xCenter, Nova Gorica, Slovenia
31 August – 07 October 2022

Somnium is a robotic and audiovisual installation that provides visitors with the ability to contemplate and experience exoplanetary discoveries, their macro- and microdimensions and the potential for life in our galaxy.

Somnium is a robotic and audiovisual installation that provides visitors with the ability to contemplate and experience exoplanetary discoveries, their macro- and microdimensions and the potential for life in our galaxy.

At the center of Somnium sits a round glass disc that has been laser etched with an image captured by the Kepler Space Telescope (KST). The image contains hundreds of thousands of stars. A robotic microscope slowly travels the surface of the disc, displaying the microscopic view to visitors using large-scale wall projections. The exact location of the microscope within the starfield is tracked and correlated with luminosity measurements taken by the KST. These measurements, called “light curves,” are converted into sounds that immerse visitors in an ever-changing wash of audio corresponding to the stars they see projected around them

Somnium invites philosophical questions about the possibility of the existence of life beyond our planet. The work reveals the simplicity and beauty behind the extremely sophisticated technology and methods [End Page 437] of the Kepler Mission. Visitors can experience this beauty and understand the questions that arise on a human, aesthetic and accessible scale.

Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) authored seminal texts on what we now know as his laws of planetary motion. These affirmed the Copernican heliocentric model of our solar system and, later, Newton’s laws of gravity. In one of these books, Somnium (English: A Dream), published posthumously in 1634, he explained with detailed precision how Earth would look if observed from the Moon. In 2009, NASA’s Discovery Mission No. 10, also known as the Kepler Mission, deployed the KST in search of exoplanets in or near “habitable zone” orbits. Over four years, the KST recorded the varying light intensities (known as “light curves”) of star systems located near the stars Deneb and Vega in the Cygnus and Lyra constellations in a 100-square-degree 3,000-light-year field of view.

As of 2018, the KST has enabled the discovery of 2,327 confirmed exoplanets. Of these, 30 are less than twice Earth-sized and within their star’s habitable zone. Several are potential candidates for life as we know it. These discoveries challenge the notion that Earth alone is the center and extent of life in the Milky Way galaxy. The profound scientific and philosophical consequences of the Kepler Mission echo the effect of the work of Kepler, the man.


xCenter, Nova Gorica, Slovenia, 31 August – 7 October 2022
SIGGRAPH 2018 Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada, 12 – 16 August 2018
SIQ, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 11 October – 17 November 2017
Galerija Kapelica, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 6 – 30 July 2017
New Museum Los Gatos, CA, USA, 28 October 2016 – 5 March 2017


K. Yerkes, M. Peljhan & D. Bazo: Somnium, 2016-2017
robotic and AV installation

Produced by: Zavod Projekt Atol (Marko Peljhan & Uroš Veber)
Coproduction: Systemics Lab, UCSB
Coorganised by: Galerija Kapelica / Zavod Kersnikova
Would not be possible without: SETI Institute’s Artist in Residence Program

With support by City of Ljubljana and Ministry of Culture.

The exhibition was a part of the international event Earth Without Humans II in the framework of European Digital Art and Science Network, organized by Kapelica Gallery and supported by EU – Creative Europe.


Marko Peljhan is a theatre and radio director, conceptual artist and researcher. He founded and co- founded several still active arts organizations in the 90’s such as Projekt Atol and one of the first media labs in Eastern Europe LJUDMILA. From 1994 on he worked on Makrolab, a project that focuses on telecommunications, migrations and weather systems research in an intersection of art/science/engineering; the Interpolar Transnational Art Science Constellation and the Arctic Perspective Initiative. He is the recipient of many prizes for his work, including the 2001 Golden Nica Prize at Ars Electronica with Carsten Nicolai and his work has been exhibited internationally at multiple biennales (Venice, Lyon, Istanbul, Gwangju…) and festivals, at documenta, ISEA, Ars Electronica and museums and art institutions worldwide (YCAM, ICC-NT, PS.1. MOMA, GARAGE…).

He serves as professor and director of the MAT Systemics Lab at the University of California Santa Barbara, the Chair of the Media Arts and Technology program at UCSB, the coordinator of international cooperation of the SPACE-SI Slovenian Centre for Space Sciences and Technologies and editor at large of the music label rx:tx. In the radio spectrum he is known as S54MX.

Marko Peljhan

Karl Yerkes’s research explores the intersection of embedded computing, ensemble performance, and multimedia systems. He holds a BS in Computer Engineering from the University of Washington, Seattle and is (together with Danny Bazo and prof. Marko Peljhan) selected as a 2013-2015 artist in residence at the SETI Institute.

Danny Bazo is a robotic engineer and multimedia artist living in California and researching the use of technology from Geiger counters to autonomous cameras. His installations and sculptures confront our understanding of perception and understanding. He has exhibited his work at numerous exhibitions and conferences, including DRONE in Montreal’s Mois De La Photo, ACM SIGGRAPH, ACM SIGGRAPH Asia and ACM Multimedia.