The planet Mars is, after the Earth and the Moon, the third best known, most explored and most accurately mapped world by humanity.
Orbis Tertius is an immersive digital installation about the planet Mars cartography, and the long data travel from Mars surface up to its on-site generative render.
Orbis Tertius have been premiered during the biennale Nemo, at the 104 Paris, from the 6th of October 2021 up to the 2nd January 2022. It has been exhibited during Athens Digital Art Festival (ADAF) in Athens in 2022 and in Voltaje, a new media art festival in Bogota, Colombia. Other exhibitions are currently being planned.
You can see all the drawings generated during this event.
Orbis Tertius is an installation centered around a mechanical drawing device. Equipped with a pen, a machine endlessly draws dozens of thousands of lines on large sheets of paper, revealing every smallest volume of vast landscapes : alluviums, cliffs, rocks and boulders that build huge craters and mountain ranges. The process is long, the landscapes appear over hours and days.
These landscapes are not imaginary: all the details compose a faithful depiction of a real Martian area. From the NASA launched probe, currently orbiting Mars, up to the small motor that lift and drop the pen on the paper, there is a whole chain of delays, transmissions and steps that is staged and shown in action.
The pen plotter moves are the result of a long path that spread over several months and hundreds of millions of kilometers. Each of these steps takes from a couple of seconds to many hours, has its own speed, scale and temporality. This whole game of delays, various speeds and successive steps is revealed and shown in action in the installation scenography.
The visual results are obtained thanks to a unique algorithm that interpret the topographical data and generates lines landscapes. These landscapes are drawn on paper, day after day, and are put together to compose a complete cartography of the planet Mars along the exhibition period.
The video screens next to the machine reveal each steps leading to the current drawing, synced in real time with every pen movement. As the drawings evolves along hours and every day, video content is constantly changing. Each of the 8 steps previously detailed, from planet Mars surface up to the drawing on paper (a process that actually spread over months and millions of kilometers) are finally synced back, each one on a specific screen. One can read informations about speed, position, duration and scale, allowing a perception of the huge scales at play, and the vertiginous character of the whole process, that we see being accomplished before our very eyes.
By using a "control room" easthetic, this set-up allows people to feel the scale of what is happening here, in a simple and minimal way, animated in real-time.
Orbis Tertius has been premiered during the Biennale Nemo 2021-2022, where the public showed a strong interest. After many requests, the resulting drawings have been put for sale after the exhibition end.
I have been experimenting with pen plotters for more than three years already. Those simple computer-controlled electronic toys allowed many drawings and various experiments. I quickly decided to dedicate this tool to generative landscape. Trying to have these new machine tools as a part of the artistic process as much as the artistic result, instead of being the necessity of a goal, lead me into further experimentation. I designed and built a large size pen plotter, but more importantly, I explored the huge NASA database. I discovered there a vast quantity of super-high fidelity topographic data, with a precision and a beauty that totally seduced me.
Even more than the peculiar beauty of these data once mechanically drawn, it is the process, the journey it came across that fascinates me : from one planet to another, millions of kilometers, huge antennas, and many times around the Earth, the result of the drawing is only one final step of a long process that deserve to be revealed and shown in action.