We Are All Stardust at DATA GATE

By Allison Tardif

July 22, 2020

DATAGATE: NASA AI Astronomical Sculpture | AVIXADATAGATE: NASA AI Astronomical Sculpture

The AV Experience Award category for Best In-Person Experience celebrates when AV is used strategically to motivate potential attendees to get into the real world to experience something they cannot see, do, or feel anywhere else. The 2020 award went to DATA GATE, the World’s First NASA AI Astronomical Research Data Sculpture.

DATA GATE is a permanent public art sculpture commissioned by the Chinese government in Nanjing, China. Istanbul-based new media studio Ouchhh collaborated with NASA astrophysicist Dawn Gelino to create a 15-ton, 360 LED installation to allow the public to observe the exoplanets (planets that orbit around other stars).

The sculpture utilizes machine learning in the context of space discovery and astronomical research through NASA’s Kepler Telescope Data. The resulting work invites visitors to plunge into the fascinating world of space discovery.

Gelino’s astrophysics work focuses on exploring the diversity and habitability of exoplanets. NASA’s Kepler Space telescope collected nine years of data from the night sky, revealing billions of hidden worlds, including 35,000 possible planetary signals, a Sun-like star, and many previously unknown exoplanets that may have the potential to support life. The Kepler mission discovered that planets outnumber the stars, small planets are common and diverse, and there are half a million more starts, as well as entire solar systems, that we have yet to understand.

By experiencing DATA GATE, the public will be able to explore and visualize the Kepler data set. The cube-like installation transforms the planetary signal data into animated visuals that are projected on the surface of the sculpture.

In addition, the installation invites people from around the world to upload photos and messages to its webpage to be included in a “collective consciousness” of human beings, visualized on the screen in Nanjing, and then converted into signals and sent into outer space. In an interview with China Daily, Ferdi Alici Eylul, Creative Director and Founder of Ouchhh Studio, said, “Our inspiration for this concept comes from the American astronomer Carl Sagan’s quote, ‘We are made of star stuff.’ When we step into the exhibition area, the sensors detect our shapes, and transform us into stardust and make us a part of the universe.”

Ouchhh Studio has been recognized for creatively utilized technology such as artificial intelligence and data in exhibits around the world, notably in Poetic AI in Paris, which attracted 65,000 visitors in the first 10 days. “We are always trying to find a new way to describe art in a new language ΜΆ a mixed reality using different mediums,” said Eylul. “We explore boundaries of art by researching relationships between architecture, art, science, technology, AI and new media arts.”

The installation offers a poetic sensory experience and is intended to be a monument of mankind’s contemplative curiosity and profound need for exploration.