Aurora Feast Public Art Project


The Aurora Project has brought together a range of specialists working within the arts and sciences. The project partners and contributors include artists interested in addressing mythological, aesthetic and cosmological readings of the aurora, scientific researchers measuring electro-magnetic frequencies and the social and psychological effects of spectacle, and computer scientists exploring how amorphous information is represented.

Stephen Kovats and Nina Czegledy conceived the first Aurora Universalis project in 1996. The project aimed to engage current technology in a dialogue between naturally occurring electro-magnetic disturbances and our every day existence, while exploring the notion of changing perceptions concerning the visible and non-visible domains of the electromagnetic spectrum.

1997 Aurora transmission - Yellowknife-InterAccess, Toronto, Canada

An expedition by Stephen Kovats to Rankin Inlet (1996) provided a favourable northern site from which to transmit digitally rendered records of the Aurora. This proved to be an ambitious challenge in 1997. The remote-transmission test was conducted on August 22, via the Internet between the Northwest Territories and InterAccess, Toronto. Due to experimental technology and the prevailing weather conditions while connection was established, the transmission remained unsatisfactory.

1997 Aurora Reflections - Panel Discussion, Goethe Institute, Toronto

Subsequently to the transmission event, a panel discussion was organized in Toronto with the participation of Peter Mettler, filmmaker (Picture of Light), David Rokeby, artist and Stephen Kovats. The focal point of this panel centered on issues of mediated representation especially concerning natural phenomena. The event was co-coordinated in collaboration between InterAccess and the Goethe Institute Toronto.

1998 Aurora investigations - Polar Circuit, Tornio, Rovaniemi Lapland

In the summer of 1998, within the Polar Circuit residency, Nina Czegledy conducted research, collected source material and established contact with scientists engaged in Aurora studies at the Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory, Finland and University of Tromso, Norway. On her visit to the Physics Department of the University of Tromso she had an opportunity to discuss the project with professor Asgeir Brekke, author of two comprehensive source books on the Northern Lights. The first meeting with Esa Turunen, space physicist at the Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory in Lapland remains an important milestone for this project. Over the last years Turunen, -who beyond his scientific work is interested and involved with disseminating information on the Aurora- has supported the various phases of the Aurora projects. In 1999, the Sodankyla Observatory hosted Stephen Kovats and Nina Czegledy; in 2003 the Observatory hosted Nina Czegledy and Luke Jerram. Esa Turunen was subsequently involved in the Aurora Feast phase of the Aurora projects in 2006.

1998 Aurora Universalis - exhibition, InterAccess, Toronto

The Aurora Universalis exhibition, curated by Nina Czegledy was held in January 1998 at the InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, Toronto. The show focused on the relationship between transcendental forces and the life of ordinary human beings. The theme of the exhibition included: the role of repetition in human, natural and technological processes and actions: the cultural significance of the detection of radioactivity; the allure and the possible danger of living in an environment that is alive with information and seems to demand constant connectivity. Participating Canadian artists included Douglas Back, Paul Davies, Catherine Richards, Victoria Scott and Neil Wiernik.

1999-2000 Auroral Myths - Terrestrial realities - CD ROM

Nina Czegledy developed this CD-ROM in collaboration with Mare Tralla. It was produced as part of the Virtual Revolution Project (1998-2000). The CD ROM centered on crossroad of the fables, and factual findings, which contribute to the myths and realities of the Aurora Borealis and also included interactive artwork. Nina Czegledy approached the subject matter as interwoven filaments of legends and pure science. By whimsically investigating the complexities and various aspects surrounding aurora - a space where fiction and facts converge - she also addressed the relationships between transcendental forces and the life of ordinary human beings. The CD-ROM was co-produced by FACT, Foundation of Art& Creative Technology and the Liverpool and John Moores University, Liverpool, UK, and launched in 2000 at Video Positive, Liverpool, England.

2001 Arthouse Multimedia Center for the Arts, Dublin, Ireland

At the research residency Nina Czegledy investigated the required technology to process the raw transmission data to into an adaptable artistic form. The residency also provided an adequate environment to formulate the basis for the development of the interactive interface of subsequent outcomes, such as online forum, electronic media space, live audio performance etc.,

2001 Aurora - Acoustic Space workshop, Riga, Latvia

A research residency by Nina Czegledy and Steve Kovats explored the required technology to process the raw transmission data to into an adaptable artistic form.

The residency also provided opportunities to receive, record and analyze satellite sound transmissions at the Irbene International Radio and Astronomy Centre, Latvia.

2001 Aurora investigations - Solar Circuit residency Tasmania

This research residency provided opportunities for preliminary research into Aurora Australis as well as bipolar studies on the Auroras.

