Credit: Meteor watching at the National Center for Contemporary Art in Russia. Courtesy of Agnes Meyer-Brandis.
Agnes Meyer-Brandis: Public Meteor Watching (2009-10)
Through new media and performance art, German artist Agnes Meyer-Brandis conducts poetic experiments about science and technology with celestial themes. Her work explores the boundaries between art and science, history and imagination. Before choosing art, Meyer-Brandis spent a year at the University of Aachen in Germany studying mineralogy — the scientific analysis of chemical and physical properties of minerals. She draws on this background to conduct creative research and create ‘exploration devices’ (i.e. Core-Sample Scanner or Coral-Reef-Detector). She also works directly with scientists and in the past has collaborated with the Norwegian Polar Institute, German Aerospace Center, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
My favorite project of hers is Public Meteor Watching where she successfully predicted the time and location of a falling meteor and organized public participatory events for before and after impact. Meyer-Brandis orchestrated two happenings: first in Yekaterinburg, Russia in 2009 and then in Herzele Sint-Lievens-Esse, Belgium in 2010. Both events were followed by examinations of the crater and meteorites, inviting the public to analyze the impact first hand. She spoke about Public Meteor Watching at KOSMICA 2 in March 2011 (part of a series of “social galactic gatherings” presented by The Arts Catalyst) saying, “I’m researching the possibility [of] how to calculate a trajectory or how to predict and forecast a meteorite fall.” In an excerpt from a booklet coinciding the 2009 impact event, she writes:
The word “meteor” itself derives from the Greek term “meteoros” which, surprisingly, describes the condition of “floating in air,“ rather than describing the notion of something like a rock falling from the sky. This small distinction between two very different behaviors ignited our curiosity and made us investigate these beautiful and rare visitors from space.
As brief moments in time, both events live on through Meyer-Brandis’ photodocumentation and video recordings. You can’t see the 2010 event anywhere online, except through her KOSMICA talk seen here (fast forward to 19:58 minutes). In the video, meteor-watching participants were warned by loud-speaker, “It is highly recommended to wear safety helmets.” You can also hear the announcer say, “Attention, attention. For your information, meteorite impact is estimated in ten minutes.”
Here’s a video of her research (“Impact Studies in Ekaterinburg, Siberia”) leading up to the meteor impact in Herzele: