SETI’s First Artist-in-Residence Transports Viewers to Alien Worlds

CARBONCharles Lindsay's gigantic, sometimes 60-foot-long, black-and-white and color prints from his CARBON photo series are enigmatically provocative. Are they high-resolution scans from an electron microscope? Manipulated images of far-off planets captured by the Hubble telescope?

The photos are actually created through a special process Linsday invented that involves spreading a carbon-based emulsion onto plastic negatives. The resulting images are then digitally scanned and printed in several ways.

It’s an approach that has yielded unusual results and stuck a strong chord with audiences, earning him not only a Guggenheim fellowship, but also the first-ever spot as an artist-in-residence at the SETI Institute.

“A photograph normally suggests reality, our initial read is that its protracting something real,” says Lindsay. “But in these photos there is a lot of ambiguity and that’s one of the things that I respond to strongly in art; it’s a necessity.”

For two years now Charles Lindsay and scientists at the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) have been collaborating and finding new ways to mix art and science in an effort to help stretch the public’s mind about the possibilities of the world and space around us.

“Here at the SETI Institute we are trying to get people to put themselves in a different frame of reference, to step back,” says astronomer Dr. Jill Tarter, who holds the Bernard M. Oliver chair at the Institute. “And Charlie’s art encourages us to think in those terms.” ...

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