Art and computation could be a portal to better understanding the universe at large—at least, that’s what NASA and French artist Patrice Olivier Acardy are betting on. With NASA’s support and a custom-built helmet, Acardy is currently setting off on “secret explorations and missions” inside the world of fractals and documenting his voyages on Instagram.
The project, titled Outre_Part, combines the French expression autre part, meaning “elsewhere,” with the adverb outre, which means “beyond, further.” Acardy’s otherworldly fractals, like the ones he released last year with visual EP Critical Density, caught the attention of someone at NASA. “For him, I was doing the same thing that the astronauts who work with them do: navigating, exploring, and witnessing the unknown.”
The NASA researcher in question remains anonymous for now, and his research, which is in its early stages, is still shrouded in mystery. The overarching idea, however, is essentially the premise of Interstellar: “There must exist a multitude of universes on other planes, connected together, but elsewhere, outside of the solar system or outside of the cosmic universe as it is defined,” summarizes Acardy, who is one of several people providing data to help support this budding theory. “My job is to ‘visually’ demonstrate the existence of other forms of life, with unknown textures, materials, energies, and technologies that exist in this fractal universe.”
“Why would this fractal universe not be a real place that exists in time and space? If we can generate computer images and videos of this world, it must exist materially somewhere, or be realizable,” adds the artist. “Why not dedicate ourselves to imagining this universe, and in doing so, create it?”
From his home on the island of Réunion, way out in the Indian Ocean, Acardy plugs in the six USB ports that connect his helmet to his computer, and dives into the great beyond. Thanks to software he has created that groups together other fractal applications like Chaotica, XenoDream, and Apophysis, he can tinker endlessly with parameters like the size, position, texture, weight, and shape of the fractal. After adjusting the color palette, he then waits for the rendering, which can take anywhere from 15 to 1,440 minutes.
In the short term, Acardy needs to finish customizing his helmet and add more VR functions. He also plans on exhibiting the work regularly, and delving into experimentations with video, sound, and 3D printing. Beyond that, he vows to post his work to Instagram for as long as he can, whether or not NASA is involved. He says, “I feel like this is the project of an entire life, and I have to share it with people.”