Credits: Still photo by Jean de Pomereu; Aerial photo by Simon Balm; Group photo by Michael Deany.
Lita Albuquerque: Stellar Axis: Antarctica (2006)
In 2006, Earthworks artist Lita Albuquerque traveled to the South Pole for an ephemeral art installation/expedition — supported by the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. For two weeks, Albuquerque worked alongside a small team including photographer Jean de Pomereu, filmmaker Sophie Dia Pegrum, cinematographer Lionel Cousin, and astronomer/physical chemist Dr. Simon P. Balm. Their goal: to unite the earth with the sky by capturing astronomical coordinates of 99 stars above the Ross Ice Shelf. Albuquerque and her collaborators meticulously mirrored the constellations in the snow via blue spheres specially fabricated to (temporarily) withstand the windy Antarctic weather. Balm’s guidance ensured a calculated installation; the brightest stars, such as Sirius, received the largest spheres and their positions were exact. But the installation also involved a performance. Once completed, fifty-one researchers from the nearby research center McMurdo Station came together and traced by foot the clockwise spiral movement of the stars. Documentation of the project can be seen in the 60-minute film 77 Below. In the film, Dr. Balm describes the undertaking as “an abstract exercise in mathematics and astronomy.” (Watch the documentary online here.)
Postscript: Albuquerque created a similar piece at the North Pole in 2007.