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Heliocene — Natalia Stuyk

Sun's visible and invisible phenomena in 3D elements

Heliocene is an audiovisual live interpretation of the current weather around the Sun powered by real-time data

Mar 7, 2022

New media artist Natalia Stuyk picked a number of solar phenomena to represent in her Heliocene, which is made possible thanks to open data. The experience, built with, directly accesses raw data from the Space Weather Prediction Centre (SWPC), which is real-time. The different phenomena are being represented by procedural 3D objects rather than with charts or graphs: the visitor is free of exploring them and see how they interact with one another by dragging around the screen.

Heliocene is a vibrant audiovisual expression of the Sun’s visible and invisible phenomena. Translucent clouds, warping shapes and sweeping particles populate the dome, emitting an array of polyphonic sounds vaguely reminiscent of nature on Earth. Viewers are able to roam freely; their only aim is to experience.

The perspective of the viewer is one that doesn’t exist in our universe - a panoramic viewpoint, omniscient and all-encompassing, where scale and distance are disregarded. Each of the Sun’s phenomena inhabits this new microcosm of space weather, represented by reimagined 3D elements, their colour, form and texture fluctuating in unison with the changes in data. This bubble of solar elements will express scientifically accurate behaviours and interactions but apply them to a sublime audiovisual representation of the complex systems that make up the heliosphere. Data which was once perceived as lifeless and impersonal, a constant stream of numbers, takes on a new life. Solar wind made up of charged protons and electrons, imperceptible to the naked eye and travelling at over 1000 times the speed of sound, becomes comparatively slow and magnified, emitting a warm electric hum. Sunspots, fiery and unpredictable, are detached from the Sun’s surface and their magnetic field lines made visible, allowing viewers to watch the hidden build-up to solar flares, filling the view with white flashes of light and sound. The aurora, a heavenly apparition, created when the Sun’s solar wind collides with Earth’s protective magnetic field, is illustrated by undulating streaks of colour, accompanied by a celestial choir. Just like the weather on Earth, all these elements combine to form recognisable meteorological conditions that will be reflected in the experience. Viewers will be able to engage with no prior knowledge of the esoteric science of astrophysics. A geomagnetic storm will feel and sound like a storm, despite the viewer having never witnessed one before. The Sun’s role in sustaining life on earth is vital, and yet the intricate ways in which its behaviour affects our day-to-day existence is beyond the capacity of the human eye to perceive. The project’s conceit is not educational, but rather visceral: it seeks to instinctively communicate to the viewer what that data represents as a whole. Even for those viewers without an interest in science, Heliocene can be a meaningful experience - a brief but awe-inspiring escape from the real world. — Natalia Stuyk

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BIO Natalia Stuyk is a pioneering new media artist specialising in video and installation. Her work explores escapism, ritual behaviors and impossible worlds. She is currently working on interactive projects and installations, creating multi-sensory experiences that embrace new technologies and move away from traditional digital video.

Special thanks Lava Project @lavaproject_

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