Presentations & Papers

Beyond Visibility

Presentation given at the National Library of Australia in March 2012 for ‘Star Light, Star Bright’ as part of ENLIGHTEN (Canberra Festival), with astronomer Professor Brian Schmidt and author Michael Leunig.

Beyond Visibility [PDF 870KB]

Looking back, my life seems to have been punctuated by a patchwork of encounters with the sky and space. I suspect that some of you will relate to these when I take you on this brief tour. Like random pieces of a puzzle, they nevertheless build a picture of the way our lives intersect with things astronomical, as well as changing our view of the world.

Extending vision: sky-situated knowledge and the artists eye

Conference paper given at the seventh international conference on The Inspiration of Astronomical Phenomena - Bath, UK (INSAP VII) in October 2010.

Extending vision: sky-situated knowledge and the artists eye [PDF 1.6MB]

Increasingly, we are looking beyond our planet to speculate about our place in the Universe. In the context of ideas about the sky and cosmic space, art works have the potential to provoke curiosity and to play an educative and imaginative role in visualising connections with science, history and a space beyond the full range of our senses.

While both artists and scientists reconstruct the material world on the basis of understanding, artists are able to exploit subjectivity and are not accountable to demonstrate proof. In this way, art seeks a poetic dimension or insight which speaks of things outside art in new or different ways. This paper discusses my recent research and the exhibitions I curated to coincide with the 2009 International Year of Astronomy. Included in these were an astro­photographer and a number of Australian artists, both Western and Indigenous, whose work has been influenced by the speculative and experimental processes involved with observation, image-capture and mapping, and the technological developments which shape human consciousness.

They draw also on the history of human efforts to picture whatever lies beyond Earth’s atmosphere. This space, mostly beyond the naked eye, is revealed now through a machine-produced visibility which extends our vision. Together, these works show us how various systems of knowledge have sought to make sense of the cosmos and our place within it.