Telescope

Claire Pendrigh, Telescope, 2017, felted wool and various materials

I decided that I wanted to take a pencil, and trace my path through space. The line would follow me around the earth as it rotates on its axis, around the sun over the course of a year, around the galaxy as it rotates around the black hole at its core. And it would never meet its starting point, because by the time I had completed the 250 million year rotation of the galaxy, the whole thing would have shifted, continuing its trajectory through space.

Then I would take a telescope and look back behind me at this looping, arcing, whirling line that never revisits the same point twice, and I would be able to understand my own trajectory through space.

In school we learn that the Earth orbits the Sun, and we often draw its path as a circle. This was the form I imagined my line would take – a series of circular loops and spirals. In reality, our path is elliptical. Well, actually, it’s still not that simple. As the earth travels around the sun its path is influenced by the gravitational pull of the moon as it orbits us, and by the gravitational pull of all the other planets in our solar system as they travel on their paths around the sun.

The more intricate I discovered this path to be, the less confident I became in my mental picture of my path through space.

I came up against a problem of scale. I wanted my line to reflect all the variations and intricacies of real orbits, but the variations are so small compared to the scale of the solar system, that to represent them accurately my drawing would not fit on a piece of paper. Conversely, compared to the scale of me, these variations are substantial. However, to draw them at that scale you would have to lose sight of the bigger picture.

In the end, what you actually see when you look through my telescope, is a moving diagram that traces the path of one of my hanging mobiles from Some Stars Wobble. The circles each indicate the potential path of one weight. Their slow movement within each other (I think they look a bit like organisms in a petri dish) maps the potential configurations of that mobile.

I didn’t want to lose sight of my line, documenting the path of the Earth, so I also included some Earth measurements around the mobile map. The numbers cycle through 0 – 365.2422 for the days of a year, the moon experiences 12 phases, and the tilt of the Earth’s axis completes one full cycle. You can see a video of this work, along with pictures of other works from this exhibition, at clairependrigh.com.

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