On July 11th, 2022, at the White House, US President Joe Biden unveiled Webb’s First Deep Field – the first operational image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope showing a cluster of galaxies located 4.6 billion light years from Earth in the Volans constellation. This event, while a glimpse into the scientific future, was also a glimpse into the distant past. With Webb’s mission, observations of the first stars formed after the Big Bang (about 13.799 billion years ago) began. The universe became a gigantic archive of cosmic history available at the telescope’s fingertips.
Inspired by the Webb images (or rather, by the web images – because I have seen all the materials published by NASA on the internet, in gigantic resolution, enhanced, breathtaking, but also completely incomprehensible to someone who has no idea about astronomy), I decided to look at the WRO Archive as a source of such historical trash images. Unused shots, rehearsed recordings, a camera accidentally turned on, a microphone accidentally turned on – all of these materials clog up archive disks with data, like photos from the web clog up the memory on my phone. But something makes us keep them, remember them. Behind each of them is a knowledge and a history that can be decoded, if only we stop treating them as visual curiosities and wasted data.
So, during Thursday’s trash-lab, I will turn my telescope’s eye to the history of the strange trash-material found during my travels through the terabytes of space of the WRO Archive.