Looking is one thing, seeing is another. Scientists who base their conclusions on the careful observation of phenomena know this. Artists, who perceive hidden meanings and premonitions in everyday life, know this, too. A mound passed during a walk, a mysterious totem erected in a city park, a fossil embedded in the marble floor of a metro station. Artistic observations are enabled by the use of peculiar tools, including a functioning imagination, which allow for an ‘expansion of the frame’ and enable a probing that goes further and deeper. And the deeper, the darker—and dwindle go the odds of a safe return to the surface.
Wonders in the Heavens and on the Earth are becoming more visible. These are not afterimages of the plagues of old, but emissaries of the Apocalypse approaching in full gear. With our last breath, staring into the light, we will, thanks to art, come to terms with the incomprehensible and the unknown. We’re looking at jumbled stratifications, deep-time escapades, and capers across the cosmos. In this uncanny realm of human endeavour, we encounter paradoxes: dust motes and a star a million light years away in the same frame; or the simultaneous visualisation of aeons of erosion and the accumulation of geological layers.
Pristine nature, so idealised by the Romantics, has officially ceased to exist. The scale of these processes—vast, stretching across epochs—is for us unfathomable. And so we abandon distinctions between that which is nature and that which is anthropic. We discover symbiotic helixes of animate and inanimate matter. We are at a moment when, as Timothy Morton, philosopher and proponent of ‘dark ecology,’ observes, the myth of progress has stalled before an accumulation of strange cases. Astonished, we can only stand and stare as we fantasise the rise of a new order from the ashes of the old world.
Wonders in the Heavens and on the Earth is an adaptation of an exhibition from half a century ago: July, August, September 1969, which was curated by Seth Siegelaub. The exhibition consisted of the works of eleven artists, scattered around the globe, with each work located in a different place. The catalogue was the only way in which one could experience the exhibition in its entirety, and find information about where each work was situated. The book-as-exhibition is the starting point for an experiment with the production and distribution of art during an epidemic freeze: the crisis of mobility, the regimen of physical distancing, the yearning for the tactile and material world.
Wonders in the Heavens and on the Earth
Curator–editors: Sebastian Cichocki, Jagna Lewandowska
Managing edtior: Joanna Osiewicz-Lorenzutti
Project co-financed by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage through its Promotion of Culture Fund and by the City of Kraków.