All the Stars We Cannot See

All the Stars We Cannot See is an immersive installation that situates participants within a virtual sky activated by 25,500+ satellites orbiting Earth. Smith & Gao are working to render visible the global impact of satellite density. This artwork was made to build opportunity for discussion on the impact of colonizing space, and to bring awareness to growing surveillance and the political and economical driving forces that are currently occupying space.  

The piece is developed in TouchDesigner, a node-based visual programming system, and it is produced by pulling real-time data from N2YO using their Application Programming Interface (API). The satellite positional data (latitude, longitude, and altitude) is stored to a lossless image where each pixel’s individual RGB values contains a specified position for a satellite, at a specific moment. This forms a unique method for mapping and visualizing satellite locations over time. The real-time data is updated every 15 seconds, enabling the viewers to identify movement. Through the construction of the database, and visualization of this data, the artists were struck by the number of human-made satellites circumnavigating the globe. As this volume increases year upon year, this project applies quantitative data in an evocative way, where emotional reactions to the shared information are felt and can then build an urgency to discuss the colonization of space.  

This installation is designed for a 270-degree panoramic screen, and opened to the public in April 2022, at the Visualization & Emerging Media Studio at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, Canada. This work has also been presented at EVA London 2021, and Technarte Bilbao 2022. The artwork is an immersive experience that makes visible a veiled political space. 

All the Stars We Cannot See is an immersive installation that situates participants within a virtual sky activated by 25,500+ satellites orbiting Earth. Smith & Gao are working to render visible the global impact of satellite density. This artwork was made to build opportunity for discussion on the impact of colonizing space, and to bring awareness to growing surveillance and the political and economical driving forces that are currently occupying space.  

The piece is developed in TouchDesigner, a node-based visual programming system, and it is produced by pulling real-time data from N2YO using their Application Programming Interface (API). The satellite positional data (latitude, longitude, and altitude) is stored to a lossless image where each pixel’s individual RGB values contains a specified position for a satellite, at a specific moment. This forms a unique method for mapping and visualizing satellite locations over time. The real-time data is updated every 15 seconds, enabling the viewers to identify movement. Through the construction of the database, and visualization of this data, the artists were struck by the number of human-made satellites circumnavigating the globe. As this volume increases year upon year, this project applies quantitative data in an evocative way, where emotional reactions to the shared information are felt and can then build an urgency to discuss the colonization of space.  

This installation is designed for a 270-degree panoramic screen, and opened to the public in April 2022, at the Visualization & Emerging Media Studio at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, Canada. This work has also been presented at EVA London 2021, and Technarte Bilbao 2022. The artwork is an immersive experience that makes visible a veiled political space. 

allthestarswecannotsee.space/

Artists: Megan L. Smith & Gao Yujie 

Technical assistance: Aristotle Roufanis 

Support received from: University of British Columbia, Canadian Foundation for Innovation 

Gao Yujie (CN) is an interdisciplinary media artist and a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia. Her generative participatory performance work studies the materiality of duration and explores the elasticity of space and time in rule-based interactive environments. Dr Megan Smith is a UBC 2022 Killam Laureate, and Associate Professor in New Media at the University of British Columbia. Her practice-based research probes systems for delivering syndicated data through narrative structure and she often works with virtual and augmented reality, geo-location, live-feed installation, and performance as methods for storytelling. 

Gao Yujie (CN) is an interdisciplinary media artist and a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia. Her generative participatory performance work studies the materiality of duration and explores the elasticity of space and time in rule-based interactive environments. Dr Megan Smith is a UBC 2022 Killam Laureate, and Associate Professor in New Media at the University of British Columbia. Her practice-based research probes systems for delivering syndicated data through narrative structure and she often works with virtual and augmented reality, geo-location, live-feed installation, and performance as methods for storytelling.