> Marianne Bjørnmyr: Your Penumbra

Francesca Marcaccio Hitzeman / Marianne Bjørnmyr: Your Penumbra

June 2016


Marianne Bjørnmyr’s work not only invokes vast distances in space and time; she creates poetic artworks exploring landscape. She has brought together space and time, the massive and the minute, using technology to bring together the cosmic and the commonplace in exploring the ineffable. In Your Penumbra, a project with no photographic camera involved, but with many links to the photographic image, there is a dialogue between Bjørnmyr’s photograms, her video work and sculptures which create mirrored reflections.

The starting point of Your Penumbra is astronomer Henry Draper’s discovery; he was the very first to produce a clear image of the Orion Nebula in 1880 and it was one of the first instances that photography was used to capture a subject that was not visible to the human eye. At the time, eminent scientists claimed that even though Draper’s work was a great achievement, the photograph would never replace the human eye’s ability to see the stars. The claustrophobic impossibility of never being able to experience these starscapes and distant galaxies that the sophisticated telescopes like Hubble now present to us, is reinforced from seeing Bjørnmyr’s stardust photograms.

By using stardust, a physical manifestation of the stars themselves against the photo paper directly, she is achieving the opposite by making something immediately available appear distant. Bjørnmyr enables us to engage with energies that are too intangible and too vast for human beings to experience in other ways. The sculptures which from a distance resemble simple minimalist black shapes increase in complexity at closer inspection. The forms present a closed-up, abstract view of a starry sky – despite the object’s opacity viewers ­cannot see the inside of the sculptures clearly. When looking into the sculptures from different angles one will recognise that the reflective surfaces are only part of a larger system of repetitious depictions, where it is hard to see what is a reflection and what is not.

A series of mirrors and transparencies, they act as a point of reference to the photographs, they mirror the “real thing”, but we can never be sure of their accuracy. Much like the complex sets of mirrors and lenses used in a space telescope, the mirrors alter what cannot be seen with the naked eye. The photograms that have much less information have much more intimacy and feeling, and the sculptures carry information through multiple reflections changing their reading, the videos are representative of the Nebula itself, or at least appear to be; causing the viewer to question the legitimacy of this seemingly archival footage. The combined effect of the three is disorienting.

It has frequently been discussed that humans went to space to discover the galaxies but returned having discovered Earth. The photograph taken from the Apollo spacecraft’s view mirror captured the imagination of people across the globe, fostering a realisation both of the sublime beauty and fragility of the world we inhabited and creating a long lineage of dreams and hopes and expectations worldwide. Creating visually surreal universes through stardust, Bjørnmyr drags us to an imaginary microcosm, to explore the invisible. It is imagination that drives people to walk on the moon; to explore the farthest reaches of universe; to attempt to capture the mystery of a starscape – be that in the form of stardust, a photographic image, or a physical journey into space.

With Your Penumbra, Bjørnmyr creates a feeling of detachment, a sense of disentanglement from time and the physical world. Her work concerns the discovery of the unseen: it deals with time and invisible forces rather than material form. It reminds us of the value of looking to the stars; exploring the invisible using a vocabulary that is both simple in gesture and monumental in scope while expanding our sense of reality beyond the purely visible.

 – text by Francesca Marcaccio Hitzeman


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