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New Online Art Commissions

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CRUMB researcher Sarah Cook has curated some new net-based art and science-writing commissions as part of the online platform Beam Me Up hosted by http://www.beam-me.netLaunching in June 2009 (coincident with the International Year of Astronomy - are new online projects by New York-based artists Jamie O'Shea and Joe Winter and a previously unpublished poem by artist Alec Finlay ( As part of the web-based platform Beam Me Up, guest curator Sarah Cook has invited these artists as well as 2 scientists -- Guillaume Belanger and Jayanne English -- to reflect on the nature of perceiving and representing space and outer space. Two more contributions commissioned by Sarah Cook will follow later in the summer.

Beam Me Up is a global project by, based in Basel, which will continue into 2010 inviting art contributions and essays which seek to interpret concepts of space and cyberspace using both pictures and texts, artistic and philosophical models as well as scientific experience. have been organizing and curating Internet-based art and text projects which deal with questions of our understanding of reality and our use of the media since 1995.

Jamie O'Shea has been building small shrines to the transmissions of the robotic probes on the surface of Mars. The latest telematic shrine, an icy tomb in O'Shea's freezer created with a timed humidifier and toaster, is a simulation of a probe we have lost contact with -- NASA's Phoenix lander. For the duration of the summer here on Earth you can watch O'Shea's web-cam, delayed by the time lag between Earth and Mars, and see the latest shrine to the 'martyred lander' become slowly encased in ice crystals -- just as the actual probe is entombed in dry ice on Mars right now. Phoenix may come back online when it thaws sometime in October 2009 (during the Martian spring), and if it does and begins retransmitting signals to Earth, it will turn on the toaster probe in O'Shea's freezer, melting it free.

Joe Winter's work challenges how we understand the space of the computer screen and filmic space-time. By shooting videos out in the world, and then playing those back onto the bed of a scanner, Joe reminds us that technology, no matter how much it is upgraded, will never be able to truly capture how we see the world. His online 'animations' are at once both films and drawings, of a space which seems familiar from lived experience, but has been flattened into little more than traces of once live, now archived, digital data.

Alec Finlay's untitled and previously unpublished poem was composed in 2008 after a conversation he had with the sound artist Honor Harger whose practice involves listening to radio signals from outerspace. Alec's work encompasses poetry, visual art and publishing; he recently released the One Hundred Year Star-Diary, a collaboration with Denis Moskowitz & Professor Ray Sharples, which has a page per year, beginning in 2008, charting the night sky, with old and new astronomical symbols for the constellations, and leaving room for your thoughts and observations.

Alongside these art commissions are two pieces of writing commissioned from astrophysicists working internationally, all of which seek to reconcile the impossibilities inherent in attempts to represent our understanding of outer space.

Dr. Guillaume Belanger of the Gamma-ray mission Integral of the European Space Agency has written a new essay that raises questions regarding our perception of this world, of what we know, and ultimately of ourselves. He draws his inspiration for the context in which he sets these simple but fundamental questions from our home Galaxy: its stars, its structure, and its nucleus, the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A*.

Dr. Jayanne English of the University of Winnipeg's Department of Physics and Astronomy has submitted a new animation showing the cold hydrogen gas, which is invisible to human eyes, in our Milky Way Galaxy. Dr. English makes images from complex data sets acquired via telescopic observations of outer space, determining the colour and form of them as she sits in front of her computer screen. A full essay on the interface of space-time and the human imagination as seen through a monitor will follow at the end of the summer.

About the artists:

Joe Winter is an artist based in New York who makes sculptures that re-purpose familiar technological systems and undermine their functional sense. Past works have targeted sound-related technologies and objects, and have included: a cassette tape that draws three-dimensional moving images; pianos driving in endless circles; and telephones that talk only to each other. Recent work revolves around contemporary technologies of image production such as photocopies and scanners. Joe recently created a subjective astrophotographic archive using an office photocopier as an observational instrument with which to catalog fake stars. Joe has undertaken residencies at the MacDowell Colony and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's Swing Space. His work can be currently seen in an exhibition at the Urbis Center, Manchester. Joe was a resident artist at Eyebeam Art and Technology Center in 2008.

