With James Dixon for Baltic Quarter in Gateshead

This project was developed as an artistic and architectural atrium piece for a new building delivered by Ryder Architecture for Gateshead Council, on Baltic Quarter.

Spanning over 22m The project features five digital displays suspended by hundreds of shimmering dichroic ribbons. Dichroic film was developed for the projector industry as a film which allows some colours of the light spectrum to pass and reflect the others. The resulting colourful shadows and reflections animate the space and develop with the movement of the sun throughout the day.

The displays themselves track the progress of Voyager Space Probes 1 & 2 as they make their way through the cosmos, laden with the famous Golden Discs.

Each of the five units features an architectural downlight, to illuminate the ribbons at night, housed in mirrored acrylic, with a similarly encased display panel at the opposite end. They are suspended from a structural aluminium raft which contains automated light lifts which lower and raise the artwork for servicing and cleaning.

The Artist's Statement is as follows:


In 1977 two space probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, were sent from Earth to study the planetary systems of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Having completed their missions they would then continue on their final trajectories, away from our solar system, indefinitely. In this knowledge their creators placed on each, a golden phonograph record, containing images, songs and greetings made by the people of the earth to reflect the biological and cultural diversity of their planet. The Voyagers are, at this moment, moving further and beyond; the only human-made objects in interstellar space. This ‘message in a bottle’ represents our most complex and deliberate attempt to communicate with intelligence unknown.
Up above you, there are two, large, ever-increasing numbers, these are the kilometres from the earth of Voyager 1 & 2, they show how distant the probes currently are from us. Also a clock, and a form of landscape, these numbers conjure an unimaginable space upon which to reflect.

The text you see is a conversation that is currently taking place between two intelligent machines. They have been asked to compose this solely from elements of the songs, poems, speeches and greetings found on the disc. Through this exchange they are constructing a world from a fragment, the record being their memory and their language.
This work is a reminder of the hope and open-mindedness that brought the Voyager Golden Record into being. If we consider the disc not as a message in a bottle, but as a time capsule, we see ourselves as we were, which in turn helps us to see who we are today.

Photography by Jack Storey