Artists Turn Space Debris Into Sound Art

Objects in orbit around the earth. Photo: NASA

It all started in 2006, when astronaut Piers Sellers dropped his spatula. For months the spatula orbited earth, eventually disintegrating into dust. Its story is the inspiration for Adrift, a new project from artists Cath Le Couteur and Nick Ryan. The pair have produced a film, an installation, and a website all based on the notion of trash accumulating where we might least expect it—in outer space.

Speaking to Vice, Le Couteur said: “An American astronaut lost his glove. The image of the solitary glove spinning around in orbit above us, I found that haunting and kind of melancholic, but also kind of beautiful. The [project] aims to tell the story about space debris in a way that provokes the audience to connect with it emotionally.”

The artist describes space debris as a “21st-century crisis,” claiming there are more than 300 million pieces of garbage currently threatening to wipe out the International Space Station. How best to address this crisis? Through art, of course.

“I intend to build an instrument. . . . This instrument will take the live data stream from actual space debris. It will actually cause the mechanics of the instrument to change over time as they [the debris] float overhead—like a music box. The instrument will also score the film. The website will bring the film and sound installation together. If you see the film online, the music will match what’s going on in space while you’re watching the film. It’s like a live soundtrack to the film. There will also be a live feed, so you can see what’s drifting around above you in real time,” described Ryan.

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