The Light of the World

A world map built from white sugar cubes serves as a global canvas documenting the chronological history of nuclear detonations. This work provokes profound reactions and reflections on our technological advancements, their consequences and the impending threat of nuclear warfare and omnicide, the annihilation of all life forms, including humanity.

“If you took out all of the empty space in our atoms, the entire human species (all 8 billion of us) would fit into the volume of a single sugar cube.”

Humanity uniquely depends on collective myths, including religion, money, borders, capitalism, nuclear deterrence and others. These abstract narratives wield substantial influence over our physical reality.

Every product and object carries a narrative and iconography linking it to our planet’s prevailing mythology. These objects, such as a lighter symbolizing human progress or keys representing private property, possess complex histories intertwined with global resources and processes.

Sugar serves as a prime example of an inconspicuous yet influential narrative. Its transformation from a luxury to a societal staple was propelled by the British Empire and the industrial revolution, significantly shaping the modern narrative. Sugar’s history includes connections to slavery, the early factory system, and the development of multinational capitalism. Even today, the attempt to reduce sugar consumption has created new industrial opportunities, resulting in “sugar-free” products driven by cost savings and product variations.

Orbis Lumen - 3 min / version 2022

ORBIS LUMEN shows a map of the Earth built from multiple layers of white industrial sugar cubes and illuminated by the complete sequence of all nuclear explosions from 1945 to the present day. ORBIS LUMEN stages the most extreme power released by mankind, which irrevocably changed the atmosphere and ignited the epoch of the atomsphere with its application and supposed mastery of atomic power. Using the cubes as three-dimensional pixels, ORBIS LUMEN emphasizes the intimate relationship between information, energy, resources and their resulting impact on society and nature.

Luminale Frankfurt, 2018

Common depictions of Earth which we see in news and navigation systems are based on the Mercator projection displaying distorted and incorrect proportions of Earth’s landmasses.

Buckminster Fuller’s 1943 Dymaxion map is the only flat map of the entire surface of the Earth that reveals our planet as one continent in one ocean, without any obvious distortions of the relative shapes and sizes of the land areas, and without splitting any continents.

This anthropocentric map anticipated a new planetary environment, illustrating the possibility of a Russian nuclear missile approaching the United States via the North Pole – a subtle aspect absent from the commonly employed Mercator map.

ORBIS LUMEN highlights that what is often perceived as a “mastery” of nuclear power is, in reality, a repeated and deep-seated mistake, further exacerbated with each iteration. We continue to err, with some of these mistakes yielding practical insights, while others bring about alarming and destructive consequences. Many times, these errors encompass both aspects. ORBIS LUMEN provokes profound reactions and reflections on our technological advancements, their consequences and the impending threat of nuclear warfare and omnicide, the annihilation of all life forms, including humanity.

Welcome to the atomsphere!

by David Pinzer, Hellerau 2018

User Experience

Upon entering a dimly lit room, the user is enveloped in an atmosphere that prepares them for an immersive encounter. In the darkness, intermittent flashes begin to illuminate a world map, gradually revealing the Earth’s outline to the user.
A moment of intensity occurs as the entire map of Earth is suddenly bathed in blinding white light, creating a stark contrast. As the flashes persist, the user gradually comprehends that the map is crafted from an astonishing 40,000 industrial white sugar cubes.
This realization deepens the user’s connection to the artwork. The user discovers that these flashes symbolize a chronological record of over 2000 nuclear detonations. This revelation carries a profound and thought-provoking message.
The user is prompted to contemplate the collective experience and the unique nature of this nuclear canvas, fostering introspection on the theme of nuclear warfare explored by the artwork.

In summary, the user embarks on a captivating journey within a dimly lit room, witnessing the sugar cube map’s transformation into a potent visual archive of nuclear detonations. This immersive experience prompts profound contemplation of the extensive ramifications of these historical events and the potential for a peaceful world, devoid of nuclear weapons.

“The most beautiful and horrifying Dymaxion map yet.”

David McConville, The Buckminster Fuller Institute
Ars Electronica, Linz/AT 2018

One of the most unsettling pieces of art at this year’s Ars Electronica also offers a glimpse of the hidden. Berlin artist Michael Saup, Andreas Erhart and Andrea Winter have meticulously reconstructed a world map envisioned by the visionary Richard Buckminster Fuller using over 44,000 sugar cubes. On this sugary canvas, he projects various depictions of the Earth. Saup explains his choice of sugar cubes, stating, “Why sugar cubes? Essentially, sugar embodies energy. In times of peace, it fuels people and vehicles, but in times of conflict, sugar will be confiscated and transformed into explosives.”

At times, it flickers across the global canvas: Kazakhstan, Nevada, Japan… Then the entire Earth is enveloped in blinding white. It’s a chronological record of nuclear detonations. The artist initially conceived his project as a neutral representation, yet he couldn’t remain indifferent when he suddenly perceived these explosions not merely as abstract data but as projections on his world map. He remarked, “I was genuinely taken aback. The collective, the entrancing spectacle, the dazzling nature of the nuclear tests left me utterly astounded.”

The artists at Ars Electronica consistently excel in rendering the impacts of technology on our world visible. This year, once again, they demonstrate the importance of periodically questioning our achievements.

Von Philip Artelt, 09.09.2018, Deutschlandfunk Kultur, https://www.deutschlandfunkkultur.de/festival-ars-electronica-in-linz-wie-die-kunst-die-100.html


CYNETART Hellerau 2017


created by
Michael Saup, Andrea Winter & Andreas Erhart

co-produced by
Trans-Media-Akademie Hellerau e.V.

selected by
Ulf Langheinrich

Shuichi Fukazawa
David McConville, The Buckminster Fuller Institute, USA

supported by
International Uranium Film Festival
Umweltbundesamt Dessau, Germany

special thanks
Endre Ketzel, Thomas Dumke & the team at cynetart Dresden

with the help of
die wellenmaschine, Li Alin, Nicole Pesant Méalin, Rosa-Lee Sendlinger, Nadine Bors, the openframeworks community, Knut Bressgott, Laura & Emily Winter, Karolina Funk

filmed by
Acci Baba, Michael Saup & Pit Schulz


PDF in deutscher Sprache
PDF in English
Tech Rider 4


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