Wednesday, April 1, 2015

[Yasmin_discussions] Fwd: Light is My Business


marcus neustetter in south africa has
just joined our discussion
here is is first post

welcome marcus !


Dear all,

Roger, thank you for the introduction.

Indeed, in the town of Sutherland, close to the South African
Astronomical Observatory, there is a question what the development of
a town looks like in a place of darkness and silence. A place where
the conditions of the environment need to be kept optimal for
scientific research. Unfortunately the communities in this environment
have had a difficult legacy of oppression, removal off their land,
denial of power (in various forms) and limited education due to the
apartheid government and one clearly sees this history having an
impact today. To deny them what is usually considered development of a
built environment means careful consideration for the alternative.
What is that alternative? And how do you communicate this so people
take ownership of it? What does development look like in a place of
darkness and silence? Firstly, Bronwyn Lace and I, as artists, had to
try create a sense of pride in the darkness and silence of the land.
Where the darkness is associated with crime and violence, and large
high-mast flood lights have been the common solution to this in the
past, this is not an easy task. 6 years later we are still making
sense of this through the meeting of community and science, using the
arts as a process that proposes a slow socially engaged project to
create ownership and participation.

Celebrating the International Year of Light, being involved in
projects and programs around it in South Africa and producing
participatory light projects, I am obviously using light, its positive
impact on our lives and its ability to create impactful artwork, and
yet, with my above experience I want to challenge how light is used.
In South Africa as in many places in Africa I have travelled to,
load-shedding to deal with the ineffectual infrastructure not
providing enough power, is a regular occurrence and the
inaccessibility of the power creates a different insight into the use
and navigation of our urban centres like Johannesburg where I stay.
Power gets cut and general city light goes out. Low-tech mechanical
solutions that do not require power suddenly get reapplied,
interaction between people is different, alternatives are being looked
for in the every-day survival… we turn to understand better those that
are too poor to live with electricity in the first place to understand
basic survival strategies and approaches… I do think that the lack of
light has something to it. I am just trying to make sense of this and
very interested in the discussion.


On 30 Mar 2015, at 4:54 AM, roger malina <> wrote:


When yasmin moderator Guillermo Munoz, a nano scientist
in Valencia, Spain suggested we do a Yasmin discussion
around the topic of light I was initially skeptical. There seems to
be day or year of everything these days. But then he said in
passing : "light is my business" and it got me thinking. Indeed as an
astronomer "light is my business" because today the only way we
know anything about the universe is by detecting and manipulating
light. ( we have been trying to detect gravity waves, neutrinos, dark
matter and dark energy but have been failing)

The ironic thing is most things in the universe don't emit light at all.
Dark Energy and Dark Matter don't emit light and they are 97% of the
content of the universe. Astronomers have just been studying the
decoration on the universe ( its as if you told a ethnographer they could
study human nature and human societies but they could only study
humans who lived on snow or ice).

And then humans cant detect most kinds of light ( only a narrow band
around visible light)- whoever designed human beings did it badly
-if you really wanted to design humans to understand the universe
they would have infrared, radio and xray eyes too.

Perhaps its amazing how much we understand by studying the decoration !

I look forward to Guillermo's comments as a nano scientist .

And then - for visual artists, light is their business too !

Anyway we thought we would have this discussion on yasmin- knowing
that it rapidly could become banal and un-productive

Guillermo is helping organise the 2nd Art, Science, City International
Conference 201
in Valencia this coming October with Light and the City as the theme and
where he will organise a YASMIN meeting-contact
him if you would like to attend !

As an astronomer of course Light and the City makes me think of the problem
of light pollution. Humans are stupid - city lighting emits a large
fraction of our
energy into the sky un=necessarily and not where we need it= cut your
carbon foot print by designing
better city and home lighting !

By coincidence in Dallas I had the visit of south african artist
Marcus Neustetter.
he has this amazing public art project with the South African Large Telescope

Because of the needs of the observatory the local community in Sutherland
has to avoid light and radio pollution ( South Africa will soon be hosting the
largest radio telescope in the work; SKA
the Square Kilometer Telescope Array ) and in his talks he discussed
the social practice he has developed with the local town of 800 people.

Among other things they have build their own 'observatory' next to the
scientists telescopes:

This project is an excellent example of an art-science project that is
based on socially engaged practice and public art. I will be asking Marcus to
make a comment for our discussion

guillermo I hope you will inject your thoughts as a nano scientist !

Roger Malina

Roger F Malina
is in texas

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