"Deep Data" Andy Gracie

Andy Gracie

Installation, 2009

Since the early 1970s we have sent a number of robotic explorers into space to examine the outer limits of the solar system. These machines carry arrays of sensors with which to measure and define the characteristics of inter planetary and interstellar space. The 1970s were a utopian period in science and science fiction - we hoped that by now we would be regularly visiting the Moon, have a base on Mars and would know of other life forms.

The recent science of astrobiology is based on a more pragmatic realisation. It is generally understood that, despite the daily discovery of new planets, we are more likely to find life, or evidence of past life, closer to microbes than to ourselves.

DEEP DATA (prototype 1) forms the first stage of the long term Deep Data project, which uses data from deep space probes to recreate elements of the solar system environment within cultures of organisms currently used in astrobiology. Tardigrades, nematodes and magnetic bacteria are inserted into deep space conditions within a DIY astrobiological laboratory.

Deep Data (prototype 1) uses the magnetometer data from the Pioneer and Voyager probes to recreate magnetic field experiments on cultures of tardigrades. Tardigrades are becoming one of the most important organisms in space bioscience as they are able to withstand various extreme environments and to enter suspended animation for long periods of time. Following an accelerated timeline the tardigrades experience the intense magnetic fields of the four gas giant planets and the more subtle and complex ones at the very edge of our solar system.

The installation consists of a microscope and a custom designed culture vessel for tardigardes which also houses electromagnets. Two flat monitors display the incoming data and the live video of the tardigardes with superimposed magnetic field lines as they experience the shifting magnetic fields. A control box allows the viewer to select which probe will be used for the experiments.


Andy Gracie is an artist working between various disciplines including installation, sound, video and biological practice. His work is situated between the arts and the sciences, creating situations of exchange between organic and artificial systems. He has shown work across the UK and also in France, Spain, USA, Japan, Mexico and Australia, presented at numerous conferences and seminars and published a number of articles and papers.