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Two Sydney artists sent a camera into space for #art

Dee Jefferson
Sound Ship (decender1) 33,722 meters
Courtesy David Haines & Joyce Hinterding

Just over a week ago on Saturday July 16, Blue Mountains-based artists David Haines and Joyce Hinterding sent a payload 33,722 metres into space, with recording devices to capture the audio and footage. A few hours later, they retrieved it – with the recordings intact.

You'll be able to see and hear the results of that mini space odyssey when Haines and Hinterding unveil their latest artwork as part of the exhibition Gravity (and Wonder)at Penrith Regional Gallery from September 3.

But in the meantime, here is one spectacular image – taken in the moment the balloon attached to the payload exploded (33,722 metres from the Earth's surface) and the load began its descent.

Below is our story on Haines and Hinterding's unusual art-meets-science project, from an interview undertaken the week before the payload launch, published in the August edition of Time Out Sydney.

Gravity and wonder

About six months ago, artists David Haines and Joyce Hinterding came up with a strange and wonderful idea: “to drop a sound from the edge of space, back to earth”.

It’s the kind of phrase that sets the imagination alight. The reality of what it involves is not much less wondrous: the Blue Mountains duo and a small coterie of collaborators will be sending an object to the outer reaches of Earth’s stratosphere, and then recording its vibratory ‘song’ as it falls to earth. 

The results, which Haines describes poetically as a “musical composition between the earth and the sky and the object”, will be exhibited as part of the group show Gravity (and Wonder) at Penrith Regional Gallery from September, accompanied by a two-screen video installation featuring footage of space from on-board cameras as the object ascends and descends.

Haines and Hinterding have more than two decades of collaborative practice that essentially marries science and art and sound, and is driven by their fascination with 'energies' – physical, psychic or environmental.

Their multi-sensory works – ranging from videos to olfactory sculptures, drawings and photography – draw on science, philosophy and the occult to express these unseen forces for their audience. Effectively, they’re putting the wonders of the universe at your fingertips.

“We’re not really science nerds at all,” says Haines. “We’re autodidacts: we go and find out about things when they capture our imagination and we become curious. The science that exists in our practice has really evolved internally to it – it comes about from an aesthetic interest, and our attempts to set up situations for the senses.” 

We talked to Haines ahead of the launch of the ‘payload’ (holding the audiovisual recording instruments and several tracking devices), which will rise roughly 110,000 feet through the atmosphere by means of a tough helium-filled weather balloon to the altitude at which the helium explodes. At that point a parachute will be deployed and the object will descend to earth – mere hours later, and ideally with the recordings intact.

“As it floats down through the Jetstream and those really powerful winds, our little spacecraft will sing like a musical instrument,” says Haines. “This is one of those dream projects: to be able to not just make a work about gravity and sound, but to also film the blackness of space and the curvature of the troposphere around the earth? It’s going to be absolutely wild.”

Exhibition details: Gravity (and Wonder)

Like science? Check out Eugenie Lee's 'Seeing is Believing' – mixing pain science with art in a free 30-minute experience.

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