Orbiting Together: Satellite Triggered Text Message Service

January & February 2018
Seattle Art Museum Winter Residency
Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, WA

Ideated & Choreographed with Eric John Olson & Tamin Totzke
Participants: 500 participants subscribed to a text message service, hundreds of responses were sent as a reply via text message or Instagram.
Website & Print Design and Software Development by Eric John Olson.

Where humans once used the stars and intuition to locate ourselves, we now look to our phones, rarely considering our bodies in relation to the celestial objects orbiting overhead. Orbiting Together was a multi-faceted project that created a new GPS network composed of people in place of satellites. During January & February of 2018, Eric J. Olson and I took up residence at the Olympic Sculpture Park to research, workshop, and realize the project in collaboration with choreography and somatic therapist Tamin Totzke.

Over the course of the residency, participants who opted-in simultaneously received a text once a day when specific satellites flew over the Olympic Sculpture Park. Text messages contained mindfulness exercises that investigated and reinvigorated participants’ connections to each other, their intuition, and to their surroundings. To create this system, Eric used public record data projecting the flight paths of satellites flying overhead and we paired them with different instructions that I wrote with input from both choreographer Tamin Totzke and Eric. For example, when the satellite tasked with looking for interstellar clouds (Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite/ SWAS) passed over the park, participants received a message instructing them, “Press your nose against a glass window. Inhale. Exhale. Attempt to make cloud patterns with your breath.”

By the end of the two-month residency, we had about 500 subscribers to the system and collected hundreds of responses on the project’s Instagram account and website. A full archive of the text message prompts, corresponding satellite triggers and participatory responses can be found on our website: www.orbitingtogether.com/responses.

More about ORBITING TOGETHER: www.orbitingtogether.com
Performances that launched and concluded this project: ORBITING TOGETHER: Participatory Performances.
Temporary sculptures we constructed for the SAM Olympic Sculpture Park: TEMPORARY SCULPTURES FOR A SCULPTURE PARK.

ORBITING TOGETHER was generously funded by the 2018 Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park Winter Residency and a grant from the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation.  

Project Review: Tethers by Elissa Favero, published on the print & online art journal "SoFA". Issue 2: Perception
Above: A short video of each text message prompt, the satellite which triggered it and the participatory responses to each text. Below: Examples of text messages sent paired with information about it’s corresponding satellite.