Composing Thoughts on Existence from Fragments of the Universe
by Ingibjörg Sigurjónsdóttir
An air of mystique surrounds meteorites, at least for an astronomical amateur. Flashing fragments from outer space, from the great unknown. Burning rocks that speed through space and finally crash into a planet. Meteorites have been marveled at, feared and treasured for ages. Some of them were adorned with gold ornaments and treasured in Wunderkammer installations. Some were treated differently: one meteorite that was seen to fall in the 19th century was thought to be a token straight from hell, and so it was put into chains and displayed in the church. What a crazy art piece that was! Yet the little rocks look so mundane, so real, so normal. They look regular but their unimpressive shape is altered by their impressive travel through space and the atmosphere, reminding us that we live on a little planet in the midst of an incomprehensibly vast dark universe where planets, comets, black holes and who knows what else exist, rotate, explode and flash by. These pebbles are memorials to our occasional impacts with the universe, reminders of the unimaginable abyss of space. What an ultimate sculptural material. The remains of a glowing flash that appears from the middle of nowhere, bearing otherworldly qualities. What more can an artist, yearning for links to the cosmic and connection with time and the universe, ask for than a 50,000-year-old meteorite to land in his palm?
Feeling the pull of these supercharged objects, Lukas Kindermann tracked down three meteorites in the Museum for Natural History in Berlin and filmed them from all sides. He used the videos of the small rocks, ranging from 2–30 cm in diameter, for his three-channel video installation Fragments of the Universe. Projected on three surfaces, the black meteorites are blown up in size to fit the 2-m-wide screens where they rotate, like planets, against a white background. The fallen stars are raised and enlarged to again float in space, now in the darkness of an exhibition hall with audience, instead of other planets, rotating around them. These Wunderkammer objects are not “memento mori” but “memento infinitum”.
The piece is existential in more ways than just reminding us of our presence in the middle of a black hole surrounded by exploding stars and fireballs. It also calls to mind and questions the mere state of existing. Generally, we perceive some things as real and others as not. The original meteorite would traditionally be perceived as a real meteorite, but its video depiction, not. The meteorites are not really in the room, yet you see them and feel their presence. Perhaps even more strongly than you would from looking at the actual rocks. It is a similar effect to Kindermann’s earlier work Woodshed, where he filmed an alpine cabin from all four sides and projected the videos on four screens, arranged in a square, producing a three-dimensional depiction of the cabin. You feel the presence and existence of the cabin and of the meteorites very strongly, but you know that they’re not physically there. Certainly this is not a pipe, but furthermore, looking at this piece I can’t help but recall having read that it is a matter of definition whether the smallest particles of our atoms are solid matter or waves. So technically, we, or anything else in the world for that matter, are not made of solid material. We could just be a cluster of waves—how real is that? Could that change our grounds for perception of what is real or unreal in general? Existence is so abstract and reality so relative. When touching your own hand starts to feel unreal, it makes perfect sense to have a cooled down, ancient meteorite raised back into space, spinning right in front of your eyes. Remember the void.