Lost Skies

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

As an artist, my goal is to elicit transformative sensory, cognitive and visceral experiences. To do so, I use cutting-edge technology as a vehicle for biomimicry (nature-inspired design). My approach is based on the study of humans’ innate tendency to seek connections with nature. According to the biophilia hypothesis that was introduced by American biologist Edward O. Wilson in 1984, humans are attracted to, and desire connections with, natural elements such as landscapes, light, and changes in light. As an artist, tapping into this desire provides me with a greater understanding of what motivates people and what type of artistic content can truly be transformative.

I have long been fascinated with people turning their eyes towards the sky for meaning and guidance. Our skyward gaze has shaped art, science, religion, agriculture, industry, and worldviews across this globe since prehistoric times. The sky is present in most of our myths; its mystery is endlessly mesmerizing.

There is only one sky, but the ways we see and interpret it are infinite.

I create art that seek to express the essence of our collective gaze. Using artificial intelligence (AI) as an artistic tool, I combine numerous points of view into individual archetypal images – AIEye. Algorithms, developed in collaboration with AI computer scientists Mihai Jalobeanu and Nebojsa Jojic, search the Internet and identify different views of the sky based on time, location, air pollution, and meteorological data. These complex mathematical systems review all of the found images, analyze their salient properties, and summarize the data. The resulting artwork captures the sky as seen through varying human perspectives.

Skies Epitomized is a series of prints that depict the essence of the sky in a specific time and place. Each individual sky is paired with a person from the region looking on to create the illusion that the viewer is seeing the sky through their eyes.

Skies Epitomized, Polar Climate. Photo by Joe Freeman.

Skies Epitomized, 9/11. Photo by Joe Freeman.

In Lost Skies, two large-scale lightboxes depict contrasting views of the polluted sky – one based on the perspective of a climate change skeptic, the other based on images of the sky found in polluted areas of the world.

Lost Skies, Climate Change Through The Eyes Of A Skeptic and Believer. Photo by Maja Petric.

AIEye combines numerous points of view into individual archetypal images. The algorithm searches the Internet for images of the world affected by climate change-related events. It looks at all of these images and keeps bits and pieces of them, using them as brushes to paint the essence of what everyone saw.

Throughout the exhibition of Lost Skies at 4Culture Gallery in Seattle, I used AIEye to generate new visualizations of the sky that reflected current events (e.g. Hurricane Maria, the British Columbia wildfires, the melting Arctic ice, etc.). The images are published here.

Each of these visualizations is composed of thousands of images returned by the Internet image search for a particular topic. The images have a deep zoom effect that provides viewers with the ability to explore the content within the content based on the Internet image search results.

In Skies Epitomized of War and Peace, I juxtaposed what one sees gazing at the sky in peaceful parts of the world with the sky as it is seen in areas of conflict and unrest. The first and last boxes show the essence of people’s skyward gaze in Iceland and New Zealand, which, according to the Global Peace Index, are considered the most peaceful countries in the world. The second and fourth box show a view of the sky in the most conflicted areas such as Iraq and Syria. The third box shows the gaze at the universal sky.

Skies Epitomized of War and Peace: Sky Epitome Of The Icelandic, Sky Epitome Of The Iraqi, Sky Epitome Of The Universal, Sky Epitome Of The Syrian, Sky Epitome Of The New Zealand Sky. Photo by Maja Petric.

(Top image: Lost Skies, California Wildfires. Photo by Maja Petric.)


Maja Petric is a new media artist. She uses cutting edge technologies to create art installations that evoke the sublimity of nature. On this topic, she has received a Ph.D. from the University of Washington and a Master’s from New York University. Her artwork has been exhibited internationally, including at y, Henry Art Gallery, Microsoft Research Gallery, Matadero, Medialab Prado, etc. She has been awarded a Microsoft Research Residency Award, Richard Kelly Light Art Award, Doctoral Fellowship from the National Science Foundation, and has been nominated for an Arts Innovator Award, FastCo. Innovation by Design Award, International Light Art Award, etc.


About Artists and Climate Change:

Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

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