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  • The Process of Art in Interstellar Message Construction
  • Richard Clar

The "process" of art, as opposed to its iconography, needs to be examined for its potential usefulness in interstellar message construction. Process Art, as defined in the Guggenheim Collection Glossary, "emphasizes the 'process' of making art (rather than any predetermined composition or plan) and the concepts of change and transience expressed through the use of nontraditional materials" [1]. A great deal of information can be conveyed in the juxtaposition of processes contained in an interstellar message. Something should be said about our current level of technology if the recipient is to be able to comprehend the process inherent in the message.

Technologies in the fields of aerospace and medicine offer possible means for conveying a message about who we are through art. The innovative use of both medical and aerospace technologies offers new possibilities and creative solutions for the construction of interstellar messages. Use of these technological processes may provide a means to convey information to the receiver about the behaviors and even the emotional states of the message's sender. Emphasizing the process in art for interstellar message construction enables the sender to convey dynamic content, as opposed to the static icons of more traditional art. In trying to imagine communicating with technologically advanced extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) using an interdisciplinary approach that employs art, a paradigm shift must be considered both in how we define art and how we use non-traditional materials, technologies and processes found outside the realm of traditional art. For the ETI recipient, a greater understanding of who we are may be more readily obtainable through the process of our art than from any other discipline.

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Fig. 1.

Horizontal format of a computed tomography (CT) scan stereolithography (STL) slice file of a human skull, used for STL rapid prototyping process.

© Materialise NV, Belgium

A technology called motion capture [2] allows for, among other things, real-time optical motion capture of human beings. Using this technology for part of an interstellar message, the movements of a dancer in three-dimensional space could be recorded as a series of XYZ coordinates and included along with the music that accompanied the dance performance.

In the mid-1980s, a technology called rapid prototyping was developed as a way to greatly reduce the cost of tooling and the time required to produce a prototype. One rapid prototyping technique is stereolithography (STL), in which complex 3D structures are created by piling up thin slices of UV-cured resin, layer by layer. Medical imaging data from computed tomography, computed axial tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging can be converted to slice file formats suitable for STL. With this in mind, it is possible to transmit to ETI the STL data slices necessary to construct a highly accurate and detailed 3D model of, for example, the human skull (see Fig. 1). Much might be learned by ETI from such a model of the human skull, such as cranial capacity and the location of the sensory organs for sight, hearing, smell and taste. Assuming that ETI could determine the functions of various structures, a study of human teeth could reveal something about our diets.

Richard Clar
Art Technologies, 23 rue aux Ours, 75003 Paris, France. E-mail: <>.


1. N. Spector, ed., Guggenheim Museum Collection: A to Z, 2nd Ed. (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2001).
2. See <>. [End Page 35]


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