2017 // Documentation // Invention

Blindspot is a video that uses 100 years of sunspot drawings made at the Mount Wilson Observatory to manipulate robotically controlled video footage. The result is a meditative speculation on the relationship of invisible solar forces and how we perceive time and space in our immediate landscape.


The operators of the 150-Foot Solar Tower have been making drawings of sunspots and solar activity since 1917- the longest consistent record of solar activity. Steve Padilla, who does the drawings today, has been contributing observational drawings for the last 40 years.


Also at the 150-Foot Solar Tower, scientists study the magnetic movement of the sun.   Through computer modeling create maps of solar magnetic fields and indicate whether the surface is moving out or in from the surface.


The sun goes through approximately 11 year solar cycles, that change in the Sun’s activity (including changes in the levels of solar radiation and ejection of solar material) and appearance (changes in the number and size of sunspots, flares, and other manifestations). After each solar cycle the magnetic polarity of the sun inverts direction.


For this video, Cain gathered all 27,000 sunspot drawings over 100 years an animated them into a 20 minute sequence. He used that sequence to create his own graphic maps, by making a black and white gradient maps from the solar spot drawings.


These maps are not seen in the final project, but were used to distort the landscape video footage: where the map is full black the video displays pixels from video frames seconds into the future, and where they map is fully white it displays pixels from frames in the past.   Because of the steady camera movement this time distortion results in the visual spatial distortions that you see in the video.


The audio of the video also relates to the sun and the local landscape. The bird sounds are recorded in the forests of Mount Wilson. The drone noises are NASA recordings of sounds generated by the pulsing surface of the sun. Both sounds are manipulated in pitch and speed to create the soundscape of the video that cycles out every 21 minutes in the Astronomical Museum Theater.


Special thanks to In-kind donations to VOLUME to make Blindspot possible.