Project: Time Line

There is a place in the night sky that you can look to see where our planet is heading. Due to our solar system’s orientation within the galaxy, we travel forward roughly north-first, and there happens to be a star in our northern hemisphere that marks the direction we are traveling: Lambda Herculis. This new project, 'Time Line', is an outdoor installation of a single high-visibility green laser that will be projected to, and follow, the star Lambda Herculis. This green laser will physically draw a line of light along the path our planet is taking. As the planet rotates, and Lambda Herculis ‘spins’ around the North Star, a motorized telescope mount will turn to follow this point in the sky. The line will appear to extend infinitely, reaching all the way to the star with a solid line of light.

As Longyearbyen is the northernmost town on the planet, the laser will point upwards in the sky at all times, never dipping below the horizon. Longyearbyen, quite literally, leads the way for our planet.

This line of light is a visualization of our actual timeline—we can look in the direction of our travel and see our future take an unexpected form, as a thin path laid out before us. What will our world be like down this line? The future, by its nature, is something we cannot see or know. This is no new phenomenon, but at the same time, uncertainty about the future of our home world has come to define the time we live in.

Within the setting of Svalbard, this work creates an opportunity to consider our future in relation to climate change. Not only because its effects are being seen most dramatically in the arctic, but because the project was directly inspired by atmospheric research techniques used by two observatories nearby in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard. First, the Koldewey Aerosol Raman Lidar (KARL) operated by the institute AWIPEV, is an observatory that shoots a green lidar 90º up into the atmosphere to monitor pollution from sources like volcanoes, forest fires, and industry. (See last image below.) Second, the Geodetic Earth Observatory, operated by the Norwegian Mapping Authority (Kartverket), is a radio telescope that maps movements in Earth’s surface, the rotation of the planet—and in relation to this project—Earth’s exact position in the context of the galaxy. This project takes the visuals and concepts of these two research stations, and combines them to create a minimal, yet very-large scale, new artwork.

Below: KARL, the Koldewey Aerosol Raman Lidar observatory, operated by the German Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research and the French Polar Institute Paul Emile Victor (AWIPEV)