A partly uncoiled measuring tape recording the ever-increasing distance between us and our lonely moon. A half-tonne rock rotating counter to Earth’s own axial spin that is the only truly ‘still’ object on the planet. Such are examples of works to be found in the quiet but ambitious Ingleby Gallery’s most recent show Jacob’s Ladder. This exhibition unites scientific advances in astronomy with pure human wonder through artworks that are poetic while remaining grounded in fact. Although we may feel increasingly close to uncovering the secrets hidden within the universe we are undoubtedly still easily struck by its marvel.
Attempts to negotiate this uneasiness manifest in works that reinterpret universal physical truth. In Cornelia Parker’s ‘Einstein’s Abstracts’ (1999) the artist has enlarged to the point of abstraction Albert Einstein’s notation from his 1931 Theory of Relativity lecture. While we can no longer discern the scientific truth of Einstein’s life work, we have gained an entirely new vision of our universe in Parker’s photomicrographs. At this intense scale Einstein’s chalk dust residue begins to resemble images of the cosmos and so, “Life imitates Art”.
Three sculptures occupy the main floor space. Katie Paterson’s ‘Campo del Cielo, Field of the Sky (72,400g)’ (2014) and Alicja Kwade’s ‘Stellar Day’ (2013) are in direct dialogue with each other due to the mimesis of rock and meteor forms. Their concerns, however, are vastly different. While ‘Campo del Cielo’ is a cast and melted meteorite finally re-cast in its original form, ‘Stellar Day’ is an earthbound object in another way. At first glance ‘Stellar Day’ is a large rock seemingly resting stationary against the gallery floor. However, the piece is actually slowly rotating in the opposite direction to earth and concludes a 360-degree rotation every 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.099 seconds, the time it takes for Earth’s own full rotation. The third sculpture was proposed by Peter Liversidge in a letter which is framed and hung on the gallery wall. An installation piece made of a 38-metre coiled measuring tape that is unwound to 186.2 centimetres it is a device which displays the physical distance between Earth and the Moon. Increasing at a steady annual rate of 3.8 centimetres the full length will be unravelled at the one thousandth anniversary of the 20 July moon landing in 1969.
For all those who have marvelled at our progress in space exploration and are interested in how it has affected the way we understand the universe’s beauty this stellar exhibition should not be missed.
Special thanks to the staff at Ingleby Gallery for allowing me out of hours access to Jacob’s Ladder.
At Ingleby Gallery
Until 20 October 2018
Image credit: Kenya April