Alex M. Lee ‘Everything from Here to Infinity’ Exhibition
From April 29th to May 6th, 2022, Alex M. Lee’s first Japanese solo exhibition will be held at Gallery Hakusen, Tokyo, Japan. In this exhibition, the visualization of data in virtual reality will be showcased. Lee, who is an associate professor of digital arts & sciences at Clarkson University, utilizes the data produced by the most comprehensive survey of the known universe, The Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and visualizes it as digital abstract expressionist brush strokes. Lee invites viewers to tour the known universe with a heightened sense of presence wearing the virtual reality headset.
This project is inspired by the surrealist writer Jorge Luis Borges’ short story, On Exactitude in Science, in which an empire made a map of itself so big, it encompassed the entirety of the empire itself. A metaphorical equivalent of the Borges’ tale which speaks to our current moment and the abstraction of our reality at cosmological scales is the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
It represents approximately 100 terabytes worth of data about every heavenly object from here to infinity. A random sample of 10,000 stellar objects is pulled from the database to be visualized at any given time. The user can navigate the entirety of the map in VR starting from the Milky Way to the cosmic light horizon, which is approximately 13.8 billion light-years away, ultimately terminating with a barrier consisting of an image of the cosmic background radiation.
The objects depicted in Lee’s exhibit are depicted as abstract expressionist brushstrokes. These brushstrokes may represent galaxies, quasars, and intergalactic dust. This is the most comprehensive map of the universe known to date. There is also a sound component to this VR experience. Sound is pulled from Jon Jenkins’ sonifications made from Kepler star observations, from the University of Birmingham’s resonant acoustic oscillation recordings of stars in ‘M4,’ as well as recordings of cosmic background radiation. The Doppler effect – where one can tell that a sound is moving towards or away from them – can be observed as users move towards or away from sound sources.
Lee has commented that his work “is an investigation on the possibilities of digital imagery in an technical and automated world.” Lee uses technologies of science, science fiction, mathematics, physics, and modernity to create his works. His work is endless, which adds to the abstraction of time, perception, and space. He plays with software and manipulates algorithms to find new visual possibilities. “The work,” he says, “utilizes the loop, slow pacing, and the relatively still to great effect.”
Alex M. Lee is an artist who utilizes 3D animation, video game engines, virtual/augmented/immersive reality platforms, machine learning and the potential of simulation technologies in order to investigate contemporary modes of representation, artifice and technical images – culling from concepts within science, physics, philosophy, and modernity. He received his BFA (2005) and MFA (2009) from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the USA.
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Lee was raised in the USA and is currently an associate professor in the Digital Arts & Sciences Program at Clarkson University. He divides his time between work in Potsdam and New York City.
Lee has exhibited internationally in North America, Europe and Asia. Selected exhibitions include: Trinity Square Video, Toronto, ON; Mio Photo, Osaka, Japan; Daegu Art Factory, Daegu, Korea; Eyebeam: Center for Art & Technology, New York, NY; LEV Festival, Madrid, Spain; Elektra Festival, Montreal, QC. His work has been published in articles covering art, science, and culture including: Metaverse Creativity, Smithsonian Magazine, Routledge Press, and Canadian Art.
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To see more of Alex M. Lee’s work, click here.