neutral, but is always captured and formatted around certain goals. Based on this, Vertical Atlas – world.orbit asks what processes of correlation, transformation and aggregation can be applied to satellite data so that it can play a part in other necessary representations of Earth, in narratives or experiences with multiple perspectives, scales, time frames and voices, sensitive to the fact that techno-cultural, biological, political and atmospheric processes all depend on each other.
30 october 2020
The opening session introduces aims, tools, participants and facilitators and discusses the issues at stake in the programme. This first part is open to a wider group of interested parties.
The second part of the session is focused on the 15 active participants. In this module, Andrei Bocin Dumitriu goes into the way Earth observation technologies function, what they focus on, and how different types of events are present in the data collected. There will be hands-on training with the basics, and discussions around the participants’ questions.
With a talk by Tega Brain.
6 november 2020
In the second module, Andrei Bocin Dumitriu goes deeper into where to retrieve data, of what kinds, and from what source (such as ESA, NASA and Airbus). How to pre-process data towards outputs other than geospatial maps and how to combine it with other kinds of data sources (including social media analytics, GIS, portable device sensors and car sensors). A “synaesthetic” journey into the science-technology-society-culture-politics nexus.
With a talk by Lukáš Likavčan.
13 november 2020
In the third session, Andrei Bocin Dumitriu gives an overview of existing Earth observation tools and platforms (desktop, online and cloud). How to work with them and how to combine their functionalities into dynamic interactive interfaces which allows experimenting with information.
With a talk by John Palmesino.
Lukáš Likavčan writes on philosophy of technology, political ecology and visual cultures. He lectures at Center for Audiovisual Studies FAMU (Prague), and Strelka Institute (Moscow). Likavčan is collaborator of the Digital Earth fellowship programme (digitalearth.art) and member of Display – Association for Research and Collective Practice (Prague) He is the author of Introduction to Comparative Planetology (Strelka Press, 2019). More info at likavcan.com.
Lukáš Likavčan will talk about the cosmic background of comparative cosmology and will will discuss how visual cultures and philosophical endeavours develop cosmologies that in effect shape as well as constrain political discourses and practices.
Tega Brain is an Australian-born artist and environmental engineer whose work examines issues of ecology, data systems and infrastructure. She has created wireless networks that respond to natural phenomena, systems for obfuscating fitness data, and an online smell-based dating service.
She will discuss Asunder (asunder.earth) A fictional 'environmental manager' that uses satellite, climate, geology, biodiversity and topography data for a series of terrestrial regions to proposs and simulates future alterations to the planet to keep it safely within planetary boundaries, with what are often completely unacceptable or absurd results. In doing so, Asunder questions assumptions of computational neutrality, our increasingly desperate reach for techno-solutionist fixes to planetary challenges, and the broader ideological framing of the environment as a system.
Andrei Bocin-Dumitriu studied Earth Sciences at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and University of Bucharest and has a PhD and MA in Geosciences and Environmental Geology. He was Assistant Professor and Researcher at University of Bucharest, and since 2010 has been working in global and regional science-based policy, remote sensing, and geographical information projects in the Netherlands. He works with space technology for social and environmental impact. Bocin-Dumitriu is involved in several projects focusing on sustainable cities and communities, affordable and clean energy, climate action, and ‘life on land and below water’.
John Palmesino is an architect and urbanist. He established with Ann-Sofi Rönnskog Territorial Agency, an independent organisation that combines architecture, analysis, advocacy and action for integrated spatial transformation of contemporary territories. Operating at the intersection between Earth System and world-systems, Territorial Agency is engaged to strengthen the capacity of local and international communities in comprehensive spatial transformation in an age of climate change – the Anthropocene. Recent projects include Oceans in Transformation, a multi-year research project commissioned by TBA21-Academy,; the Museum of Oil with Greenpeace, ZKM Karlsruhe, and the Chicago Architecture Biennial; The Anthropocene Observatory with Armin Linke and Anselm Franke, HKW Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin; the Museum of Infrastructural Unconscious; North Anon; Unfinishable Markermeer. His work has been exhibited internationally and he has lectured and published widely. He is Unit Master at the AA Architectural Association School of Architecture, London. John has led the research of the Design Department at the Jan van Eyck Academie Maastricht, he has led the MA in Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, and previously led the research activities of ETH Zurich/Studio Basel - Contemporary City Institute. He is a founding member of Multiplicity, an international research network based in Milan.
Vertical Atlas is a collaboration between Het Nieuwe Instituut and Digital Earth.