I map the stars and take their measure with my hand
Installation. Variable dimensions. Iron bars, clamps, 34 blue light bulbs, 34 light holders, electrical cables.
Ph: courtesy of the artist
This work is a piece of a years-long research project conducted with novelist Zeyn Joukhadar of the star map based on Greek Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy's Almagest, the one most known in Europe and globally.
The aim of this research is to explore the origins of the constellations combining the Almagest with many sources from Southwest Asia and North Africa and to partially reconstruct a story that began in Mesopotamia thousands of years ago.
This research centers these sources, deconstructing and troubling the Eurocentric idea of the West as the heir of a Greek-born map of the sky, revealing the transcontinental origins of this map and the fundamental contributions of Arabic and Persian astronomers to preserving vast amounts of astronomical and astrological knowledge.
This piece in particular focuses on the constellation of Pisces. The constellation of Pisces is part of the figure of Enki, the Sumerian god of the abyssal waters whose rivers flowed across the heavens. He is the Aquarius of today's zodiac. In ancient Mesopotamia, the constellation was called “the tails” (of a fish and of a swallow).
These two figures, according to Sumerian and Akkadian astronomy (like every figure in the sky), directly reflect two places on earth: the two major rivers of Mesopotamia, the Tigris and the Euphrates, which are, in a sense, the “birthplace” of the constellations.
This constellation is reconstructed with blue light bulbs, iron bars, and clamps. The shape is fragmented, broken, displayed in the space like a relic; it is not easily readable, yet still emits a mild blue light.