Mysterium Cosmographicum Cumulatus

Worcester Polytechnic Institute Public Art Residency

Call for Proposals

Detailed project proposal

(including designs, timeline, and technical requirements)

In his first major astronomical work, Mysterium Cosmographicum (The Cosmographic Mystery), published in 1596, Johannes Kepler attempted to demonstrate the periodic conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in the zodiac. He began experimenting with the five Platonic solids, which he thought could be nested, within one another to produce six concentric spheres, corresponding to orbits of the six known planets—Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. By ordering the solids correctly—octahedron, icosahedron, dodecahedron, tetrahedron, cube—Kepler found that the spheres could be placed at intervals corresponding (within the accuracy limits of available astronomical observations) to the relative sizes of each planet’s path, assuming the planets circle the Sun.

Kepler attempted to explain the proportions of the natural world and the cosmos in terms of music based on a central set of “harmonies” or the musica universalis, “music of the spheres,” which is an ancient philosophical concept, studied by Pythagoras, Ptolemy and others, that regards proportions in the movements of celestial bodies as a form of inaudible mathematical music.

Kepler toiled over the idea of nested Platonic solids for most of his life and could never corroborate the theory with the improved observational evidence collected by his contemporary Tycho Brahe, because it was simply wrong. Despite his fondness of the idea, it was Kepler’s tenacious insistence on fact that led to his first law of planetary motion, The orbit of every planet is an ellipse with the Sun at one of the two foci, thus setting Western culture on the path to reason and, indeed, modern science.

Mysterium Cosmographicum Cumulatus, a collaboration between artists John Craig Freeman (US), Jeff Talman (US), Lalie S. Pascual (CH) and Caroline Bernard (FR), will place observers at the center of Kepler’s nested Platonic solids using augmented reality technology. Located at the precise GPS coordinates 42.273417,-71.808017, atop the Earle Bridge on the campus of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the project will allow people to view the solids using any late model Android or iPhone.

Visitors will stand at the center of the bridge and launch a mobile application which will activate one of the five solids. The object will appear in the viewfinder of the user’s phone as a immense translucent 3 dimensional shape viewed from its center point. Prompted by the user, the solid will begin to slowly rotate as sound derived from the radiation and seismic data collected from each of the five innermost planets and transposed into audible scaled resonance, will emanate from a 5-channel outdoor speakers system on location. Please see an example from project collaborator, Jeff Talman.

The Platonic solids will be created by mapping semitransparent video animation based on the five classical elements, Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Aether, onto polygonal models of an octahedron, an icosahedron, a dodecahedron, a tetrahedron, and a cube.


January 23-February 29, 2012 – Asset development

March 1-April 11, 2012 – Database development and interface programing

April 12-19, 2012 – Installation and testing

April 19, 2012 – Public presentation of finished work

Technical Requirements

We will need permission from WPI’s facilities management to install the project on the Earle Bridge. This will require running outdoor power and speaker wiring, attaching support structures and secure equipment casing on or near the bridge. We will also require an internet connection to convert input from users mobile devices into output for the speaker system.


Mac Mini, 2.0GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, 4GB 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM – 2x2GB, 2X500GB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm

5-channel audio system


Apple Remote Desktop


We hope to make use of the WPI students’ programing and database management skill to create an interface which will allow users to activate the sound by interacting with virtual augmented reality objects.

Documentation of previous works of public art

Nature of the Night Sky, by Jeff Talman, 2011.

Working with astrophysicist Daniel Huber, Talman used radiation and seismic data from stars and shaped it into music, played back after sundown each night in a Bavarian forest.

Border Memorial: Frontera de los Muertos, by John Craig Freeman with Mark Skwarek, 2011.

The Border Memorial: Frontera de los Muertos, is an augmented reality public art project and memorial, dedicated to the thousands of migrant workers who have died along the U.S./Mexico border in recent years trying to cross the desert southwest in search of work and a better life.

Métamorphoses, by Lalie S. Pascual, 2010.

Métamorphoses is a mixed media installation intended to suggest a mix of alternative landscapes and ‘life forms’, in various stages of transformation, mutation and flux at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (University Hospital of Canton Vaud). The hospital has a nice and a large indoor public space and their art-science program is supported by UNESCO.

