by Sukanya GargJul 24, 2019
Across the mythologies from Greek to Indian, the planet Earth as a goddess is invariably worshipped and venerated as a source of energy to the human race. As a repository of life, we have seen its representation in the visual culture rather too frequently embedded in both symbolic and metaphorical renditions. Perhaps, it is the actual representation of the earth, its shape and form that has remained beyond the reach of art practitioners. Until the UK-based multidisciplinary artist, Luke Jerram, filled this lacuna with his gigantic installation on earth, Gaia. Before this, the modern-day aeronautical imagery of the planet Earth was sufficed to please the eyes and minds of the inquisitive minds.
The touring artwork by Jerram, floating in three dimensions, measures seven metres in diameter and features 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface. The simulation ensures, if the public stands 211m away from it, the planet Earth would be visible as it appears from its satellite moon. Named after the Greek mythology Gaia, Jerram explains what led him to pursue this idea of making Gaia artwork, “The artwork was made as a sister sculpture, to compare with the Museum of the Moon, which to date has been seen by over three million members of the public in more than 25 countries worldwide. For our entire human existence, we have been gazing up at the moon and projecting all our hopes, dreams and wishes up there. Whereas for the Earth, it was only in 1968 through NASA’s Earthrise photo, that humanity was able to see our planet for the first time, as a blue marble of life, floating in the blackness of space”.
Inspired by the Gaia hypothesis that oversees the interdependency between organic and inorganic material to sustain life on Earth, no other time than the current time of pandemic could underline the pertinent rule of this interconnection. It tends to create a sense of the Overview Effect - the notion spearheaded by author Frank White in 1987. The Overview Effect talks about the experience of astronauts who saw the planet from space to realise the sense of responsibility towards the environment. In an effort to ensure the large sections of public take home the learning of Overview Effect, Jerram used precise imagery from NASA’s Visible Earth series to “make the artwork seem as authentic and realistic as possible to give the public the opportunity to see how our planet looks from space. For most people, this will be their most intimate, personal and closest encounter they will ever have with the whole of our planet”.
Jerram’s works including Museum of the Moon, Play Me, I’m Yours and Withdrawn are site-specific that always open an opportunity for collaborators to conceive special performances and activities around the works. The close public interactions with the works too carry a special meaning for the artist. Jerram elaborates on this, “I enjoy the unexpected outcomes of artwork, when I leave space for the public or for other artists to be creative. I enjoy presenting artwork in public spaces, as I know the audience will be broad and diverse and the exhibition will be open to everyone. I like the fact that whether Gaia is presented in an art museum, science centre, park or cathedral, the experience and interpretation of the artwork will change. Gaia also acts as a venue, with local hosts creating their own programme of events to take place beneath the artwork. These might include: space or environmentally themed science events; music or performance arts events etc”.
The sound composition by Dan Jones, BAFTA award-winning composer, is integral to the installation that invites viewers to see the unbroken connections running between the huge art piece and space that houses it. Jerram shares the importance of music and his collaboration with Jones, “The surround sound music connects the sculpture with the space and architecture around it. The sound fills a room and creates an atmosphere and ambience, shaping and guiding interpretation of the sculpture. I have worked with Dan for over 10 years on various projects and he is always a pleasure to collaborate with”.
Jerram’s expectation from his audience, “to wake up, and change our behaviour. We need to quickly make the changes necessary, to prevent runaway climate change. There really is no Planet B!” rings a ‘loud’ bell before another catastrophe hits the human tribe.