Culture and Cosmos is a peer-reviewed academic journal in the history of astrology and cultural astronomy published in association with the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture, School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology, University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Vol 18 no 2 (Autumn/Winter 2014 will be published in July/August 2016. Vol. 19 (2015) will be a double issue featuring the proceedings of the 2013 Sophia Centre conference on Celestial Magic and is scheduled for publication in September/October 2016. Vol. 20 (2016) will be a double issue featuring the proceedings of the 2014 Sophia Centre conference on the Marriage of Heaven and Earth.

Volume 16

Extending Vision: Sky-Situated Knowledge and the Artist’s Eye

Felicity Spear


Increasingly, we are looking beyond our planet to speculate about our place in the Universe. In the context of ideas about the sky and cosmic space, art works have the potential to provoke curiosity and to play an educative and imaginative role in visualising connections with science, history and a space beyond the full range of our senses. While both artists and scientists reconstruct the material world on the basis of understanding, artists are able to exploit subjectivity and are not accountable to demonstrate proof. In this way, art seeks a poetic dimension or insight which speaks of things outside art in new or different ways. This paper discusses my recent research and the exhibitions I curated in order to coincide with the 2009 International Year of Astronomy. Included in these were an astro­photographer and a number of Australian artists, both Western and Indigenous, whose work has been influenced by the speculative and experimental processes involved with observation, image-capture and mapping, and the technological developments which shape human consciousness. They draw also on the history of human efforts to picture whatever lies beyond Earth’s atmosphere. This space, mostly beyond the naked eye, is revealed now through a machine-produced visibility which extends our vision. Together, these works show us how various systems of knowledge have sought to make sense of the cosmos and our place within it.

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