A fantastic new exhibition opened at the Queensland Museum this weekend, in preparation for the World Science Festival Brisbane. Otherworlds: Visions of our Solar System is a spectacular gallery experience featuring 64 awe-inspiring images of our solar system by artist Michael Benson, paired with a unique, otherworldly soundscape composed by Brian Eno. The best part? It’s absolutely FREE!
Before I go any further, I’d like to point out that I really recommend you go and see this exhibit. The photos and music are amazing, and I’d still recommend attending even if it wasn’t free. The exhibition started at the Natural History Museum in London, then moved to Vienna’s Natural History Museum for four months, and luckily it’s now hosted in my hometown of Brisbane, Australia, at the Queensland Museum until July 2017. But I did have some issues…
I attended on the opening day of Otherworlds, which happened to also be on a weekend so it was expectedly fairly busy (despite the photos here, which took some patience and manoeuvring). Unfortunately, being a free exhibit on a weekend, the experience was let down by the number of unsupervised, running, yelling children tearing through the gallery space. It wasn’t just the children; some tourists were calling out to each other loudly across the gallery space while another person took a phone call. This would be bad enough in any gallery, but it was a double-whammy in this case because part of the experience is being immersed in the other worlds through Brian Eno’s haunting soundtrack.
We can’t experience space directly; those few who’ve been out there have done so inside precarious cocoons. They float in silence, for space has no air, nothing to vibrate – and therefore no sound. Nonetheless we can’t resist imagining space as a sonic experience, translating our feelings about it into music. In the past we saw the Universe as a perfect, divine creation – logical, finite, deterministic – and our art reflected that. The discoveries of the Space age have revealed instead a chaotic, unstable and vibrant reality, constantly changing. This music tries to reflect that new understanding.
Thankfully, I had an (unplanned) solution!
I happened to have my noise-isolating earphones with me, so I opened up Spotify and searched for Brian Eno. I pressed play on his 2017 album, Reflection. It’s not the same composition as the one featured in the exhibition, but it was better than yelling children and tourists. I could still hear them, but it was much more manageable.
Michael Benson’s images are utterly stunning. He takes raw data and unprocessed images from sources such as NASA and the European Space Agency, and spends countless hours creating composite mosaics and applying colour filters to come up with images that represent what the human eye would see; all based actual information from the source spacecraft. The results are truly breathtaking and are probably the closest we’ll get to seeing these celestial bodies up close in our lifetimes. Combined with the ethereal, ambient sounds of Brian Eno, it’s easy to get lost and float through space for an hour (but with the added benefit of easily accessible toilets).
If you can’t make it to Brisbane, be sure to check out some of Michael Benson’s amazing images read more about his work on his website.
The Otherworlds: Visions of our Solar System exhibition is on at Queensland Museum from now until 2nd July, 2017 as part of the World Science Festival Brisbane. Entry is free and details are available on the Queensland Museum website.
I’d suggest going on a weekday about an hour before closing time to get the best experience without the crowds.