Bonn Patternization 


- original title: Bonner Durchmusterung is a sonification and visualisation of astrophysical phenomena by Marcus Schmickler (composition), Alberto de Campo (sonification) and Carsten Goertz (visualisation).

The eponymous starting point of our project is the Bonn patternization drawn up by the astronomer Friedrich Argelander (1799–1875) and his co-workers. This is not only the most historic work ever to have been conducted in Bonn; it also includes every star that can be seen in the night sky with the naked eye or a small telescope. The locations of the stars alter so little that today's night sky can still by-and-large be described by the data of the Bonn patternization.


For composition with data, a form must be found or invented that is both scientific and as consistent as possible. On the other hand much more fundamental questions arise concerning the relationship between data and reality of the observed objects, whose own nature, if there is one, is at first unknown. How does one come from a complex series of numbers to an understanding of the objects or even to a consistent phenomenology of the cosmos, and what role could sound play in this? Conversely there is an appeal in deriving interesting acoustic events and musical structures from complex theoretical models of particle physics and astrophysics.


Science today is the production of symbols and their usage: an immensely differentiated and efficient usage that creates knowledge and manipulates opinions. Their use is ambivalent, ancient and in part paradoxical. However it is seldom the picture to which the scientist provides the answer, but rather the content of the picture, which has come to be created through the intense distillation of a mathematical process.


As Kant described with his "Copernican change", we know that we do not observe the thing itself or even its own appearance, but rather the thing as it is for us; we mostly see just what we expect to see, which is why the history of astrophysics has produced a variety of completely different views of the world. Alongside the observed or calculated events it is also these knowledge processes that interest us in this project.


Visualization is the pictorial counterpart to sonification and already has a long tradition from the point of view of the scientific disciplines. We deal every day with the depiction of data, technical images – whether a pie chart or a computer-generated view of telescopic images – they are, for us, immediately readable and a self-evident part of our alphabet. We can observe that the repertoire of symbols seems constantly to broaden, indeed to become more specific. This pictorial process of alphabetization is becoming continually more important and constitutively effective as regards our conceptions of the world – because the social agreements on what reality is are to a considerable extent argued through pictures. That makes it necessary to use this alphabet not only with scientific methodology but also to shape it out of the other great visual discipline: art. Art often takes up a position antagonistic to science. It questions the applied grammar of the pictures by transferring technical images into other contexts of meaning, experimenting with alternative methods of picture production or just altering the algorithms.


Where science searches for universality, art attempts to formulate a singularity. That is anything but easy or undemanding; it can occur by means of an uncertain shot in the dark and often emerges as a distressing impossibility. It is not possible to methodically manufacture the unforeseeable as the regularity; difference is not easier than repetition. "Everywhere we seek the Absolute, and always we find only things." (Novalis, Blütenstaub)


In view of this evident dichotomy, however, it makes one wonder why Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, of all people, after they had described quantum mechanics, saw in poetry something resembling the last way out for the ultimate science. The construction of reality, science and art is thus even more intricate, because the described antagonistic stance is only the simplest artistic position. In the same way, scientific aesthetics and methods are to a considerable extent verified in art and design or combined with the artist's own methods. Where the systems do not define themselves by means of opposing delimitations, but rather become involved in an interplay, a poetic interpretation, depiction and contextualization of scientific knowledge takes place. The political and social effects of science become visible. In this way a qualitatively new position is created that can be enriching in both directions. Literally enriching: a step forward towards a diverse understanding of reality, the spectrum broadened rather than simplified and consequently increasingly able to do justice to an endless cosmos. This much humility is only appropriate, as we are all – artists, scientists, philosophers and theologians – merely the plumbers of the universe, trying to plug the black holes in the drainpipe. 

(Dr. Michael Geffert, Marcus Schmickler, Alberto de Campo, Carsten Goertz in May 2009)


The work was comissioned by Deutscher Musikrat and premiered as contribution to the International Year of Astronomy 2009 at Kunst- und Austellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland.



Bonn Patternization, *****, astronomy, super collider, Live Visuals


Notation. Calculation and Form in the Arts (2008) is a comprehensive catalogue (in German) edited by Dieter Appelt, Hubertus von Amelunxen and Peter Weibel which accompanied an exhibition of the same name at the Academy of the Arts, Berlin and the ZKM | Karlsruhe. (ZKM)

Computer Music Journal: Visual Music (2005) - The articles in this issue are all devoted to the topic of Visual Music: audiovisual creations in which the artist strives to endow the video component with formal and abstract qualities that mimic those of musical composition. (Computer Music Journal)



VJam Theory: Collective Writings on Realtime Visual Performance (2008) presents the major concerns of practitioners and theorists of realtime media under the categories of performance, performer and interactors, audiences and participators. The volume is experimental in its attempt to produce a collective theoretical text with a focus on a new criticality based on practitioner/ artist theory in which artist/ practitioners utilise theoretical models to debate their practices. (VJ Theory)

Itaru Yasuda (1984) is a Japanese audiovisual artist. Based in Tokyo. Focusing on computational audiovisual composition. Representative of a new generation of composers in this field, Itaru Yasuda takes algorithmic composition to levels of intricacy that years ago would have required a warehouse full of computer processing. These days, with the help of software like SuperCollider, audiovisual work can reach new levels of expression without the hindrance of hardware or technological boundaries. This might just be a sneak peak into the future. (Itaru Yasuda)

APB - All Points Between (2001) was a live audio visual performance by The Light Surgeons. An feature length performance which skipped around the world through a series of capsule narratives and audio visual tracks. It combined and remixed original documentary material (including the short films Thumbnail Express and The City of Hollow Mountains) wth DJing and a multi screen presentation involving video, slides and 16mm projections. (The Light Surgeons)

David O'Reilly (*1985) is a young Irish animator working out of Berlin. 2009 he won the best short film Golden Bear in Berlin for Please Say Something, a melancholy modern day kitchen sink drama between a loving cat-type creature and an inattentive mouse. He also created the Youtube cult Octocat animations under the pseudonym Randy Peters, a nine year old kid. He also directed the lush animated video for U2 and their new single I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight and has made it into another beautiful small dramatic story. (

Len Lye (2009) co-edited by the curator Tyler Cann and the writer, critic and poet Prof. Wystan Curnow is a tribute to one of New Zealand’s most internationally acclaimed artists is the most comprehensive visual presentation of Len Lye’s art to date.

Over 1,000 new photographs were created and hundreds of them selected for this image-rich publication, presenting the full range of Len Lye’s work, from drawings and paintings right through to his photograms and kinetic experimentations. (Govett-Brewster)