“Imagine yourself as a chunk or pebble. What kind would you be? Something big and soft or a quartzy little thing? Don’t imagine yourself as a mineral that is shaped like you. Don’t worry about the shape. If you are a pebble, just imagine arms and belly and bum as one. You are as a pebble – no bits. If you are a staggered bias chunk, imagine yourself as all heel and armpit and boxy chin.” From ‘The Starry Messenger’ by Bedwyr Williams
Bedwyr Williams presents his extraordinary exhibition, The Starry Messenger as the Wales in Venice Cymru Yn Fenis Collateral Event at the 55th International Art Exhibition - la Biennale di Venezia 2013.
Housed in the Ludoteca Santa Maria Ausiliatrice, a church and former convent, the show presents a series of spaces which visitors navigate, experiencing whole room installation, sound and film, moving from explores the relationships between stargazing and the individual, the cosmos, and the role of the amateur in a professional world
The Starry Messenger references Galileo’s short treatise, Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger), which was written in Venice and published in 1610 and detailed Galileo’s early observations of the Moon, the stars, and the moons of Jupiter, when he first looked through a telescope.
The Ludoteca’s traditional terrazzo tiled floor, made up of tiny pieces of marble, quartz, granite and glass – sparked an initial idea for the exhibition:
“I thought about people staring into the terrazzo, which is like a universe made of tiny particles, and the people who had worshiped there. Maybe they stared into the floor and perhaps lost themselves in the particles, if say, they were bored at a sermon. And then I thought about Galileo, who presented his telescope to the Doge in Venice, which was the first place he showed it. In a church a telescope is a kind of “enemy” in a way. The church wouldn’t necessarily encourage you to look too far out of space, nor too much into inner space”.
The Starry Messenger begins by inviting visitors to enter a darkened room housing a model observatory. Birdsong and ambient noise evoke the contemplative atmosphere of a suburban garden at night.
The sound of a man quietly weeping can also be heard.
Throughout the exhibition, visitors’ senses are filled with the sights and sounds of a domesticated cosmos, as Williams draws on imagery from both the homely setting of the hobbyist and the unknowable universe at large, paying homage to the awe-struck amateur astronomer: “It’s good to know that while most of us are looking inwardly that there are some people around the world looking out”, says Williams.
The project is curated Oriel Davies and MOSTYN, and supported by Arts Council of Wales.
Bedwyr Williams is represented by Ceri Hand Gallery, London
All images are courtesy of the artist, Oriel Davies, MOSTYN, Ceri Hand Gallery, commissioned by Arts Council of Wales, Photo Anna Arca
The Starry Messenger Film excerpt. Written and performed by Bedwyr Williams. Directed and animated by Casey + Ewan.
British Council Interview with Bedwyr Williams
Cymru yn Fenis Wales in Venice 2013 Arts Council of Wales