Heavenly Bodies AKA MAF Unit 0
Leave your carbon-based body behind. Let your surroundings guide your thoughts. Light cycles simulate cosmic cycles. Systems blink on. As with fractals, the closer we look, the more detail we see. Every tiny fragment of swirling debris holds a place for our imaginations.
Heavenly Bodies is a steel and illuminated resin rocket planetarium. Its cosmic patterns seek to connect us to our origins. Installed indoors or out, it can be viewed day and night.
Mystery, Connection, Awe, Beauty, and Disequilibrium. Scientists tell us that everything our physical bodies is made of was once a star. This concept illuminates the connections between ourselves and our environments. We are but a small part of a huge system. This installation provides an opportunity to connect three dimensionally with our origins; it possesses the alchemic visual power to transport the viewer back into their heavenly bodies; to become “star stuff”. Unlike planetariums which focus on the practical, this structure’s details emulate the curved lines of a rocket, enticing spectators inside with its potential for travel.
I am an adult obsessed with creating visual magic. I want to build moments where even sensible minds are lulled into mystical thinking, leaving behind logical answers and moving into the divine. I thought an important ingredient when writing a recipe to yield the human mystical experience would be awe. I built optical illusions into MAF that would distort her size; narrow short doorways so that, like Alice, we feel huge when entering. The shape forces most people to turn sideways, and this connects them with whomever is sitting on the inside benches. I mounted them low and the windows high because, now inside, I hoped to convey a feeling of smallness. The tower reaches up, filled with detail, trailing your eyes higher to the top ring, ripples bent on the break, weld dots for detail, all traveling into and shooting though the structure.
I needed certainty, a touch of humanoid that would keep the viewers focused not only up at the heavens, but inward as well. The English language stencil of MAF Unit 0 at her doorways, informs the viewer that this structure had something to do with us, keeping the questions focused inward and towards humanity. Raising questions: How did we come to this? Is time travel involved? What are the implications? Heavenly Bodies is considered to be a space-making installation. When you choose to go inside you are signing on for an adventure; making a deal to enter into something unknown.
I designed Heavenly Bodies from many small parts to help illustrate context. The structure stands around twelve feet high by six feet in diameter. As many venues only have access through a regular doorway, the entire thing was designed so that when broken down into pieces, it could go almost anywhere.
I designed paper patterns, traced them onto 22 and 20 gauge sheet metal, plasma cut and formed on the brake by hand, rays and lines seemed to be the most uplifting visuals, reaching towards the sky. MIG welded together, some edges were traced out in round stock to give a bit more profile, catching the light. MIG welds are used to create language on the surfaces, to hold information, systems dots and lines like a code explode from my fingertips. It’s one of my favourite parts. I’ve been a welder for a long time now, but the thrill of controlling molten steel with an arc can never really get old, so long as there's a challenge. Using weld to build sculpture brings my two loves together. Her surfaces were hand painted by an army, and still have a ways to go.
With this latest work, I’ve added resin window detail to the mild steel, welded and painted sculpture I am known for. I started learning about resin by making gifts for my loved ones, encapsulating things and exploring the properties. My intention with her windows was to create three dimensional portals to hold light. In the daytime, the outside convex surface appears solid, similar to the sheet metal skin of the rocket. From the inside, it’s revealed that the portals are made from something entirely different than steel, as they transform and hold sunshine as well as man-made light.
Programmable LED light strips help bring the installation into the night. The structure takes on a new dimension as darkness falls, and can be experienced by the viewer with an entirely different outcome. Light lends a special hallucinogenic quality to everything around us, elevating it from the ordinary to the divine.
The creation of Heavenly Bodies was funded by a B.C. Arts Council Major Project Grant, and executed here in Nakusp in a secret lab called Kate Tupper Studio. Many friends' hands contributed to making this spaceship fully operational. And this time it actually was 'rocket science’. MAF, she traveled here because this world needs a vehicle. There are no destinations, only journeys. Her destiny is travel connecting humans to their surroundings and beyond. We want you to go on a trip.