This project combines photogrammetry and historical terrain data of one of the oldest archaeological site in China to create a possible outcome of future Earth orbital view.

Hongshan Experiment: a possible outcome, is a multi-channel interactive spherical video installation. Its creative process aimed to draw a visceral artery between wonder for deep time mining of ancient archaeology and gradually surfaced evidence and concern on climate change. Using historical climate change data, 3D detailed reconstruction of excavation site and customized shader, a simulated orbital view of a planet represents Earth’s alternative history and future outcome.

From a world-building perspective inspired by sci-fi film and literature, spherical format creates a duality of movement: entering a vast landscape or flying away from a planet shares the same visual equivalence, raising to the fundamental question of human being: existence or extinction based on different outcomes of Earth's future.
Niuheliang Hongshan archaeological site had been affected by the rising temperature and humidity from global warming. As many other cultural heritage globally, this shining site is compromising. In 2013, a huge alien's megastructure alike canopy was built to protect the one of the most valuable sites, where the first artifact of Chinese dragon imagery got unearthed, so did the Goddess mask from the matriarchal society then. More than two thousand photographs were taken for photogrammetry, collapsing the past and present matter together to simulate the future in juxtaposition to the urgently approaching receding ice sheet and rising temperature.

Detailed photos of the digging site

Photos of the canopy

​Two types of data were utilized in the process of animation: climate change (global temperature and ice sheet) and polar reversal [reference] overtime. Here time is stretched, and space is only a derivative of visual perception in a blurred scale. Astrophysics data such as formation of earth from gas and dust and birth of neutron star is observed. 

Coupling of scientifically valid data visualization and artistically creative world-building, Hongshan experiment focuses the equilibrium between human and non-human; culture and nature. It offers an interdisciplinary interests and concerns referencing archaeology, environmental science, meteorology and astrophysics through abstraction, translation and invention. 

Archaeologists collect shattered artifacts underneath the ground, scrutinizing any remaining traces of evidence that each combination deduces a different piece of reconstructed history. Using photogrammetry and image-based lighting, the generation of digital assets reappropriated strategy of archaeological excavation. I captured the digging ground, small caves, remaining building foundation in situ, which were linked to the massive steel ribs of the present architecture only by light and shadow. A frozen moment close to the present time was rendered out as base 3D scene of this project.

Radiocarbon (C-14) gives time tag to archaeological diggings, essentially facilitating our perception of history. Carbon footprint helps people understand the impact of personal behavior on global warming (CO2), which is only an “illusion” or “theory” to the nonbelievers. Carbon is also an essential building block of living things on Earth, from the origins of life and sentience even beyond Earth to we humans today. In many scientific research, carbon serves as signature of human in communication with the rather promising extraterrestrial intelligence. 

One of the two main shaders in the creation of the animated imagery adopted the rich affinity and texture of carbon-made matters such as diamond and graphite. The other shader was programmed to reference thermal transmission: freezing and melting of ice. The ambiguous visual logic is across many interpretations from the audience. Is the spherical projected hemisphere an imagined planet? Or if it is a micro scale creature in sub-atomic scale? Is the animation suggesting fast-forward Earth’s ecological history in deep time mining? Or it is a disastrous aftermath of global warming led to the extinction of mankind? These are several visceral questions the artwork aims to raise. 

Phase I:离 AWAY
Phase II:浸 LEAP
Phase IV:重 RE

Exhibited in  @Today Art Museum, Beijing China

Shaoyu Su