May 25, 2005

new map of the centre of the universe

Oxford, University Parks : June 3rd - June 31st 2005

Trying to write a simple explanation as to what “The Centre of the Universe” is about I can only say this: there is no single answer.

There was a simple starting point, a clear and concise idea. Working in the Astrophysics department, one of my interests was radio astronomy, a point at which invisible information becomes tangible, an extension of our senses into wavelengths below the optical.

I decided I’d like to build a radio telescope out of found materials, out of wood and wire and old circuits. It seemed to me that when I talked to people about the subject they glazed over, as if I was suddenly talking in some strange new language. I wanted to show how simple, in essence, the idea of radio astronomy is and somehow to transform this interest into a sculptural form.

To think about the universe and our place within it I used to think one had to stick ones head into space and look around. Gradually it dawned on me that one need look no further than the passage of shadows across a room, the slow spinning of the night sky about the axis of Polaris, the heat of the sun. Slow learner. I came to the Astrophysics department to look into space and discovered the earth.

At some point it occurred to me to build the telescope as a union between historical extremes of astronomical observation; between an ancient observatory, in the form of a ziggurat, a spiral tower, and a radio dish.

Working outside offered the opportunity to make a direct connection between the telescopes location on earth and the universe at large. The tower, spiralling up towards the cosmos, the bowl a passive zen-like focus, waiting for a particle to fall, at the end of a journey across untold expanses of time and space. Detected by a blip on a screen, a burst of noise from a speaker.

From this clear, simple genesis new ideas and associations started to emerge, an expanding network of people and books, theories, histories, technology and architecture, the Tower of Babel, language, Finnegans Wake, the spiral, the topology of the universe, space elevators, labyrinths, the structure of reality. . . . all these and more lie entwined within “The Centre of the Universe”, among them things I have no idea of, to be discovered.

I have no desire in telling anyone a “truth”, a closed story. I am only interested in finding a thread, unpicking it . . . and watching a world unfold.

Everyone creates the universe according to their own experiences, their own observations. Everyone, every point, is the centre.

Posted by Jem Finer at May 25, 2005 8:04 AM