2002 Aurora Universalis: UK artists residencies with University of Westminster and DA2,

Research funded by the Arts Council of England and The Arts and Humanties Research Board enabled artists Nina Czegledy, Steve Kovats and curator Peter Ride to take the project in a new direction. This project phase aimed to devise a collaborative model whereby different artists could contribute collectively to a project, which explored how the aurora is perceived as a phenomena. Nina Czegledy and Peter Ride met with researchers in UK universities, including CAiiA-STAR at the University of Plymouth and the Kirklees Media Centre Huddersfield. In addition to the emphasis on scientific research and an analysis of similar or relevant art/science projects various issues were debated, including visualizing data through text based communication, at the intersection between the real/virtual or conceptual/technological territories.

A public workshop was held at the University of Westminster at the conclusion of this period as a 'brainstorming' event with various interested artists and researchers as a way of evaluating the research so far and to address how to take the project further. Discussion for the day centred on the topic 'getting there from here under the night sky' and covered such topics as making the invisible perceptible, global telecommunications and global media art.

2002 Aurora tele-investigations - Makrolab, Scotland

In July 2002 Steve Kovats participated in Makrolab in Scotland, Nina Czegledy visited the Makrolab for a few days during this period. The aim was to engage in exploratory, conceptual research and data collection, and to examine correlations between visual phenomena inherently connected to natural phenomenon and constructed media technology

2003 Approaching Aurora - symposium London, England

Approaching Aurora- through science and spectacle, model and metaphor Presented by Centre for Arts Research, Technology and Education (CARTE), University of Westminster, & DA2 Digital Arts Development Agency (Chair: Peter Ride)

The symposium considered how complex experiences of natural phenomena can be represented. Looking particularly at the aurora, speakers explored how a response to 'larger-than-life' occurrences might be examined and communicated through creative work. In particular they looked at ways that artists approach these concerns to create experiential works, including installation, networked and audio pieces. And how artists respond to 'information' drawn from natural sources as raw material for interpretation or investigation in their projects. The symposium asked what choices are being made about what is being represented, how it is aestheticised and how it is hoped that the audience will perceive the resulting works.

2003/2004 Electre&Magnete conferences Paris, Montreal

At 'Electra and Magneticus: A Symposium on Art and Electromagnetism - A Relationship in the Form of a Wave', held at University of Quebec at Montreal, April 2003. The symposium brought together artists who are drawn to the scientific phenomenon of electromagnetism and attracted by a historical view of contemporary media arts. The conference brought into focus convergences which have been recently reframing the debate on art's oscillatory relationship with modernity in 21st century. Nina Czegledy, and Peter Ride presented: 'Aurora The ionosphere as a celestial light show'. Stephen Kovats discussed the topic of 'Electromagnetics: Interference between Art and Politics, the cultural expression of art in Eastern Europe'. A follow up second conference was organized at Oboro, Montreal in 2004. Charles Halary and Louise Provencher organized these events. In 2003 together wirh Charles Halary, Nina Czegledy presented on the Aurora project at L’Harmattan, Paris.

2003 Aurora Experience - with L. Jerram, Sodankyla, Lapland

In December 2003, together with Luke Jerram, from the UK, Nina Czegledy traveled one hundred kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, to the Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory in Lapland, where extensive Aurora research is conducted. Discussion with scientists at Sodankyla addressed the issue that scientific understanding has very little to do with the aesthetic appreciation of a spectacular phenomena such as the Northern Lights.“We contemplated how to visualize, hear, and understand this indiscernible yet intensely interacting realm? How does the surrounding, unseen electromagnetic world of perpetual change affect us? We envisioned various outcomes for our investigations and resolved that maybe the experience of the artwork cannot compete with that of the aurora and perhaps it should be attempted using alternative options.. This brings into focus a fundamental question: How do we understand, perceive and contextualize natural phenomena? The current public art celebrations of Aurora resulted from these exchanges.” Aurora Feast was first presented at Heureka the Finnish Science Centre in February. Aurora Australis an interactive, real-time, and web-based visualization of personal and cross-cultural interpretations was presented for the first time at on July 15th at the Govett-Brewster Gallery in New Plymouth. Auroral knowledge of ancient circumpolar tribes contained venerable wisdom. It is the contemplation of these myths vis-à-vis contemporary science that inspires the Aurora Project.

2004 On the Aurora Experience - Space Art Workshop, Noordwijk

Nina Czegledy and Luke Jerram jointly participated in the 7th Workshop on Space and the Arts and presented their joint work. 'Space: Technology and the Arts' was the title and theme of a workshop on space and the arts which has been co-organized by the European Space Agency, Leonardo/Olats, the OURS Foundation, and the International Academy of Astronautics. It was held at the European Space Research & Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Holland between May 18-21, 2004.

