Art and Astronomy come together at the MAC Parque Forestal

Merging contemporary art and astronomy, Origen del Sistema Solar (Origin of the Solar System) from the Arte Astronomía Technología Sociedad (AATS) is an exhibition which takes a multidisciplinary approach to teach the public about planet, star, and solar system formation.

Visitors experience immersion into planet formation (Photo by Gerrit van der Plas )
Visitors experience immersion into planet formation (Photo by Gerrit van der Plas )

The idea for the exhibition came from artist Olaf Peña Pastene and his lifelong astronomer friend, Simon Casassus. Olaf approached Casassus with the idea of blending art with astronomy in the form of an exhibition. Casassus, the head of Millenium ALMA Disk Nucleus (MAD), a research group on planet formation, and an astronomer in the Astronomy Department at the University of Chile liked the idea, and passed it along to his team of 13 researchers in MAD. One of them, Sebastian Pérez, took the reigns on the project and began to meet with Pastene on a regular basis.

Astronomer, Sebastian Perez and Artist, Olaf Peña Pastene (Photo by Hannah Schiff)
Astronomer, Sebastian Perez and Artist, Olaf Peña Pastene (Photo by Hannah Schiff)

"The multidisciplinary attempt to put astronomy with art was difficult at first,” says Pérez. "Astronomers and artists speak different languages and see concepts in very different ways, so it was tough at the beginning, but with initiative and excitement the thinkers were able to coalesce.”

The motivation for the project came from two different perspectives. From the astronomy perspective of Pérez and MAD, the exhibition's goal is “to share novel, recently discovered information about planet formation and planets outside of the solar system in a way that the public can understand.”

As Pérez explains, artists and astronomers see the world (or the universe) in different ways. In the eyes of Pastene, the idea for the exhibition came from an interest in nature that he has had since his childhood. "I wanted to use astronomy as a way to deepen interpretive artwork, and then extend this exploration and investigation to the community,” he says. Pastene views the exhibition as a means of exploring astronomy through art, but also advance art in new and novel ways.

Through visualization and sonification, the exhibit enables a person to learn about planet formation, first through an educational video, and then through an immersive artistic experience.

Image courtesy of AATS
Image courtesy of AATS

The video utilizes images from real data, animation, and voiceover to teach about star and planet formation, and how these processes are studied. Stage two of the exhibition, the artistic aspect, involves a papier mache dome onto which images are projected of real data from the ALMA telescope in San Pedro de Atacama, as well as computer generated simulations of planet formation.

"The images are a 3D rendering of how gas and primordial material turn into planets and stars,” says Pérez. In addition to the visual aspects of the exhibit, there is a continuous playing of sounds collected by the ALMA telescope during planet and star formation.

This fusion of astronomy and art through multiple mediums has created a stimulating exhibtion which develops understanding and deep immersion into the universes of both planet formation and contemporary art.

Origen del Sistema Solar
Runs until November 24
Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (MAC) - Parque Forestral
Tuesday - Saturday: 11:00am - 7:00pm, Sunday: 11am - 6:00pm
Metro Bellas Artes (Line 5)

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