Sarah Hotchkiss of KQED writes on Antiprism, an exploration of space, time, and perspective.
In the de Young Museum’s Kimball Education Gallery, an investigation of intergalactic proportions is underway. During a month-long residency at the museum, artist, playwright and musician Jon Bernson and collaborators have explored the Vessel XII controversy, described as a series of 12 unexplained broadcasts that interrupted television sets around the world over a period of 23 years. The transmissions mysteriously end in 2009, the year digital conversion rendered our old cathode ray tube sets obsolete.
One of the more frustrating things about the Vessel XII transmissions is that much of it had extremely poor audio and video resolution. Additionally, many of the transmissions that were captured on VHS were later wiped or erased by people who were unaware of their significance. Thanks to new breakthroughs in magnetic tape restoration, a company called Global Recovery has been able to salvage portions that were previously thought to be lost.
Astrid is an independent researcher based in the Bay Area and has been studying Vessel XII for many years. Ridiculed by many, she is of the opinion that Vessel XII is exactly what it appears to be, a spacecraft from the future that has been sending messages back to Earth. Along with other, competing theorists, her image has been committed to an acetate transparency and is now on the wall of the Kimball Gallery.
On three Friday nights (4/17, 4/24 & 5/1 @7pm), Exray’s will perform a live score for a dramatization of the Distant Future Symposium. Jason, Michael and myself have been doing audio mapping for Astrid in support of her research and have dedicated all of our upcoming albums to Vessel XII.
Most of what we know about Vessel XII was communicated through television broadcasts. The narrator of these transmissions described himself as the ‘Keeper of the Logbook’ and often used simple visual aids to enhance his communications. The glass cube, black orb and telescopic pointer were among his favorites, and were often used to demonstrate the relationship between time and three-dimensional space.
Andrea and Christopher (de Young) came to visit my studio on the day of Astrid’s first public press conference. We rented a professional table, comfortable seating, bought new light bulbs, and borrowed several cameras. I showed them around and they filmed us as we filmed her.
Many days later, Christopher recalled their visit to downtown Oakland in an email: “The land there is greatly confusing, consisting of concrete surfaces twisting through a strange metropolis. There were not many creatures about. Perhaps they had diurnal habits and became animated with the rising star on the horizon.”
Michael wanted to make good eye contact during his appearance in the video. In Astrid’s words: “The sounds you hear were composed and performed by Exray’s, a contemporary group of musicians who were inspired by my research and have provided me with free audio assistance for many years. Much to my delight, they have not only believed in Vessel XII, but have dedicated their music to the elucidation of its emotional trials. Since I have never received direct funding, you must understand that I will be forever indebted to them.”