The Closed World – Julian Oliver

23 – 25 May and 30 May – 1 June
17:30 – 21:30 

**Locations to be announced**

In 2023 Astronomers warned that the light pollution created by the soaring number of satellites orbiting Earth poses an “unprecedented global threat to nature” and to their entire profession. As of January 2024 there are 8,377 active satellites orbiting earth, 84% of them in low Earth orbit. Launched by companies like SpaceX and RocketLab to create satellite based communications networks, the number is only growing. As the number of satellites grows over the next decade it is predicted that the darkest part of the night sky will become 7.5 percent brighter. This means a reduction in celestial events that humanity will get to observe, both by the naked eye and by telescopes.  

In a Nature comment piece, astronomer Aparna Venkatesan warned that “space is our shared heritage and ancestor—connecting us through science, storytelling, art, origin stories and cultural traditions—and it is now at risk.”

Using technology embedded in a modified telescope, The Closed World, presents a convincing yet entirely fabricated cosmos, created using machine learning techniques. Pivoting on a tripod, the telescope can be moved so as to scan the machine-generated cosmos as though it were the real cosmos above. Developed by artist Julian Oliver, the interactive artwork asks whether we could even tell a fabricated starscape from that of the real, while also addressing the deepening reach ‘AI’ and technologies of simulation have in the interpretation and production of truth.


The Closed World is presented across six nights and three different locations. Look through the telescope and experience the alternate night sky between 5:30 and 9:30pm Thursday – Saturday from the 23rd of May to the 1st of June. 

The Closed World was commissioned by Aotearoa Digital Arts Network for the 2024 Symposium, ‘Rising Algorithms: Navigate, Automate, Dream.’ supported by Creative New Zealand and Wellington City Council.