Sky Lab: from where you stand (2011)

Stephen McLaughlan Gallery, Melbourne 2011
Curator: Felicity Spear

Sky Lab: from where you stand - Installation

Sky Lab: from where you stand - Installation

Sky Lab: from where you stand - Installation

Sky Lab: from where you stand - Installation

Sky Lab: from where you stand reveals the idiosyncratic perspectives of five artists who are experimenting with models and concepts within the culture of sky-situated knowledge. They direct their gaze into a space which is largely inaccessible to the full range of our senses, and where it is possible to have only a remote experience. The question is, when we look into the night sky are we aware that we are seeing beyond our genetic programming, looking through time into a remote past?

Both art and science engage in fields of research which involve acts of observation, speculation and visualisation, the use of analogy and metaphor, the testing of ideas and finally the remaking of experience. From a cosmic perspective science tells us that Earth is a totally insignificant speck of dust in an expanding and accelerating Universe, and we are made from that dust. Through their research these Earthbound artists point towards a cosmos which is continually unfolding in mysterious and complex ways.

Skylab over Earth 29 April 2006

Skylab over Earth 29 April 2006 — Courtesy of NASA

What does it mean to be part of the expanding Universe and to understand that nothing is permanent ? The sky was once viewed as an extension of the life of the Earthbound observer to which the patterns of daily life and beliefs were intricately connected. Now it is regarded as ‘outer space’, a space which is increasingly demystified through specialised fields of knowledge in engineering, astronomy and physics. This cosmic space is no longer understood as a clockwork mechanism and a quantity of discrete objects. It is now thought of as a set of interacting processes and relational fields which challenge our understandings of what is meant by reality.

We are learning to re-negotiate the physical and phenomena in an increasingly desensitised and abstract milieu. Through computer simulations, physical space seems to be dematerialising, mapping a new form of reality generated by electronic data. Everything seems to be everywhere at all times. Remote space is mapped through virtual models and imaging technologies associated with time, light and sound. The invisibility of phenomena is revealed through the filter of a machine-produced visibility, and through the eye of analysis, where computerised imaging processes reveal the elusive materiality of light.

Today our horizon has expanded exponentially. Increasingly technological sophistication has enabled us to survey and appreciate the structure of the Universe. It has given us an understanding of our modest place in the scheme of things. The advancement of any branch of inquiry engenders new horizons, new choices and ethical challenges. The idea of ‘nature’ is increasingly filtered and mediated through ‘culture’ and its technologies, but the natural world, resistant and infinite in its depth, seems headed for defeat. Is there anywhere else to go? As the astronomer John Barrow has observed, ‘We feel like the Universe’s only child and that has many consequences.’ FS 2011

Included in this exhibition are the works of three Australian artists from Melbourne and Brisbane (Daniel Armstrong, Felicity Spear and Vanessa Stanley), Tarja Trygg from Aalto University, School of Art and Design, Helsinki, Finland, and a London based Nepali artist (Govinda Sah ’Azad’), all of whom presented their work at the cross disciplinary Seventh International Conference on the Inspiration of Astronomical Phenomena (INSAPVII), which took place at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, Bath, UK, in October 2010, and was organized by the University of Wales.

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