In the visual arts, re-rendering the familiar in new ways is a strategy that encourages audiences to reconsider cultural assumptions. In their recent work Starrs and Cmielewski manipulated NASA satellite images of the Ganges Delta in Bangladesh to embed the words ‘days like these’ into the winding paths of the delta’s multiple tributaries. By changing and animating the seemingly trustworthy satellite imagery, the artists encouraged viewers to reconsider their assumptions about the environment. How ‘natural’ is nature? How ‘manmade’?
Days like these is part of a larger installation, Incompatible Elements, which can be seen as an interference of the omniscient Google world view that we have embraced as we increasingly defer to that oracle in our various networked gadgets. The installation creates an immersive audiovisual environment, that fosters engagement and contemplation about the impact of climate change on landscapes and waterways.
After the work was first exhibited as a gallery installation, a still image from the animation was featured on the cover of the new academic science text book The Future of the World’s Climate, edited by Ann Henderson-Sellers, published by Elsevier in December 2012. While the book is brimming with all manner of graphs and scientific visualisations, the artists’ image was chosen for the cover as it managed to succinctly project the editor’s vision for this scientific text book.
Is art still regarded as a means of simply ‘illustrating’ the final outputs of scientific experiments? This paper reflects on Starrs and Cmielewski’s artworks in relation to scientific processes and products.