SER2023 welcomes the exhibition of alight the turning earth by the award-winning media artist Grayson Cooke. Born in New Zealand and based in Australia, Grayson Cooke is an interdisciplinary scholar and media artist, Associate Professor of Media at Southern Cross University. To change the course of the global future, we need not only scientists and practitioners, but effective communication to showcase the beauty of this planet and also the existential threat that exists. Grayson’s work returns to the most basic, most fundamental, most historical method for sharing knowledge, for learning, is most simply – storytelling. To sit, and listen, and watch.
In this project we see timelapse sequences of remarkable landforms and wetlands across the Australian and African continents. Remarkable and important: these are both extremely dry continents, and tracking vegetation health and the presence and movement of water is of vital importance to the health and wellbeing of millions of people.
That is what satellite data is particularly good at; it gives us time-series studies of all parts of the Earth, and uses infrared imaging to highlight key aspects of the environment.
Over many years of using satellite data creatively Grayson has constantly found himself in awe of the planetary phenomena unfolding before me, and the knowledge we can glean from this unfolding. This project celebrates the incredible Earthly phenomena that we can observe when we look at satellite data through a creative lens – an aesthetic lens, a lens that seeks to communicate a feeling for the Earth in the viewer.
We see wonders here – vast river systems, irrigation schemes, salt lakes pulse and shrink as the seasons pass, clouds cluster on coastlines and mountains with boundless variation. And we glimpse and can imagine the hardship of life in arid lands, of crop cycles driven by drought and flood.
We also come to know some stunning forms; the arabesques of a salt lake, the checkerboard of croplands, the sinuous pulsing of rivers in flood.
The title of this work tells a story of discovery, in a way, that arises when we think about alighting on the turning Earth. When we alight from the Earth, we step off it, and hitch a ride on a satellite orbiting 700kms from the surface of the planet. Yet in doing so we also see what the satellite sees, we alight upon the Earth, but this time we see and sense the planet from above, and we see it lit by the furnace of solar radiation that powers the Earth system. And it gives us this, the turning Earth, a beloved Earth, something to treasure.
Produced for the 10th World Conference of the Society for Ecological Restoration in Darwin, this project uses satellite data from the Sentinel 2 satellite, via the Digital Earth Africa (https://www.digitalearthafrica.org/) and Digital Earth Australia (https://www.dea.ga.gov.au/) platforms. It is made with the support of Geoscience Australia. (https://www.ga.gov.au/) To learn more about Grayson Cooke’s creative work with satellite data, visit http://www.graysoncooke.com.
Image description: Senegal River 04-30-19
Image credit: Grayson Cooke