Minimalist in form yet monumental in conceptual scope, the work of Glasgow-born artist Katie Paterson explores the axis between site-specific materiality, and the formless infinitude of geological space and non-human timescales. Her work, which often involves collaboration with astronomers, scientists, arborists and architects, expands the disciplinary category of Art and enmeshes it with that of Geology, Ecology and Cosmology: a live soundscape broadcast of a melting glacier; a cartographic index of dead stars; a lightbulb that simulates moonlight.
Her projects stage encounters between subject and environment that are both intimate and astronomical, making vast imaginative leaps from the here-and-now to the most distance edges of time and the cosmos. Complex questions of matter, scale and process persist in Paterson’s work, but find simple and practical articulation in material manifestations. Often initiated as thought experiments, Paterson connects human gesture to the infinitesimal through processes of surveillance, transmission and flight.
1. Earth-Moon-Earth (Moonlight Sonata Reflected from the Surface of the Moon)
2. Campo del Cielo, Field of the Sky.
3. Vatnajökull (the sound of).
4. 100 Billion Suns
This essay was originally printed in FLIGHTS 2020.
1 In this work, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata was translated into Morse code and send to the moon via E-M-E transmission. Returning to Earth fragmented by the Moon’s craterous surface, the composition was then transcribed into a new score, the information lost in transmission indicated by musical rests and intervals.
2 Campo del Cielo, Field of the Sky (2012-2014) involved melting down and re-casting a 4.5-billion-year-old ‘Campo del Cielo’ meteorite. The artist took the meteorite month to a foundry where it was cast in wax and cut slowly into quarters which revealed the internal lines that tell of its history. The meteorite was recast to its original shape, and launched back into space by the European Space Agency.
3 Vatnajökull (the sound of), 2007/08 articulated humanity's connection to climate change by recording the sound of the Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland before it disappeared into the ocean. For the duration of the work, anybody in the world could call the number 07757001122 to listen to the sound of the Icelandic glacier melting. A live phone line was installed via an underwater microphone.
4 100 Billion Suns (2011) refers to the luminosity (that being 100 billion times brighter of our sun) of gamma-ray bursts - the brightest explosions in the universe. Katie Paterson created confetti cannons containing 3,216 pieces of different shaped and coloured paper which corresponded to the variety of explosion.