If only you could see what I see with your eyes, by Caroline Bernard, with Gwenola Wagon, Michiko Tsuda, Adla Isanovic, and Damien Guichard, 2008.

In this public performance, four artists from Japan, France and Bosnia gather in Geneva in order to negotiate their subjective views on the place they share. Each of them choose one channel to express its own view on the location and time that is visited and “scanned” – Rue du Marché, Geneva, Switzerland. Four channels, subjective camera views, text and sound are placed at the same spot, time and captured simultaneously.

Curriculum Vitae or exhibition record

Lalie S. Pascual
Digital media artist, Lalie S. Pascual received her MA in Fine Art at Central St. Martins University of the Arts in London, having being previously trained at Brandeis University, Massachusetts. Additional academic background includes a Master of Science in Management from Boston University. Her practice explores boundaries between the natural and the digital worlds through digital processes that synthesize data, images and video footage into new “states of existence”. She received a Brandeis teaching fellowship award in 2003, was a finalist of the Celeste Art Prize (London 2006) and she won the Drawing Conclusion competition by ArtSEEN journal in 2007. Recent exhibitions include the Helen Keller International Award in Glasgow, Lounge/Monika Bobinska Gallery in London, Gallery Lucy Mackintosh in Lausanne, the Boston Cyberarts Festival in Boston, the art science program of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, the FPAC gallery in Boston, and at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. She is represented by Lucy Mackintosh Gallery in Lausanne.

John Craig Freeman
John Craig Freeman is a public artist with over twenty years of experience using emergent technologies to produce large-scale public work at sites where the forces of globalization are impacting the lives of individuals in local communities. His work seeks to expand the notion of public by exploring how digital networked technology is transforming our sense of place. He has produced work and exhibited around the world including in Xi’an, Belfast, Los Angeles, Beijing, Zurich, New York City, Taipei, São Paulo, Warsaw, Kaliningrad, Miami, Bilbao, Havana, Atlanta, Calgary, Buffalo, Boston, Mexico City, London and San Francisco. In 1992 he was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has had work commissioned by both and His work has been reviewed in The New York Times, El Pais, Liberation, Wired News, Artforum, Ten-8, Z Magazine, Afterimage, Photo Metro, New Art Examiner, Time, Harper’s and Der Spiegel. Christiane Paul cites Freeman’s work in her book Digital Art, Second Addition, as does Lucy Lippard in the Lure of the Local, and Margot Lovejoy in Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age. His writing has been published in Rhizomes, Leonardo, the Journal of Visual Culture, and Exposure. Freeman received a Bachelor of Art degree from the University of California, San Diego in 1986 and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1990. He is currently an Associate Professor of New Media at Emerson College in Boston.

Jeff Talman
International artist Jeff Talman has created sound installations for Cathedral Square in Cologne, Germany, the MIT Media Lab, The Kitchen, St. James Cathedral in Chicago, Eyebeam, Galleria Mazzini in Genoa, Italy and other museums, galleries and alternative sites including four installations in the Bavarian Forest, Germany. Cited by the Intute research group at Oxford University as a ‘pioneer of the use of resonance in artworks,” his major achievement is the extended exploration of “reflexive resonance,” a process he developed in which the ambient resonance of an installation site becomes an installation’s sole sound source and fundamental composition element. Talman’s first installation Vanishing Point 1.1 (1999) introduced this process and The New York Times, Wired Magazine and other publications soon noted the work and process. In August 2011 his work in stellar resonance, a collaboration with NASA astrophysicist Daniel Huber, was the subject of an interview on Weekend Edition of National Public Radio. Awards include Fellowships from the J.S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Artist residencies include Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, NY, the Liguria Study Center of the Bogliasco Foundation in Genoa, Italy, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus, Germany, the Künstlerhaus Krems, Austria, the Åland Archipelago Artist Residency, Finland and the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, NH.

Caroline Bernard
Caroline Bernard is a professor at Vevey’s School of Photography. During nine years, she was a contributing scientific associate of the Formes de l’interactivité laboratory of Geneva University of Art and Design — Geneva. She is especially active in new forms of cinema, so-called mobile images and interactive video.

Carl Segan on Kepeler and the five Platonic solids from Cosmos: Episode 3, Harmony of the Worlds.


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