Xerox Astronomy and the Nebulous Object-Image Archive
Joe Winter

Images of Installation

Project Description[click to view text in new window]

Xerox Astronomy and the Nebulous Object-Image Archive is an installation in two parts: 1) a central kinetic sculpture and 2) the presentation of the image archive the sculpture produces. The first part places an office photocopier at the center of a mechanical model of the universe. In this model, a group of desklamp-esque arms orbit robotically, maneuvering light sources above the bed of the copier, the system's observation and recording device. By continually documenting, through photocopies, the paths of the orbiting objects, the copier produces images suggestive both of various forms of scientific vision (astrophotography, sonography, etc) and paranormal/hoax photography. The sculpture at once models the movements of distant bodies and presents itself as the the primary object of observation, creating a self-reflexive, self-imaging media production system. Its form refers to pre-industrial astronomic models, and the incorporation of office aesthetics is intended to evoke the "informational everyman-ism" typified by amateur astronomy, paranormal enthusiasts, and internet DIY culture.

The archive includes images produced by the copier, but also contains objects, models, prototypes, proposals, notes, diagrams, sketches, etc, that are produced throughout the development of the work. Found artifacts, including images, objects, and documents relating to other artworks, scientific discoveries, and cultural phenomena are also included.

Like the scientific imaging techniques (astrophotography, x-rays, sonography, etc.) and hoax photography they are intended to suggest, the photocopy images in NOIA rely on interpretive analysis to accrue specific meaning or produce specific knowledge. Thus the development of the archive allows the production of a series of related interpretive works, in which selections from the archive are displayed, analyzed, and contextualized to suggest evidence of some absent phenomenon.

These curated archival excerpts will line the perimeter of the exhibition space, taking specific forms inspired by the aesthetics of scientific posters, powerpoint presentations, and/or didactic museum displays. As ever, the specific phenomenon which the NOIA images suggest will remain unspecified (nebulous), but will be positioned to evoke alternately some scientific, cultural, or art historical significance.


The history of astronomy can be read as the gradual extension of human vision, culminating in the replacement of observation by (non-optical) imaging technologies: pictures have become the primary source of information about distant objects and events. While the results of scientific research accrue significance through repeatability, art generally valorizes the singular, exercising tight control on the reproduction and distribution of its objects and images. Contemporary media culture, inversely, frequently quantifies (and perhaps produces) an event's significance by its ability to generate and distribute images of itself. This ever-expanding archive of information has produced a networked ethos in which "original content" production is rivaled by organizational strategy, visualization, and/or curated re-presentation of extant material.

Xerox Astronomy and the Nebulous Object-Image Archive (NOIA) studies a universe governed by these fundamental forces of production, documentation, organization, representation, distribution, and interpretation. The work mines the history of science, art, and contemporary media culture to consider the ways in which information is produced, knowledge is authenticated, and objects, images, events, and ideas acquire, retain, and lose their value.

Images of Nebulous Objects