It takes approximately eight minutes for the light of the sun to reach our retinas. Amélie Bouvier’s diptych video Eight Minutes Ago grapples with this distance between us and the stars.
On one screen, NASA sound recordings of planets in our solar system and glass sound effects accompany imagery drawn from or inspired by Harvard’s collection of astrological photographic plates. Shots of dust settling in the air, dark shadows emerging on weathered glass, or an archivist wiping clean notations made by hand all convey the tenuousness of our personal and collective heritage. In a scrolling text on the pendant screen, Bouvier’s ninety-three-year-old father shares memories of growing up and aging refracted through ruminations on the night.
Together the work expresses the belatedness and fragility of the human experience. As an inscription on Johannes Kepler’s tombstone reads, “I used to measure the heavens, now I shall measure the shadows of the earth. Although my soul was from heaven, the shadow of my body lies here”.
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The artistic practice of Amelie Bouvier builds from historical research in the field of astronomy to question issues related to cultural memory and collective heritage. Astronomers in particular, and scientists in general, don’t only explain the world, they also represent it through the construction of diagrams, illustrations, photographs or equations. For Bouvier, scientific imagery is an extension of knowledge that reveals ideological and ethical frameworks, which risk cloaking aspects of the reality they aim to represent. She is particularly interested in the sky and stars as a landscape that expose current socio-political contradictions and knowledge gaps. While her work is based on historical facts, data and visuals, she consistently mixes this with speculative imagery, adapting tools and techniques to present alternative potentialities.
Courtesy Amélie Bouvier and Harlan Levey Projects
Image: Installation view at Aomori Contemporary Art Center (ACAC), Aomori, Japan