In 1977 NASA successfully launched two new spaces probes – Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, both designed to
study the outer Solar System. Each had phonograph records attached to them which contained sounds and
images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. The sound collection consists of nature
sounds, a selection of various music tracks, as well as spoken greetings in 55 languages, while the images show
various concepts and moments from human life.
This material was intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or for future humans, who may find
them and be able to decode them. Extra-terrestrial speculations aside, it is rather obvious that the records
were intended as a strong political statement, as they were conceived by NASA in 1977 – one of the iconic
political institutions of USA during the Cold-War era. The selection of images and music sent to space clearly
reflects a Western-oriented perspective on human nature and culture. In particular, it is clear how the
selection of the materials chose to ignore particular sounds and imagery outside of the Euro-centric
worldview. What intrigued me about this material was not so much its possible perception by the aliens or
other forms of life, but the way NASA’s team (led by popular scientist Carl Sagan) chose to define humanity
and planet Earth by its choice of particular music tracks and images.
In Voyages, I have recomposed a selection of these sounds and images that were encoded on the Golden
Record discs, allowing myself to wander freely between the original and new forms of the material. I was
interested in how digital space and conversion would influence the original material, transforming it into new
shapes and sonic landscapes. What remains is a set of images and sounds which reflect back on us more than
they ever intended to.
Voyager 1 is currently the furthest spacecraft from Earth and the only one in interstellar space.