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Outsider Space Art

By Rhizome


San Francisco-based artist Jonathon Keats often becomes so fluent in scientific systems that he pushes extreme rationality into the zone of absurdity. Such was the case when he worked with UC Berkeley engineers in an attempt to 'genetically engineer God, in a petrie dish,' or when he went to elaborate lengths to 'personalize' the metric system for individual observers. Now he claims to have 'discovered that a radio signal detected by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico contains artwork broadcast from deep space.' The narrative spun in promotional materials for the project asserts that the signal 'originated between the constellations Aries and Pisces thousands of years ago,' and is the 'most significant addition to the artistic canon since the Mona Lisa, or even the Venus of Willendorf.' Keats has translated this newly-received signal into a painting, which goes on view at Berkeley's Magnes Museum later this month, but the work extends to the mass-mediated communication that surrounds this 'discovery.' His larger project deals with the culture of investigation, the sibling sciences of transmission and decryption, and a meditation of what data gets discarded, valorized, or reified in our culture. - Irene Wu

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