Lenses on the Sky
everyone in the world looks up at the same sky.
Stories of Space science have been dominated by a cultural narrative of technology and man's triumph over nature. This narrative is alienating to audiences of all kinds and Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s (OMSI) in collaboration with NASA is working to open the frontier of Space science to all who might be inspired.
Lenses on the Sky is a large scale environmental installation that permanently resides outside of the OMSI Planetarium. This interactive installation pairs the study of space science with cultural stories from across the globe and investigates how humans across time have interpreted the stars and imagined the exploration of new frontiers. The installation is designed to reflect a diversity of gender and cultural narratives about the sky, about space, about science and our understanding of the universe.
The project began as a request to make an interactive ceiling installation. The original brief asked only for a small scale light fixture but our team saw a larger opportunity and with OMSI's trust and support, we found a way to bring that vision to life.
The installation is composed of five cedar wrapped vessels that protrude from the ceiling from within a skyscape of hanging aluminum forms. Two of the vessels, long and telescopic, are known as the Outies. These vessels display analog interpretations key subjects in the sky. In one, two globes, one black, one illuminated are arrayed so that a visitor can create the illusion of a solar eclipse by moving their body as they look up in the vessel. The other tells a story of light pollution by sequencing LED strips which illuminated etched stars on a series of acrylic panels.
Three other vessels, the Innies, shorter and outfitted with rear-projection scrims, show stop motion animations which depict indigenous stories of the stars from across the globe and across time. A story from the Shasta tribe of Oregon and Northern California, as provided by the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, tells the story of a Raccoon and Coyote who chase one another into the night sky, becoming the Little Dipper. A Namaqua Khoikhoi story of a Zebra hunt tells the story of Orion’s belt and sword, and a Maya story explores the underworld through the adventures of a crocodile.
The installation is meant to welcome ALL people into the wonder of Space science. Girls, and frequently underserved audiences can start to see themselves in the global stories that are depicted on each of the three rear-projection vessels (the innies). And the intent of the installation was to create a system that can be expanded and enhanced over time.
The project was designed to be an incredibly collaborative effort from the start and only continued to grow along the way. From the cultural advisors who co-curated content for the animated stories, to Airstream who donated the aluminum for the sky-scape, and our extended partners Skylab Architecture, Pesznecker Brothers and the OMSI shop who fabricated the components and managed the installation, Lenses on the Sky was truly a community partnership.
Not only does the sculptural sky-scape and vessel experience reshape a heavily traveled corridor into a exploratory environment, it offered the Museum, our partners, and our community a way to work together to create something to inspire more families to slow down and look up.
Lenses on the Sky was awarded a Merit Award at the 2019 SEGD Global Design Awards.
“Lovely synergy of beautiful sculptural art forms with integrated digital and graphic content to convey a series of stories in a way that feels personal and immersive."
"A perfect balance of awe and discovery! Bravo for an artful installation that connects science with cultural meaning.”
- Jury comments from the 2019 SEGD Global Design Awards