Post.Digital.Dreams film screening at Cinema House

The Sky Commodified, 2019 by Locument

The sky has become a data mine. This data is now mediated through a complex infrastructure of instruments and apparatuses that help us navigate, surveil, image, and store databases for billions of stars. As astronomical data is the only other dataset comparable in scale to YouTube and Twitter, global tech corporations are competing to host astro-data on their cloud. Amazon claims that by having access to observatories’ huge datasets through hosting would allow the development of their AI, comparing an astronomer’s search for two to three stars in our galaxy to targeting advertisements to two to three people, tracking potential shoplifters or catching fare-evaders on public transport. Looking out into space could be thus seen as a commodity, as an act of governance much more focused on developing methods of surveillance here on earth than providing answers to our existential questions.

‘The Sky Commodified’ studies the astro-industry in the Atacama Desert using three lenses each engaging a different scale. The immediate scale investigates the physical building, the architecture typology of the observatory and drawing on its rich historical lineage of form and experience. The infrastructural scale analyse the growth of astro-tourism in the Atacama region, from the local indigenous entrepreneurs and sky-guides, to the foreign observatory hotels, to the international megaprojects such as ALMA. The meta scale explores data-mining and astronomy as a global industry engaged by the tech sector. Locument was founded in 2015 by Francisco Lobo and Romea Muryń. Their work was exhibited at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, Italy, and at the 25th Biennial of Design, Ljubljana, Slovenia. In 2019 they conducted the workshop “The Sky Commodified” in collaboration with MIT, resulting in a documentary movie, currently in post-production.

Locument highlights the importance to observe rapidly changing social conditions, influenced by factors such as technology, urban environment, political and economic layers. Looking into micro­scopic matter and out on the grand universe, using diverse lenses each engaging a different scale, creating territorial documents. Collective memory to serve as a representation of universal nature in conceptual, visual and musical settings with the application of the latest technology and artistic innovation. Envisioning the future and the past, and not the least, our time.

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