From ‘Radioastronomy (here comes the Sun)’ to ‘Sunscape’

by Inês Rebelo


Having organised ‘Radioastronomy (here comes the Sun)’ as part of Birkbeck Arts Weeks 2021, I wanted to write with a follow-up to the project. We received meaningful contributions of 11 participants across borders from Australia to Colombia, including Poland, Portugal and the UK. These combined cross 16 time zones and two hemispheres. 

Collectively, each submitted image comes from artists, close family, computer programmers, gardeners, lecturers, lawyers and policy advisors. Each one with their unique experiences offered unexpected additions to ‘Sunscape’, enhancing it and shaping it in its own way. And yet, we wouldn’t be able to tell who contributed what, by looking at each image alone.

Although this chapter is closed, with each and every participant receiving ‘Sunscape’ on the 21st June, solstice day of summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere, I envision the project to continue in the future. It could be open to other calls for participation across frontiers, or it can morph – transform itself into something else altogether, a new chapter.


Floating paintings

‘Sunscape’ emerged as ‘floating paintings’ moving up and sideways at various times by the computer screensaver. They acquire different sizes and positions, potentially generated ad infinitum but most likely simply during a very long cycle. We are in outer space. It’s black, it’s the expanse of the universe. We are space-framed but unbound in time, with the aid of the computer [1].

There are photographs of landscapes in different scales [2], some fogged by distant memory of Tarkovsky’s 1972 film Solaris, others sunburned by overlayers of hot gradients and one surprising moving image (!) repeated over three moments.

It looks glossy, but it is a critic to our manipulations of light and nature to keep a socioeconomical model that is destroying our planet. Meanwhile, there is a real sunset remembering us that Sun existed before us, and it will exist after us.

Warmly, patterns of light and shadows appear too, characteristic of real Sun imprints.


I saw the Sun in a vase when reading about mother Nature’s cycles and a mind map in hopeful blue intertwined with Spanish texts, including portmanteau words.

Modern houses and sewage systems deprive us of the joy of seeing our personal excrement return to the earth and become an agent of growth. We poo into a ceramic bowl, and our production is flushed away. Not only do we never see it again, most of us have no idea where it goes and what happens to it.

The closest substitute we can have to this cycle in an urban setting is compost. There is definitely joy in saving our food scraps and peels and putting them in a bin and adding bits and pieces of dead leaves and plant clippings, then closing it up for a few months and, at the end of that period, opening the bin to find a dark, crumbly matter inside that bears little resemblance to what we remember throwing in, except for a few pieces of eggshell and an avocado store or thirty.

ríos / rivers

este-lares / compound made-up word blending 'stellar' and 'place' or 'home'

aguas / waters 

sub solares / sub solar

The Sun too, lights in a cycle, by the way. Solar radiation levels fluctuate in cycles, going up and down. It takes 11 years.


[1] In a generative process we could also have written the rules of the computer programme in use, such as in Brian Eno’s 77 Million Paintings for example, but existing screensavers have easily available pre-sets suitable for a DIY installation of ‘Sunscape’. 

[2] The difference between size and scale is highlighted in Robert Smithson’s 1972 essay ‘Spiral Jetty’, reprinted in: Kastner, J. and Wallis, B. Land and Environmental Art, London: Phaidon, 1998, pp. 215-218. 


For more information about Inês Rebelo's digital practice and her research and teaching at the Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies, please see here. 

Featured image by NASA Goddard Space Flight under a CC BY license.




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