Haines/Hinterding Earth Star exhibited at The Gallery of Modern Art – Queensland Art Gallery, and Ok Centrum Contemporary Art Austria. Award of Distinction – Ars Electronica, 2009. Included in Star Voyager Australian Centre for the Moving Image 2012. Video projection HD, live sound from Custom VLF antennae,graphite and polyethylene coated copper wire, audio filters, mixing desk and powered stereo speakers. Two Ozone fragrance accords consisting of synthetic aroma molecules including Helional (alpha-methyl-1,3-benzodioxole-5-propanal ) and Ozonil ™ in a base of ISO E Super (1-(2,3,8,8-tetramethyl-1,3,4,5,6,7-hexahydronaphthalen-2-yl)ethanone) and Hedione (methyl 3-oxo-2-pentylcyclopentaneacetate), Peltier refrigeration units, glass containers with paper smelling strips.
EarthStars overall effect is a poetically charged experience that ultimately emphasises the sun’s elemental and mythic qualities. Exploring arcane energies and hidden frequencies, the installation comprises three elements; a formal dynamic space is established between the singular and spectacular footage of the solar chromo-sphere captured by the Artists using a Hydrogen-Alpha telescope, sitting in opposition to this are two luminous refrigeration units containing virtual aroma compositions of synthesised molecules that represent states of ozone. Building a bridge between these two elements is a resonating and receiving system of VLF antennae tuned to the radio bursts emitted by the sun and fed through an amplifier to provide a real time, immersive soundtrack. A super atmosphere is established in the installation, by way of imaginative representations of the sun and the solar winds, via synthetic aroma molecules that smell Ozonic. Ozone has a smell, it is what we smell before a thunderstorm, it’s the smell of electricity due to burning ions. If one could go up into the troposphere when an aurora takes place it would probably smell like this due to burning of oxygen molecules. But the excess of ionized air is also the smell of a fresh sea breeze near the ocean. These accords of synthesized molecules created by the artists explore and develop recent research that postulates that smell like hearing and seeing is defined by being able to discern the frequencies of molecular spin as smell.The light coming to us from the sun at the H-alpha frequency (6563 Angstroms) is coming from a rarefied layer of hydrogen gas slightly above the surface of the sun (photosphere) called the solar chromo-sphere. It is more sensitive to the effects of solar activity than the photosphere because its structure is dominated more by magnetic effects than the temperature and pressure effects that control the photosphere. Anti-cinema – the anti-image.
The custom built antennae sculptures act like radio astronomy antennae. These hand wound antenna constrained by audio filters resonate to that section of the electromagnetic spectrum known as the VLF (3 KHz to 30 KHz). VLF is the Very Low Frequency range of the spectrum and is dominated by solar noise and the effects of the solar winds on our atmosphere. This frequency range translates directly into audio, through basic audio inputs so that we are able to literally listen to the sympathetic activity in the wire object.
