Over ten days in the summer of 2016, Christopher O’Leary traveled to the Atacama desert in Chile to complete the Carnegie Observatory’s first artist in residence. The Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory (LCO) is the historic campus which holds the twin Magellan telescopes, and is the future location of the Giant Magellan Telescope. These powerful ground-based machines study the universe using instruments called spectrometers that analyze the light of celestial bodies to understand their composition and behavior. Spectroscopy is the foundation of contemporary astronomical research, observing subjects as varied as the lifecycle of local asteroids, to the history of the universe itself.
O’Leary traveled to the LCO to continue his ongoing research project Cloud Chambers. While in residence, he studied these monumental machines, their creation and history, and how to parse the observational data they produce—how to read spectra. Cloud Chambers is an art and science research project exploring the aesthetics of astronomy and cosmology. Named after the early Twentieth Century device, the Cloud Chamber visualized the ambient cosmic activity transpiring around us. As we invented ever more complex instruments to uncover hidden aspects of the cosmos, so too did our ability to imagine the universe, and our futures within it.
Through his research at the Carnegie and elsewhere, O’Leary will complete a large-scale installation in 2018, and a series of smaller works that visualize the invisible cosmic environment in which we live.
Christopher O’Leary is an artist who works at the intersection of science, futurism and fantasy to create technologically experimental works of animation, photography and installation. His work borrows from an array of sources such as science fiction, comic books, popular film, and the hard sciences. Recent projects include a generative animation visualizing black holes, a series of hacked digital images of performances, and an apocalyptic animation made of thousands of photographs contemplating our fragile resources. He is currently a visiting researcher at the UCLA ArtSci Research Center working on his current project titled Cloud Chambers. He is a founding member of the artist collective called Speculative which has exhibited and programmed events around Los Angeles. These include a series of events at Machine Project bringing artists and scientists together to discuss Dark Matter, and an exhibition at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions about speculative fiction and art. Christopher has shown his work in Seattle, Los Angeles, Belgrade, Istanbul, Rome, and Torun, Poland. Christopher received his MFA from UCLA and his BFA and BA from the University of Washington. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.