Everything From Here to Infinity

“Everything from Here to Infinity” is a data-driven, immersive virtual reality installation in which objects within the most comprehensive map of the universe to date, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), are depicted in the manner of abstract expressionist paint strokes. This project is inspired by the surrealist writer Jorges Luis Borges‚ short story, On Exactitude in Science, in which an empire made a map of itself so big ‚it encompassed the entirety of the empire itself. A metaphorical equivalent to the Borges‚ tale, which speaks to the zeitgeist of our big data era, but also to the abstraction of our reality at cosmological scales, is the SDSS. It is the most comprehensive map of the universe to date and represents 100 terabytes worth of data about every heavenly object from here to infinity.

A random sample of 10,000 stellar objects is pulled from the database (Data Release 13) to be visualized at any given time. The user can navigate the entirety of the map (through Oculus Touch Controllers) starting from the Milky Way to the cosmic light horizon, which is approximately 13.8 billion light years away, ultimately terminating with a barrier comprised of an image of the cosmic background radiation. This usually takes about five minutes to do. Sound for Everything from Here to Infinity is pulled from Jon Jenkins’ sonifications made from Kepler star observations, from the University of Birmingham’s resonant acoustic oscillation recordings of stars in ‘M4’, as well as recordings of cosmic background radiation. Doppler shift can be observed as the player moves towards or away from spatialized sound sources.

Alex M. Lee is a digital artist (b. 1982, South Korea) who utilizes 3D animation and the potential of simulation technology in order to visualize and abstract the notion of time, space, and light – culling from concepts within science, science fiction, physics, and modernity. He received his BFA (2005) and MFA (2009) from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

He is currently assistant professor in the Digital Arts & Sciences Department at Clarkson University located in Potsdam, NY – a small science and engineering university located north of the Adirondack Mountains.