On August 14, 2023 from 03:30–04:30 UTC (Aug 13, 23:30 EDT), interdisciplinary artist Amanda Dawn Christie will transmit the final composition of Ghosts in the Air Glow, an artwork developed for the ionospheric research instrument at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP). This third and final transmission will be the capstone of Christie’s five-year self-directed residency at the facility, wherein the artist treats HAARP as a musical instrument as much as a scientific one, using its unique capabilities to entangle space science experiments with works of art.
In one movement of Ghosts in the Air Glow, Christie uses the ionosphere like a giant mixing board to blend the radio frequencies of two different saxophone tracks together before they ricochet back down to earth on a single frequency. Other movements are modelled after airglow experiments that use high-frequency radio waves to generate artificial aurora. Her compositions are only considered complete artworks once they are received by radio on the ground after having ascended to and descended from the ionosphere. Christie states:
“The interference, distortion, and modifications made by the ionosphere are an important part of the artwork’s aesthetic. In fact, I see the ionosphere’s contribution to the artwork to be just as important as my own. You never know what you’re going to get, and the results are different depending on where on the planet you receive the transmissions.”
As a citizen science experiment, shortwave listeners from around the world are encouraged to tune in, then upload audio and video recordings of their receptions to an online repository. Reception reports for Compositions No. 1–2 have been received from Brazil, Germany, Australia, American Samoa, and Japan, as well as more than 20 additional countries. For the general public, a version of the transmission is livestreamed on the project’s website.
Composition No. 1, containing SSTV images and audio works, was transmitted in March 2019. Composition No. 2 expanded these media to include NBTV video, and was transmitted in October 2022. For Composition No. 3, Christie has invited contributions from other artists including, Vladyslav Atavin, Vladimir Atavin, José Alejandro Rivera, Sarah Nance, Rasu-Yong Tugen, Geneviève D’Ortun, and T. D. Walker.
Ghosts in the Air Glow is generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts; the third and final part of Christie’s residency is additionally supported by the Arts Board of New Brunswick. For more information on Ghosts in the Air Glow, including past reception reports for Compositions No. 1–2 and upcoming information regarding times and frequencies of Composition No. 3, see: https://ghostsintheairglow.space/
The High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program, or HAARP, is a scientific endeavour aimed at studying the properties and behaviour of the ionosphere. "The ionosphere stretches roughly 50 to 400 miles above Earth's surface, right at the edge of space. Along with the neutral upper atmosphere, the ionosphere forms the boundary between Earth's lower atmosphere — where we live and breathe — and the vacuum of space." (NASA) For more information on HAARP, see: https://haarp.gi.alaska.edu/
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