Posts Tagged ‘Bluedot Fesrival’

Bluedot festival COSMOS project, Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope, with Daito Manabe

Daito Manabe:

Translation was the keynote.

Daito’s English, although servicable, was not thought sufficient for him to discuss the COSMOS Project he had been working on. He had therefore a first class translator from and to his native Japanese. I am currently trying tom find out her name:

And what was his project? He was commissioned to work with Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope. He chose to produce an art work that rendered radio data in the visual medium.  He collaborated with – again I am hoping for a name – to use the data to produce synchronised sound work to Daito’s digital visuals.


It was essentially a work of translation.

In Japan, he explained through translation, this work would not be possible. In Japan art and science are kept strictly separate, apart.

The Radio Telescope not only picks up radio-waves from space, constellations, the Milky Way. It also picks up ‘interference’, that is, unexpected and unwanted ‘noise’ from passing airplanes – there is an international airport nearby – but also mobile phones and other terrestrial sources. Phones are not allowed on site. But air waves bleed into each other depending on atmospheric conditions.
The task of cosmological engineers at the telescope is to identify what is wanted, and what not.


Similarly, in translation from one language to another, equivalents have to be found for phrases used, of a particular culture’s usages. Take our term, Milky Way, for the edge-on view of the constellation we are a part of, and so used to by now. In Japan it is known as the River of the Sky. There are a great many stories based on it.
But choosing the right word that carries most of the meanings and intentions of the one being translated is a matter of sifting out ‘noise’, that is, unneeded meanings and implications.

So, Daito received the raw data – like a fax transmission, he joked. Here again is ‘noise’: it sounds like a  fax transmission, he had meant to say, but there are also implications in the basic phrase ‘like fax transmission’: it could also mean that visual data was also being received. Working on visualising sound data, was Daito’s mind here working metaphorically in this choice of phrase?
This was not raw data, though, because it had already been sifted electronically, translated into digital data from radio transmissions. There are many levels of sifting and translation of the transmissions involved here. |The telescope is tuned to radiom frequencies only, and so already a sifting of kinds of data occurs.
He then sought to conceive of this data in other mediums. To bring this about required the creating, writing, testing and application of new computer programs.

Not all translation systems function.
Daito brought his achieved art piece in computer format to give us a taster. The room was set up for a large-screen visual display. It did not work. Somewhere along the long transforming of information between outlets there was a glitch.
He used his two laptops to show the artwork instead: how it was put together from source data, and the final piece.

Nor did we have the scale of the finished work.
That was with the Radio Telescope.
It was also an interactive work, where visitors?… viewers?… interactives?…  could move via a console, through the constellations, and hear and see how the energy transmissions differed, altered, fitted into a whole.
This gave the regular musical beat of Pulsars, for instance, to work with and from. Each had a different rate of pulsation: when its radio wave flickered across our area of space, and a different degree of energy emitted.


On a personal note, in this instance my hearing was impaired: it shifts between ordinary to impaired with no pattern discernible. I have hearing aids but they only help at certain times.
One presentation was given at the talk where the speaker – a lovely soft southern Irish accent, I believe – spoke so soft, and low I heard little more than the odd consonant. I gave up trying to listen on that one. The rest of the talk I made great efforts to listen.
There are degrees of interpretation of recognisable sound clusters in operation when we listen. We interpret by what we know/remember/recognise. I interpreted from what I heard, translating – once again – to a continuing narrative of informative content.
Another and earlier project Daito had worked on was to create a changing visual representation of a period of, I think, the Japanese Stock Exchange data. He also tracked the rate of Bit Coin movements, and represented it as a moving graphic.
For more on Daito, see:


The River of the Sky
On July 7th every year one of these stories is marked. This is the story, one of the many connected with the Milky Way/River of the Sky, that Daito alluded to.

It is the Tanabata Festival. It is the story of two lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshi, who represent the stars Vega, and Altair. They are only allowed to meet on the seventh day of the seventh month, every year, at the River of the Sky, our Milky Way. It is a based on poems in the Manyoshu volume, ‘Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves’. It is based on an old Chinese tale, The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd. She was, of course, weaving the pattern of the stars and constellations, whilst he herded the cows of heaven. They fell in love and were allowed to marry. On marriage, however, they neglected their duties. They were separated, and only allowed to meet once a year. On meeting they found themselves on opposite sides of the Sky River. She wept so much that a flock of magpies made her a bridge with their wings.
If it rains on the seventh day of the seventh month, the magpies will not be able to come.

People write messages, poems, and hang them from trees on this day.