About Europa

In 1995, NASA's Galileo mission returned intriguing evidence that confirmed previous speculations about Jupiter's sixth moon, Europa: it is covered in water. Water is the one thing that we know for certain is required to sustain life as we understand it. Aside from the oceans of our home, Europa lays claim to the single biggest known mass of water in our solar system. Unfortunately, Europa is so far from the sun that its surface temperature is well below freezing. Initially, our best observations assumed it to be nothing more than a (relatively) smooth ball of ice. Many years of scrutiny of the Galileo data have determined, however, that the surface of the frozen moon is, in fact, the icy upper layer of an ocean of liquid water. 

Such an ocean need not necessarily be the frigid dismal place that we might at first assume. Recent explorations of our own deep oceans have surprised us by revealing that entire living ecosystems can arise at great depth in high pressure and cold waters, and completely unreliant on sunlight. It is, therefore, not unthinkable that life may have evolved on Europa.

It is unlikely that anyone alive today will ever physically visit the oceans of Europa, but even so we may still find ways to explore them. Through the remote eyes of robots like the Mars explorers Spirit and Opportunity, and the Cassini Huygen's probe, humans have created a way to see places where our fragile bodies may never go.

Watching Europa is a speculative artistic impression of one possible future exploration. It is not intended to be in any way scientifically accurate and should not be viewed as a prediction of what we might find on Europa. It is, rather, a contemplation on the act of technical watching-at-a-distance, and the wonder and frustration inherent in such an act.

About the project

There is no way to know whether there are actually any living things on Europa. We can hypothesize all kinds of fantastical creatures, but if there's one thing that the examination of our own planet's ecosystem has taught us, it's that life is much more diverse and bizarre than our wildest flights of imagination.

My aim with this project is not, therefore, to make guesses as to what we might find in Europa's oceans. What I hope to evoke is the sense of wonder and surprise that we might feel in the event that we did discover anything at all alive on another world. Finding life of any kind, anywhere, would have profound consequences for us, scientifically, philosophically and culturally. For me, the remote, robotic viewing of distant planets embodies a kind of excitement and hopeful expectation tinged by poignant longing.

I also intend the work to have a kind of hypnotic quality that creates an engagement with the 'alien' environment on a level that transcends mechanical scientific scrutiny and becomes simply a mysterious, and, I hope, beautiful experience.  

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