2004 International Astronautical Congress, Vancouver Canada.

This truly international event brought together more than 2,000 participants from 45 different countries, including the most senior executives of the world's space agencies and private sector organizations. While the Congress mainly featured the theories and practice of major space scientists, a space art panel discussion was also included in the program. Nina Czegledy participated in the space art panel discussion presenting on Auroral Myths vis-à-vis Science.

2005 8th Leonardo/Olats Space and the Arts Workshop, Budapest, Hungary

Nina Czegledy presented the "Aurora Projects" interactive CD ROM at the Budapest space art exhibition held in conjunction with the 8th Leonardo/Olats Space and the Arts Workshop, Budapest, Hungary. In addition she also presented the project at the conference and participated in the international organizing committee. On the occasion of the First IAA International Conference, for the first time ever an international space-art event, including a workshop and an exhibition, took place on March 16, 2005 in Budapest. Leonardo/Olats held its 8th Space and the Arts Workshop on the theme of "The Impact of Space on Society: Cultural Aspects". The Millenaris Centre in collaboration with C3, Center for Culture and Communication hosted the events. Under the sub-theme of "Art and literature, science fiction, cultural aspects of space activities", the selected participants to the Conference formed the core group of the Workshop.

2006 AuroraFeast Heureka Finnish Science Centre -public art

Aurora Feast was first presented at Heureka the Finnish Science Centre on February 5, 2006. This phase of the project was conceptualized first in Sodankyla in 2003, where observing the aurora, it seemed that a gallery based mediated artwork presentation hardly competes with the real experience of the natural phenomena. It was felt that alternative options should be attempted. The narratives of the Aurora experience range from mythical to scientific to social domains. The Aurora seems to be an invisible bond, a way of being together, to share. We perceive the Aurora as a complex multi-sensorial experience. The Aurora Feast project aims to revive notions of pleasure through a shared yet individual sensory exploration. The work explores imaginary and actual narratives surrounding the Aurora through a dynamic animation of keywords submitted by web or mobile phone from people around the world. The setup utilizes a number of technologies (including an SMS gateway to a database-driven Flash application) to enable user interaction and provides a real-time graphical representation of collected data from user input, eventually to include measured data from actual auroral activity. The Aurora Feast intended to revive previous Finnish culinary events and historical ceremonial feasts, combining scientific (audio/visual) features with food. To reflect on the scientific as well as the public aspects of our concept the event is meant to fuse the scientific features with a celebratory meal and audience participation. AuroraLive was produced in 2006 by an interdisciplinary research team from Canada, UK, Sweden and Finland.

2006 AuroraLive Govett Brewster Gallery Plymouth New Zealand

While spectacular auroral displays have been recorded through history as far back as 500 BC, the existence of the "southern lights" was first suggested in Europe only in 1733 by de Mairan, in the first textbook ever published devoted to the aurora. Two hundred years later Douglas Mawson, a member of Ernest Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition of 1907-09, recorded detailed observations of the aurora australis. Rakiura, usually translated as Glowing Skies, is the most commonly used Maori name for Aurora Australis. The auroras they saw were usually red, so they quite naturally associated them with glowing fires. While it has been recognized a long time ago that the Northern and Southern lights might be alike, we became aware that the auroras are nearly identical only since the far-ultraviolet imager captured the first global view of the double aurora in June 2000. Aurora Australis an interactive, real-time, and web-based visualization of personal and cross-cultural interpretations was presented for the first time at on July 15th at the Govett-Brewster Gallery in New Plymouth. Auroral knowledge of ancient circumpolar tribes contained venerable wisdom. It is the contemplation of these myths vis-à-vis contemporary science that inspires the Aurora Project.

2006 AuroraLive Waves Festival Riga, Latvia
This edition of Aurora explores imaginary and actual narratives surrounding the Aurora, using dynamic keywords submitted from people around the world. AuroraLive explores the blurring of boundaries between science, art and human interaction via web-based visualization of imaginary and actual Aurora narratives.

The Aurora Projects 1997-2006

This multi-phase, multi-site international art and science project was developed and produced over a decade in collaboration with Stephen Kovats, Peter Ride, Luke Jerram, Esa Turunen, Mare Tralla, Tom Donaldson, Minna Tarka, ,Greg Judelman, Daniel Barber, Caitlin O’Donovan, Chris Mendis, Chris Hession, Trevor Haldenby, Seken Chung, Deb Hession, Rasmus Vuori


InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Center, Goethe Institute Toronto, Makrolab, Scotland, Carte Institute, Westminster University, London UK, Arthouse, Dublin, Polar Circuit, Rovaniemi, Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory, Acoustic Space, Riga, Solar Circuit, Hobart, Tasmania, AuroraFeast Heureka Finnish Science Centre, Govett Brewster Gallery Plymouth New Zealand