NASA gives thumbs up to professor’s art-science project

Published 12 March 2018
From 'Open Air' by Grayson Cooke, still image of Cooper Creek, Qld Still image from 'Open Air', showing satellite imagery of Cooper Creek, QLD.

An art-science video project exploring how time and elemental forces work together to shape the earth has attracted the interest of NASA, thanks to the creative use of image data from the space agency’s Landsat 8 satellite by Southern Cross University digital media artist Associate Professor Grayson Cooke.

Called ‘Open Air’, the video juxtaposes satellite imagery of Australia while panning across close-up aerial views of landscape paintings by Emma Walker, all set to a soundscape by Australian band The Necks.

Watch the trailer for ‘Open Air’.

“It’s not every day you receive an email from NASA, so I have to admit I was rather excited and flattered when I saw that the NASA Landsat team had discovered my project and wanted to do an interview,” said Professor Cooke.

Read NASA Landsat Science’s story about ‘Open Air’.

‘Open Air’ came about from a partnership Professor Cooke  developed with Geoscience Australia, the Canberra-based public-sector agency dedicated to research into Australia’s geology and geography. He initially contacted them to learn more about ‘Digital Earth Australia’, a program which makes 40 years of Australian Landsat satellite data accessible to researchers to track environmental change over time.

“I had been dreaming of time-lapsing Australia using satellite imaging for quite some time – but found it wasn’t technically feasible with the tools available to me as a non-expert,” Professor Cooke said.

“Approaching Geoscience Australia bridged that technical gap, as I gained access to the data via the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI). In turn this data actually comes from NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), who since 2008 have made the Landsat data archive freely available seems to me to be an inestimable service to the world, and the research community in particular.”

Landsat is the longest continuous global record of the earth’s surface and since the early 1970s it has continuously and consistently archived images of Earth.

This unparalleled data archive gives scientists the ability to assess changes in Earth’s landscape.

“But it’s not only scientists who are inspired by these images,” said Professor Cooke.

“As ‘Open Air’ demonstrates, it gives artists – in this case, a digital media artist, a painter and musicians - the ability to produce new methods of responding to earth in both intellectual and emotional ways.”

Professor Cooke plans to release the full feature-length work later in 2018.

Photo: Grayson Cooke.

Media contact: Sharlene King 02 6620 3508 or 0429 661 349.