How we see the Universe, how we document the Universe, and how we think the Universe is going to treat us (and how we are to treat it) in the future. That is what this exhibition explores.
In order to understand my perceptions gathered from the exhibition, allow me to give a short breakdown of its contents. The narrative happens in 4 main themes:
- Our Vision of The Universe
- The Universe as Space-Time
- A New View of Life
- Space Art
Come to think of it, I think that’s quite self-explanatory, so here we go:
Section I: Our Vision of the Universe
This bit is about how we used to see the Universe in all its glory.
So in this section, there are a range of artworks and scientific documentations: from Indian deities of various religions (Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism) to Star Charts illustrated by the Greeks. There’s also a handscroll from Japan detailing The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter (google it.)
It really puts into perspective how our view of the cosmos today has been shaped by our ancestors: religion, astronomy and other life.
That being said, there are a couple of things that I thought of looking at these artifacts:
1: Why do we like to worship things that we believe will one day rain judgement upon us? I’m not saying it’s wrong, but why has it always been a human thing to create a being that we must fear and worship lest it brings judgement day a century too early? There is a ton of detailing put into the artworks created in honor of the gods, more so than in contemporary artwork today (seriously, this stuff is legit. You should see it), and it is all for the gods. The gods we don’t see and to some of us, the gods we don’t even hear.
But I suppose the bigger question, and the more unanswerable one (for I have thought of the answer to my original question) is: Who created them?
Who heard the Heavens first? And why did they think we needed to be afraid to love our creators? (Is that even love – ok this is for another time)
2: Humans are awesome. Can you imagine, we lusted for space before we even knew what space meant. The idea of exploration is intrinsic to humans, and that is absolutely beautiful. What is better than exploring and appreciating all that life has to offer? We decided to chart the stars and to find our place in the Universe to see where we fit in.
It is wonderful, so so wonderful, in how we chose to look to the stars to find the answers we could not find here. How great is that?
Section II: The Universe as Space-Time
I’m a massive fan of the meaning of life and the universe, and quite literally, this was heaven to me. For me, it was a discovery of what we were doing to probe the Universe and explore it. How we strove to understand the galaxies around us with what we had. How we are working to find out more. I think it’s fantastic that the spirit of exploration never dies. There is this very inviting thing about the unknown that thrills me to my bones. It is our eternal quest to see it all.
“Science progresses best when observations force us to alter our preconceptions.”
– Vera Rubin, Astronomer
Section III: A New View of Life
This section is essentially how we think we’re going to be in the future. Whatever “being”, is.
Okay, first of all, harking back to Section I: why do we like to believe that the future is bleak? Why is it so often sterile and clinical? Why can’t it be sunshine and rainbows for once? Why does it always have to be a dystopia?
Majority the artwork in this section is monochrome, grey-paletted or downright dark. Why doesn’t anyone think that the future has vibrancy and colour? Why is space a harbinger of disaster? Gosh. Why can’t we all just have a nice time. I assume it is the influence of one too many Terminator-like movies, or simply the fact that we like a good conflict for drama, but really. I’d like someone to depict the future as a good place. I’d say Back to the Future, but it has already happened, so it doesn’t count (don’t get me wrong, though, I’m a sucker for this movie). I’m not saying we should put our guard down, but I am saying: give it a chance.
Now, onto some thoughts about aliens:
How does one think, in this vast Universe, that we are the only sentient lifeforms? I mean, I’m not saying it isn’t a possibility, but the chances are, we really can’t alone. There is so much STUFF out there that we barely even understand, that we’ve barely even scratched the surface of.
Is it scary to think about? Oh, downright terrifying. In fact, I can’t imagine life any different, and I can’t imagine welcoming a new species that is not of this Earth into this Earth. And maybe that’s why we haven’t come into contact with anyone – because we all want to be alone. Not just us, but them too.
Also just a note to self: Remember that difference should only make you stronger, not weaker. Just a thought.
Section IV: Space Art
Seriously, this bit was just rather entertaining. It’s so gladdening to think that while all the serious stuff above goes on in some minds, others just want to have fun in space. I’m going to be that guy having some fun when all the other stuff goes down.
So just some closing thoughts: I’m really glad I went to this exhibition, because it made me think about everything that’s out there and everything we’ve yet to see. The unknown is scary, but it is also exciting, and we should not be scared of it. Not too scared, anyway. The works curated for this exhibition truly convey the message it was trying to bring across to its guests, and do it very well. From our creation, to our religions to our imagination – this exhibition has it all.
The Universe and Art is an exhibition held at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. It closes on 30th July 2017.