Cultural theorist Andrew Murphie writes “Throughout Haines and Hinterding’s work, digital and analogue come together with the powerful but often hidden forces of the world at large. We sense, even at the fundamental level of felt vibration or smell, some of the stranger relations between the natural and technical forces that surround us. Any easy division between “natural” and “technical” breaks down. Instead, we are given access to the rich ecologies that arise between the force of manufactured signal and the ‘electricity we didn’t make’ “
Gallery of Modern art curator, Nicholas Chambers in his catalogue essay has written how “Over the last decade, David Haines and Joyce Hinterding have collaborated on elaborate multimedia installations that poetically represent aspects of the world that lie beyond the scope of our senses. Their installations present technologically assisted synaesthesic disruptions of the process of cause and effect, where arcane energies and hidden frequencies govern the operations of the world. High-tech digital media conspire with the analogue and low-tech to prompt reflection on the relationship between the real and the artificial, and technology and the natural world. In Purple rain 2004, for example, viewers encountered computer-generated footage of a snow-covered mountain and a forest of upturned antennae tuned to the analogue UHF and VHF frequencies used by local television broadcasting signals. First exhibited at the 2004 Bienal de Sao Paulo, in a city inundated with free-to-air television stations, the antennae focused on the abstract noises created by the competing frequencies, translating them into a soundscape that writer Adam Geczy described as ‘a cross between a power station in full throttle and a nightclub playing hard-arsed techno’.1 The constantly fluctuating sound was in turn fed through a computer system that used the television signals to dictate the movement of an avalanche on the digitally rendered mountain. Similarly, in Electromagnetique composition for building, plants & stars 2006 a column in the Sendai Mediatheque designed by Toyo Ito was enveloped by copper wire, transforming the iconic building into a giant antenna tuned to the electromagnetic field generated by the building itself and the background radiation of the Milky Way. The interaction of these energies — one local and one cosmic — was juxtaposed with a high-definition video of overgrown foliage, and explored the interconnectedness of the natural world and technology. In their work for the Premier of Queensland’s National New Media Art Award, Earthstar 2008, Haines and Hinterding continue their exploration of invisible energies through the very vehicle of vision itself — the sun. The origins of the project lie in Hinterding’s longstanding and internationally renowned work in the field of audio frequencies. In Raines’s words, Hinterding ‘had been listening to the sun for 20 years’ and it was her recordings of the sun that led to speculation about what it might look like.2 The artists recognised that, while the sun is a pre-condition for vision, it is, itself, such an intensely pure form of visuality that our eyes cannot perceive it directly. As science has better understood the structure of vision and the composition of the sun, however, technologies have emerged allowing it to be pictured. Where the optics of early video cameras would have been irreparably damaged if pointed directly at its intense light, Haines and Hinterding were able to equip their camera with the lens of a Hydrogen-Alpha telescope and capture spectacular video footage. The result is an awe-inspiring representation of the sun as a ball of pure energy, an ongoing thermonuclear explosion. Projected at a majestic scale within the installation, this footage forms the basis of the artists’ multi-faceted, synaesthesic investigation of our closest star. The Hydrogen-Alpha telescope filters the light of the sun and distils it to a specific wavelength enabling us to perceive the layer of hydrogen gas slightly above the surface called the solar chromosphere. Recognising that this method of seeing the sun is dependent on our perception of a frequency that can be sensed visually, and a corollary to Hinterding’s audio representations of solar frequencies, the artists asked what frequencies might be available to our other senses.
In a manner that married rigorous scientific research with extraordinary artistic invention, they hypothesised about what the sun would smell like. The sense of smell was of particular interest to the artists due to its impact on emotion and memory. To investigate the aroma of the sun, Haines and Hinterding posited that we would detect the smell of ozone if we were able to travel to its surface. Haines described the scent as the:. .. smell before a thunderstorm, it’s the smell of electricity due to burning ions. If one could go up into the earth’s ionosphere when an aurora takes place it would probably smell like this due to burning of oxygen molecules.3 The artists purchased a range of synthetic aroma molecules for the production of the ozone accords with wonderfully complex names, such as hydrocinnamaldehyde and methylenedioxyl. This fragrance is housed in liquid form in glowing blue refrigerators in the Earthstar installation. Sitting next to the fridges are glass vessels, like those found in a perfumery, containing paper strips dipped in the ozone fragrance. In the centre of the installation, building a bridge between the projected image and the ozone molecules are four customised VLF (very low frequency) antennae tuned with filters that make them sensitive to the radio bursts emitted by the sun. Fed through an amplifier, they literally provide a real-time, immersive soundtrack to the sun. At its heart, Earthstar is a synaesthesic study of frequencies: the wavelength of the light captured by the telescope, the frequency of the sun’s radiation channelled through the customised antennae and, according to certain theories of scent, the vibration of molecules which allow the sense of smell. While the work employs the rigorous methodology and objective tools of science, its overall effect is to create a poetically-charged experience that ultimately emphasises the elemental and mythic qualities of the sun that have fascinated humans through the ages. Endnotes 1. Adam Geczy, ‘Natural disaster in Sao Paulo’, Art Monthly Australia, no. 177 March 2005, p.43. 2. David Haines, unpublished correspondencewith the author, 11 September 2008. 3. Unpublished artists’ notes, 25 August 2008.