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Syzygy 4/Transit of Alpha Centauri
Gelatin silver shadowgram films created by exposure to starlight
33.5 x 35.5 x .05 cm (glass film objects) 7.5 x 39 x 5 cm (wooden box base)
Provided by the artist - Harry Nankin
A syzygy is a conjunction or coming together of things. It can refer astronomically to when the sun, moon and earth align during an eclipse but also has the broader connotation of a pairing or union. It is an apt title for Harry Nankin’s artwork, where through a coming together of remarkable glass–mounted photographs of scrambling insects and twinkling galaxies he reflects upon time, space and our increasingly troubled relationship with the non-human world.
Lake Tyrrell in the Victorian Mallee, where Syzygy was created, once served as an indigenous celestial observatory. The heavens reflected in its shallow waters informed a sacred reciprocity of sky with country, a reciprocity long ago ruptured by colonization. Today the heavens remain essentially unchanged but the lake and its environs cleared of most native vegetation is an ecologically impoverished zone. Syzygy ‘photo-poetically’ reconsiders this lost cosmology by turning the dry lakebed into a focal plane upon which raw starlight is used to imprint photographic films with the shadows of live native invertebrates gathered from the lakeshore and rare astronomical photographs on glass brought to the location. Nankin literally uses the ‘light of the universe’ to render enigmatic images on film of the heavens and earth. His elegiac index of shadows is a syzygy of the timeless and fleeting, the infinite and miniscule.
Syzygy was a collaboration with scholar/artist Paul Carter, astrophysicist Maurizio Toscano and many volunteers. For Paul Carter this "meditation on the heavens" is an example of how the "recovery of stories, alternate histories, and their creative retelling, is a vital means through which artists…can contribute to the re-enchantment of environments currently under stress"
Press release - Stills Gallery, Sydney, Australia (10 October 2012)