KNOWLEDGES at Mount Wilson Observatory brings together a constellation of more than thirty contemporary Los Angeles artists whose work extends from the nexus of ideas embodied by the Observatory itself: astronomy, scientific discovery, space exploration, optics, recorded observation, philosophical questions of cosmology, the history, aesthetics and ecology of the site and its influence upon the cultural landscape of Los Angeles. KNOWLEDGES engages the public in a unique opportunity to experience Mount Wilson Observatory through the lens of contemporary art.
To wander amid the Mount Wilson Observatory grounds, one becomes aware of the unique nature of the site. Perched on a ridge in the Angeles National Forest, the Observatory experiences surprisingly constant atmospheric conditions. This is due in part to what is known in meteorology as the inversion layer, an effect where moist sea air is trapped in the desert valley. Below, the flat areas of Los Angeles may experience the combinatory effect of the inversion layer with air pollution as smog or the hazy mornings of “June gloom.” But one mile higher, the air is remarkably clear and constant, with views extending east to the Inland Empire and desert valley, north to the San Gabriel Mountains and south-west to Catalina Island and the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean. In 1904, these site-specific factors compelled George Ellery Hale to choose the location to build an astronomical observatory that would revolutionize science. Mount Wilson came to house the most advanced observational equipment of the time, including the Hale 60-inch telescope, followed by the Hooker 100-inch telescope, which was the world’s largest for over thirty years. Historic discoveries at Mount Wilson include the detection of the sun's magnetic field, the first observations of spiral galaxies, Michelson's first speed of light tests, and Hubble's early research that suggested the Big Bang and expansion of the universe. Innovative research continues to this day. Just as the Copernican revolution ushered radical perceptual changes throughout religious and secular society in the 16th century, so too has our shared consciousness been molded by discoveries of the last one hundred years. Mount Wilson Observatory is a locus from which nearly a century of such advances in astronomical exploration extend.
KNOWLEDGES at Mount Wilson Observatory presents contextual explorations of contemporary art and science - the formal parallels between which are many. Artists and
scientists share literal vision, and also create conceptual models to envision the unseen. Scientific documentation and engineering corresponds to artistic exploration and craft in many ways: for nearly one hundred years, scientists at Mount Wilson Observatory have created daily sunspot drawings viewed from the 150-foot Solar-Tower, much telescopic observation is recorded through direct photography, deep space images are colored as they might be perceived by the naked human eye, and scientific instruments are observed as stunning objects, in and of themselves. All of these activities share an aesthetic discourse with art and a fascinating exchange between traditional and innovative methodologies that transform experiences of the universe into knowledge.
KNOWLEDGES at Mount Wilson Observatory, is an experimental, weekend-long art event that will take place Saturday June 23 and Sunday 24, 2012. Located in the San Gabriel Mountains, just outside Pasadena, Mount Wilson Observatory is an astronomical observatory and site of historic scientific discovery, contemporary research, and sweeping views above Los Angeles. This public event will incorporate more than thirty contemporary artists, presenting exhibitions, performances, film/video screenings, and other forms of temporary art installations on the observatory grounds.
KNOWLEDGES is an artist-organized contemporary art initiative whose experimental, site-specific projects explore relationships of the esoteric to the avant-garde in the greater Los Angeles area. Its mission is to broaden the context of contemporary art production and reception by creating dialogue with geographic sites of historic, scientific or under-examined cultural influence, and engaging the public in direct experience with art and site.
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