Carrie Paterson

Carrie Paterson

Carrie Paterson, M.F.A., conducts an experimental practice in spatial and visual art with an emphasis on the fertile nexus between the disciplines of science, art, and engineering.

Since 2002, she has focused on the discourse, popular culture, science and technology of space exploration, astronomy, and astronautics. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from University of California, Irvine, a US utility patent, and is an editor with DoppelHouse Press, The Nomadic Journal, and Artillery: Killer Text on Art. As a writer, Paterson contributes essays, art reviews and critical articles to numerous art and culture publications, and was coauthor on a paper about the history and future of space greenhouses published in Acta Astronautica this year.

She is often a guest lecturer at universities and space conferences and taught graduate-level coursework for ten years in the visual art department at Cal State Fullerton.


Making Scents of Life on Earth: Embedding Olfactory Information into Multi-Channel Interstellar Messages

This talk proposes that an important goal for Active SETI will be to communicate the diversity and complexity of life and human cultures on Earth. This will best be achieved by exploring ways to embed decodable but elaborate information in signals that point to the lived experiences (e.g., embodiment) of being creatures not only living on this planet, but who are intimately of Earth. This talk will present concepts from perfumery, new findings on the organic chemistry of interstellar space, and Vladimir Vernadsky’s notions of life as a terraforming force from his groundbreaking work The Biosphere. As well, the lecture will suggest some possible technological solutions for sending multi-channel SETI signals as opposed to a stream of linear, binary information. Considerations have been put forward for communicating the periodic table in a binary signal; but what could a more complex molecular signal look like, and who would create it? How could we integrate scientific knowledge of molecular distribution in interstellar space with a creative, compositional aspect? Could this be an Earth-collaborative artwork? Suggesting as a starting point the limbic/olfactory system—the most ancient, reptilian part of our brains—the talk will connect our evolutionary inheritance as a species to a proposal for SETI signals designed not just to communicate our intelligence, but also our deep connection with other living beings, plant and animal. For it is not just the human ability to synthesize information that we should place value on, but also how we combine syntaxes into poetic forms of expression, just as we understand art not only through its technical features, but also its originality and authenticity.