Cosmos, dust, space, time, universe

Artist Katie Paterson’s new show at Turner Contemporary (Margate, until 6 May 2019) is now in full swing and has earned her much positive critical review. The largest UK exhibition of her work to date, the show pairs her works with that of JMW Turner.

The accompanying book, A place that exists only in moonlight, is a gorgeously produced and deliciously pocket-sized beauty that’s covered in real cosmic dust that she ground down in a pestle and mortar. No, really! It contains a series of 100 short poetic texts that are all considered artworks in their own right, ones that that only ever exist in one’s imagination – a book of ideas that can take you to places you may have only dreamed of, or never even thought of before.

Paterson’s art has often concentrated on what’s out there, in the universe, in the wider expanse and she often collaborates with scientists and researchers from all over the world. As Cornelia Parker succinctly puts it, ‘Katie Paterson can take you out of your realm – she is so original, engaging and expansive. She makes us realise how inconsequential we are in relation to the universe.’

For example, her first monograph (now in limited supply) includes 25 of her previous artistic projects – a map of dead stars; a live sound broadcast of a melting glacier; and a light bulb effect that mimics moonlight. But perhaps the most interesting project for book-lovers like us, and the most frustrating because we’ll all be dead and buried before we can actually see the end results, is her planting of a forest so that it can supply paper for an anthology of books that will be published in 100 years’ time. If only we could time travel to the future! But maybe this is Paterson’s own version of travelling through time – her bookish future legacy?

Another artist that takes on projects of such longevity is Jem Finer and his 1000-year musical composition by Longplayer. Started in 1999, Longplayer will finally complete its continuous and without-repetition, ever-evolving musical creation on 31 December 2999, with the aim of trying to make sense of such a huge expanse of time. What will the world be like then? The book explores our notions of time, musical duration, and also the role of technological change. Included with the book is a 12” vinyl with three Longplayer-created musical excerpts.

Architect Christian Wassman’s Sun Path House and Other Cosmic Architectures is his first comprehensive monograph, covering his past projects as well as acting as a manifesto for those in the future. His practice emanates from the interconnectivity of the arts, his love of geometry and a deep awareness of the cosmos. It is deeply informed by what he witnessed at Jantar Mantar observatories in India. Everything there is designed and constructed, carefully connecting people to themselves, to one another and to the cosmos itself.

Still on the cosmic theme, and if you want to find out more about the first man ever to leave the earth’s orbit, Yuri Gagarin, then take a look at the British Council’s Gagarin in Britain. The book compellingly tells the little-known story of the early days of the ambitious Soviet Space Programme. It also covers the diplomatic shenanigans caused when Britain gave him a hero’s welcome, against their normal anti-Soviet cautions at this time. It comes complete with photos of this visit.

Acclaimed British artists and filmmakers AL and AL also touch on the subject of the bigger cosmos in their Incidents of Travel in the Multiverse, first published alongside an exhibition here at HOME in 2016. Working with ground-breaking scientists, they created 3 separate films of three imagined journeys through the multiverse – of which our very own universe is only one. Travel to the edge of a black hole; see thinking-machines of the future travel back in time to search for father of the computer age, Alan Turing; and traverse across the cosmos to find the origins of life and a cure for death.

In another manipulation centred around the connectivity of time, in Time Machine, a British Museum exhibition by curator James Putnam juxtaposes ancient Egyptian artefacts alongside contemporary works by 12 different artists. By doing so he tries to baulk against the idea that such artefacts are considered stagnant, that they remain in the past, or that they are not connected to the future. Instead they are to be seen to be relevant and highly connected to today.

In the 2013 exhibition and accompanying book, The Alternative Guide to the Universe: Maverick Arts and Sciences, the Hayward Gallery surveys artist and engineer creations so unexpected, with such profound possibilities that they could almost be suggesting an alternate reality. It includes the work of 25 self-taught architects, artists, photographers, futurists, outsider engineers and scientists. Do they really trump common sense and today’s received wisdom? You decide!

These are just some examples of our bulging backlist of titles (over 4,000 of them in total), with these ones loosely connected around a cosmic, space and time-related theme. If you love books and art, then once you begin looking here you won’t be able to stop. So start exploring our list for yourselves as there are sure to be titles ‘out there’ in our very own Cornerhouse Publications universe that connect to your own thoughts and to inspire your own imagination.

Posted on 5th March 2019
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