In December 2006, artist Lita Albuquerque, whose work questions our place in the enormity of infinite space and eternal time, led an expedition to one of the purest and uninhabited places on Earth. The expedition journeyed to the farthest reaches of Antarctica, across the Ross Ice Shelf (800 miles north of the South Pole) to create Stellar Axis: Antarctica, the first installment of Albuqurque's global project Stellar Axis (which also includes 90 Degrees North at the North Pole). The Stellar Axis expedition crew included photographer Jean de Pomereu, astronomer Simon Balm, and documentary filmmakers Lionel Cousin and Sophie Pegrum, with Albuquerque at the helm. Made possible by the National Science Foundation, the project is both the first and largest ephemeral artwork on the continent.
The installation consisted of 99 blue spherical structures arranged on the polar ice in exact, calculated alignment with 99 stars. Each sphere's diameter correlated to the relative brightness of its unique, corresponding star. The resulting work created a large-scale stellar map on the Antarctic ice. As the planet rotated on its axis and continued to orbit around the sun, the relationship between the spheres and stars began to shift out of alignment, creating an imperceptible spiral of motion at the South Pole. To complete the Antacrtic leg of the Stellar Axis work, a group of 51 scientists and technicians from nearby research facility McMurdo Station aided a performance that traced a spiral path among the spheres. The line drawn by human feet visualized the invisible movement created by the earth's rotation and position of the stars as an ephemeral, human gesture symbolizing the often unseen relationship to our planet, the universe, and ourselves.
Stellar Axis: Antarctica existed on the Ross Ice Shelf from 14 to 27 December, 2006. The project has since generated related performances, films, a documentary, numerous installations and music by acclaimed composer Susan Deyhim, which are now on view at A. galerie in Paris, France.
"I am interested in change of scale: how the observer affects the object of observation; space as a void; non-space existing in time. By altering the scale and context of the grid (as a scientific tool of measurement), the grid becomes an artistic tool of perception.
The fossilized brachiopod from three hundred millions years ago appears to be an ancient remnant of star, waiting to be transformed back to its stellar origin.
Some brittle stars exist in the Antarctic and Arctic, and some are found even in the deepest parts of the ocean where there is no sunlight. Others have exquisitely developed crystalline lenses, formed from the bone in their skeletons, which focus light inside their bodies and enable them to see.
'But this is not blackness, it is full of something from long ago with the potential of something yet to be.'"
Lita Albuquerque was raised in Tunisia and Paris, returning to the United States at the age of eleven. With an art history degree from UCLA, she studied painting and sculpture at the Otis Art Institute in the mid-seventies, emerging in the California art scene as part of the light and space movement. Ms. Albuquerque has exhibited widely in renowned national and international museums and institutions including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Santa Monica Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and many more. In her art practice she has developed a visual language that brings the realities of vast time and space to a human scale. She has been commissioned to create art installations both nationally and internationally. Her most ambitious work to date, "Stellar Axis," is an ephemeral installation of a star map on ice. The first part was recently completed at the South Pole, entitled Stellar Axis: Antarctica and the second part is to be completed at the North Pole.
Lita Albuquerque and Jean de Pomereu
Stellar Axis: Antarctica
Rue Léonce Reynaud 12, Paris
On view through 14 January 2012