“A billion years from now, when everything on Earth
we’ve ever made has crumbled into dust, the Voyager
record will still speak for us.” – Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan
1977 marked an astounding year for NASA – it was the year when mankind launched its first ever message into the depths of interstellar space, a cultural Noah’s ark known as The Golden Record.
Launched on the Voyager 1 spacecraft, the galactic album, created by scientist Carl Sagan, was intended to communicate a story of Earth to spacefaring extraterrestrials. The humble 12-inch gold-plated copper disk includes a whopping 116 images, greetings, natural sounds and samples of the world’s greatest music. It even includes the brain waves of a young woman in love.
The record, hurtling off towards the stars, is now more than 20 billion km away from Earth. It has a shelf life of hundreds of millions of years.
This year’s NUS Arts Festival features its own rendition of this momentous event, a piece of documentary theatre also titled The Golden Record, directed and created by Edith Podesta and performed by NUS Stage.
The Ridge had a special opportunity to speak to Edith about her upcoming production.
1. The Golden Record, with its more scientific and technical undertones, does seem to be very different from your more recent works, which include Bitch: The Origin of the Female Species (M1 Fringe 2016) and Dark Room (performed at the Esplanade, April/May 2016). What inspired you to write this theatrical production?
“Although it may seem that The Golden Record is a deviation from my usual path of artistic inquiry, it is actually very much in line with my interest in the human condition, culture and artistic endeavour. This production represents the intersection of arts and sciences. It is an examination of ‘the role of the artist in a new world order’, something very much in keeping with my present curiosities.”
2. Of NASA’s numerous milestones, what was it about the Voyager 1 mission which intrigued you most?
“I think it was The Golden Record’s relevance across time, space, and cultural interpretation.”
3. Did you encounter any difficulties getting access to preexisting materials which inspired this piece of documentary theatre?
“The internet is a wonderful thing! I am happy to say that the publication [Carl Sagan’s 1978 book, Murmurs of Earth, which inspired this piece] is now in EBook form. The NASA website has also been invaluable during the research phase of the production.”
4. Going through the material electronically placed in The Golden Record, how did exploring the scenes, greetings, music and sounds from earth make you feel?
“I came away from the exploratory phase of the production feeling vulnerable and small as a citizen of this universe, but in equal measure hopeful. Carl Sagan’s act offering “of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings” to unknown extraterrestrial life puts the importance of culture into perspective; It’s the only thing that will be left of our world as the Voyager continues its journey into interstellar space millions of years from now.”
5. What can theatre lovers and enthusiasts anticipate in this production?
Because of The Golden Record’s universal subject matter, the play is open to anyone. I believe artists will be intrigued by the cultural samples included in the original record, and those who are interested in science and astronomy will be fascinated by the process, politics and ultimately by the continued success of the Voyager spacecraft space mission.
6. Moving forward, can you share with us some of your plans to revise and expand on this work at future festivals?
This play launches into a one-year conversation with the audience about what cultural, anthropological, and scientific artefacts constitute an accurate exemplification of the human race. We hope to interview a large cross section of Singaporeans with regards to what they would like to see included in a Golden Record if the Singapore’s space program was launching their own robotic probe into the outer solar system. The responses will be weaved into a play presented by NUS Stage as part of the 2018 NUS Arts Festival.
Catch The Golden Record on Friday, March 17th, at 8pm, and Saturday, March 18th, at 3pm and 8pm at the UCC Dance Studio. Tickets are priced at 19, and you can get them here!
(To find out more about NASA’s actual Golden Record, you can visit http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov for more information.)