Jamie O'Shea is an artist based in New York whose work takes the form of sculpture, installation and performances related to how we understand the natural world and technological phenomena within it. Jamie describes himself as an inventor who makes semantic machines, and believes that all machines are semantic. He loves the things, like memory, that cannot be automated, and strives in vain to automate them. He believes that boredom is a crucial defense mechanism, and should be celebrated. He also writes fiction. Jamie has undertaken residencies at the Bemis Center and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's Swing Space. His work lives mostly on the web and in conversation, but has appeared at Exit Art, the Pixel festival, FACT in Liverpool and the Conflux festival. Jamie was a resident artist at Eyebeam Art and Technology Center in 2006. Jamie O'Shea's project is supported in part by Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, New York.

Alec Finlay is an artist, poet & publisher. Born in Scotland in 1966, he now lives in the North-East of England, in Byker (Newcastle upon Tyne) and is currently artist in residence at NaREC the New and Renewable Energy Centre (in Blyth). Alec has exhibited widely including in exhibitions and residencies at BALTIC (Gateshead), Royal Scottish Academy (Edinburgh), Yorkshire Sculpture Park (West Bretton), Turner Contemporary (Margate), Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art (Norwich), John Hansard Gallery (Southampton), Bickachsen 6 (Bad Homburg), Cairn Gallery (Pittenweem) and EAST (Norwich). Alec's poetry has been published in magazines and anthologies, including island, Practice and Poetry Review.

About the scientists:

Guillaume Belanger is an operation scientist on the Gamma-ray mission Integral in the Science Operations Department of the European Space Agency at ESAC, the European Space Astronomy Centre near Madrid in Spain. His research has been, and still is, firmly anchored to the deepest gravitational well in the Galaxy: Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*). This four-million solar mass black hole whose location defines the nucleus of the Milky Way, is surrounded by a large array of unusal and intimately interacting astrophysical systems. He is interested in the investigation of the ways in which these systems evolve and interact with one another. He has an M.Sc from the Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, and a Ph.D. from Université Paris.

Jayanne English is associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. She has a Ph.D. from Australian National University. Her research concerns galaxy structure and evolution. Additionally she creates astronomy images. In 1998-2000 she coordinated the Hubble Heritage Team of image-makers at the Space Telescope Science Institute which works collaboratively to decide on the final form of images from the data gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope. In 2006 she won First Prize in the (American) National Radio Astronomy Observatory Image Contest for an image of cold hydrogen gas in the Milky Way.

About the guest curator, Sarah Cook:

In 2008 Sarah Cook was the inaugural curatorial fellow at Eyebeam Art and Technology Center in New York through a partnership with CRUMB (, the UK-based online resource for curators of new media art, at the University of Sunderland, where she is a post-doctoral research fellow. Sarah has been curating and co-curating exhibitions of new media art in North America and Europe for the past 10 years; recent curatorial projects include: Untethered (Eyebeam, 2008); Broadcast Yourself (AV Festival and Cornerhouse, UK, 2008); My Own Private Reality (Edith Russ Haus, Oldenburg, 2007); Package Holiday: Studer / vdBerg (BALTIC, 2005); The Art Formerly Known As New Media (Banff Centre, 2005); Database Imaginary (Banff Centre, 2005). Sarah has organised exhibitions and presentations, commissioned new media art and managed publications and educational projects for the Banff New Media Institute (Banff, Canada), The Star and Shadow Cinema (Newcastle), The Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa). In 2006 she was awarded a Leverhulme early career research fellowship for her work on artists use of new technologies, and she is co-author with Beryl Graham of a book on curatorial practice and new media art (forthcoming from MIT Press).

About the project Beam Me Up:
Since its launch in Autumn of 2008, Beam Me Up has collected together in an online database over fifteen newly commissioned works and articles on the subject of outer space, the space of the online world and globalization by artists including Tan Gengxiong, Jieming Hu, Zhenhua Li, Samuel Herzog, Alan Sondheim, Carlo Zanni, and Esther Hunziker. The project is organised by, an artist group based in Basel, Switzerland, who extended the invitation to curators (currently including in addition to Sarah Cook, Stefan Riekeles from Les Jardins des Pilotes, Berlin; Zhang Lansheng from Shanghai and Annette Schindler from Basel) to each select artists and writers for their own contributions. The variety of material gathered will later be organized subjectively into Guided Tours by a number of other invited guests and the audience too, will have the possibility to comment and to propose field research contributions of their own.

Direction, curatorial work and basic concept: Reinhard Storz,
Conceptual co-operation: Monica Studer / Christoph van den Berg
Interface and database programming, technical support: Klaus Affolter
The Beam Me Up project is supported by media projects
Digital Art collection
Stiftung Basel
Kunstkredit Basel-Stadt
Prohelvetia (Swiss Arts Council)


  media art
  sound art


  Sarah Cook
  Beryl Graham