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Jodrell Bank Calling / Soup Collective

Fri 03 Oct 2014

by Becky Mulvaney, tags: ,

In October 2014, as part of the Watch the Skies! sci-fi weekend we commissioned Soup Collective to produce a film which transverses Jodrell Bank’s rich historic background and reinvents the surviving transcript from Kubrick’s lost 2001: A Space Odyssey prologue, which featured an interview with the pioneering creator of the observatory, Sir Bernard Lovell.

Aptly named Jodrell Bank Calling – a phrase taken from archived signals sent and received by scientists at the site in 1958 – we asked Soup to write a few words about the film’s production, why they accepted the challenge of working with an object which is an amazing 250ft in diameter and what their inspirations were for this unique project.

Jodrell Bank Calling by Soup Collective

Having created a film for Elbow’s Jodrell Bank gig a few years back, we jumped at the chance to further explore Lovell’s legacy. There’s been some amazing resource material to work with and a chance to break out of the YouTube window and onto the super structure that is the Lovell Telescope via some heavyweight projectors.

The commission has provided us with an opportunity to re-ignite a few creative collaborations from within Soup and draw on numerous imaging techniques that we’d only really scratched the surface of prior to this project. For example, the soundtrack comes courtesy of Graham Massey’s reworking of sound sourced from the Lovell telescope, taking the data and properties for the work Jodrell has done with pulsars and re-presenting it in a sonic context.

The film draws on a transcript between Bernard Lovell, the creator of what we now know as Jodrell Bank, and Roger Caras, VP of Kubrick’s production company. Caras was tasked with interviewing Lovell during the production of 2001: A Space Odyssey, for a prologue which was intended to be part of the feature film. The aim of this peice is to encompass the science, history and personality of Jodrell Bank, by working with individuals from Jodrell in the re-interpretation of the Lovell interview.

A point of reference for us has been the work of video artists Woody Vasulka and Brian O’Reilly. Their Rutt Etra visual synthesiser was designed to manipulate a live video signal, controlling waveform and voltage to manipulate an image and convert sound into image and vice-versa. Having spent the last year devising an analogue synthesiser based on the principles of the Rutt Etra, it felt like the perfect opportunity of utilise it, interpreting the content through original analogue synthesis, right through to modern digital visualisation techniques, using infra-red sensors to build 3D images – a celebration of the electromagnetic spectrum in all its glory.