Beyond Visibility: Light and Dust

Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne 2009 | University of Technology Sydney Gallery 2009
Curators: Felicity Spear and David Malin, in collaboration with Gulumbu Yunupingu


Beyond Visibility Installation – UTS Gallery
Photo: Paul Pavlou

Photography is often used to reveal things that are not naturally visible to human perception. Still images of figures in motion provide a greater understanding of bio-mechanics. Microscopic lenses allow us to see molecular forms. And miniature cameras make it possible to view the inside of our own bodies.

The cameras ability to illuminate the otherwise imperceptible is especially evident in the field of astronomy, where photographic impressions of light from the moon and stars date back to the nineteenth century. Scientists and photographers pointed their cameras towards the skies believing that these images would provide a more reliable record of deep space than pictures drawn by hand with the aid of a telescope.

Beyond visibility: light and dust draws on the history of human efforts to make pictures of whatever lies beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Together these works show us how various systems of knowledge have sought to make sense of the cosmos and our place within it, while also reminding us that technological developments have shaped these images. They also demonstrate how the cosmos, even as we know it in increasing detail, remains a source of wonder and the marvellous.

For those of us living in large cities like Melbourne and Sydney, Beyond visibility invites us to pay attention to an aspect of the environment that many of us simply do not see. This is because the effects of artificial illumination and pollution blind us to its all encompassing presence. As David Malin suggests:

“Both art and science (especially astronomy) care about aspects of the world that are hidden in some way. Certainly the Sun and stars are responsible both for our existence and continued daily life, and many of the stars that created the elements in our bodies no longer exist, nor do we normally feel the need to acknowledge them. They are beyond vision yet a part of us.”

Beyond visibility is one of many public events that mark the International Year of Astronomy in 2009 and has been organized with MGA and UTS by the participants Felicity Spear and David Malin.


Deep Field
Felicity Spear
Art for Earthlings
Stephen Zagala
MGA Curator
The perception of ancient light
David Malin
Anglo-Australian Observatory and RMIT University
Art, science and mapping: reconstructing experience
Dr Peter Hill
Artist and writer

Elina Spilia
Australian Indigenous Studies & Art History Programs
The University of Melbourne
Review: Visual Abundance on Earth and Beyond
Robert McFarlane
Photographer and writer

Related Links