During a recent visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, I happened upon this video installation by Jennifer Steinkamp. Titled “6EQUJ5,” it references a possible radio signal scanned by “The Big Ear” radio telescope in 1977. The telescope was searching the heavens as part of a SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) project at Ohio Wesleyan University’s Perkins Observatory in Delaware, Ohio. The entire signal sequence lasted for 72 seconds, but has never been detected again.
The asteroids in Steinkamp’s piece reference the idea of “panspermia,” which is a scientific hypothesis that life exists throughout the universe, distributed by meteoroids, asteroids, and comets. Stephen Hawking suggested that an asteroid collided with the Earth accidentally, and the microscopic organisms from another planet, which were frozen inside the asteroid, survived the space travel. It was further suggested that when the organism-filled asteroid passed through the Earth’s atmosphere, the organisms were released and evolution began.
Are you still following me? The asteroids in Steinkamp’s video projection contain drawings and paintings. The artist states: “I decided to make intelligent asteroids inscribed with drawings and paintings that possibly collided with the Earth as another explanation” for evolution.
Check out the video below … note how the asteroids seem to know the confines of the space of the actual dome within the Art Institute, and bounce off the actual edges of the dome. (please note, the music accompanying this video was not part of the original art installation, but was added as a soundtrack for this video)