[ISEA2014] Paper: Marea Atkinson – Remapping the city with the ephemeral night sky


The ancient traditions and knowledge of all cultures have integrated the night sky with the phenomena of stars, constellations and cosmic events to give people a sense of meaning and belonging in their world and their cosmos. Astronomical observation was used to calculate the timing of customs, ceremonies, and agriculture, today some of these practices are still used by indigenous peoples. The writer A. Roger Ekirch in his book A History of Nighttime, reminds us that in pre-industrial Europe, people could travel at night by moonlight and the light of the Milky Way, which was present with over two thousand visible stars. Today, people travel far away from cities into the deserts in the UAE, Australia and remote regions of the world to view the galaxy. Thus the association of the city and starlight is rapidly fading from the collective memory, whereby the daily observable presence of starlight has gradually disappeared, due to increasing light and air pollution. This paper discusses ancient practices, the use of public space and starlight. Also the work of emerging international environmental movements, such as the Starlight Initiative and the Dark Sky Association which aim to bring global attention to the rights of humankind to observe starlight and preserve the cultural, scientific and environmental rights for future generations. In conclusion this presentation will include an imaginary proposal remapping the ephemeral night sky into the city of Dubai. This will include historic and contemporary maps of the city/region, star maps, constellations and traditional knowledge used as references to create a 3D installation of laser cut acrylic, acrylic rods, paper and a series of computer prints to propose a series of interventions in public space and city planning to reintegrate the presence of starlight into the city.

  • Marea Atkinson, AU, Adjunct Lecturer and Researcher at the School of Art, Architecture and Design, University of South Australia. Marea Atkinson main research area focuses in writing and artwork on light and darkness, the relationship between art and astronomy and the correlation between the terrestrial and celestial, Atkinson‚Äôs has presented her research at numerous international events.

Full text (PDF) p. 436-442