A few months ago I met Mel. Mel was on the last leg of her Australian trip after completing a university exchange at ANU and was getting ready to return home to Germany. She studies astronomy, her Australian research focusing on a rare type of variable star called R Coronae Borealis (RCB) stars. The more she spoke about these stars, the more intrigued I became, for RCB stars behave in quite a peculiar way. Every now and then the star ejects a large dust cloud which obscures it from view from earth, making it appear to grow dimmer and then brighter again when the dust has dispersed.
Given my ongoing interest in all things star dust, I had to explore it further.
Now, I will be honest with you, I am not an astronomer. Despite Mel’s excellent explanation attempts, it is highly probable that I will never fully grasp or understand this phenomenon – but for me, this is part of what attracts me to is as a subject. The coming together of scientific data, evidence, numbers and graphs with the sense of mystery and incomprehension of an event so far beyond the realm of the everyday is, in essence, what intrigues me about the experience of the sublime.
Since that first conversation with Mel, I have been working on a soft sculpture space cloud. Progress is slow with a great deal of fine knitting and stitching required. My aim is to incorporate RCB data collected and analysed by astronomers, and use it to create an object that explores the interplay between science and wonder. It’s going to be large, and it’s going to be shiny.