WiSPR (Wide Spectrum Portrait Receivers), 2016-2017
…you cannot observe a wave without bearing in mind the complex features that concur in shaping it and the other, equally complex ones that the wave itself originates.— Italo Calvino, Mr. Palomar
WiSPR is planned as a set of installations at various sites in North America and Europe. The installations will be sculptural objects, parabolic dishes, approximately 48–108 inches in diameter, made variously of ceramic, glass, plaster, and aluminum. These dishes will also be functioning radio telescopes, antennae receiving everything from local radio to deep space signals, providing live “radio portraits” unique to their locations. Together they will form an online network (WiSPR-net), providing raw data to other artists.
Carried by the planet on which they sit, the often isolated and massive dishes of radio telescopes survey the skies above. In form and function, they make tangible the interconnectedness and extreme localization, even solitude, of life on a planet that is increasingly changed by human activity. While similar to the arrays of radio telescopes, WiSPR serves cultural and artistic, rather than scientific, knowledge production. It provides an opportunity to rethink relationships between ways of knowing and seeing; local and global production and reception; individual and community responses; being networked and being isolated. It will ask: How and where do we and those we live and work with situate ourselves? What are our multiple senses of belonging and exclusion? How do we move, communicate, share, and participate as local actors and global citizens?