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Eye of Silence



The Dark Side of the Sun is a subterranean installation composed of 15,000 litres of crude oil, water and deep-sea petroleum-eating bacteria installed as the lower level of a total exhibition ecosystem.


The Dark Side of the Sun was originally installed in the bottom level of the planetarium-cum-art gallery Contemporary Calgary for the centennial of the invention of planetariums (click on the image above for a high resolution pdf with full info).

Original Exhibiiton Text:

The Desert Turned to Glass forms a place where the cosmic and the chthonic collide. Commemorating the centenary of the planetarium as an architectural type, Contemporary Calgary presents a newly commissioned body of work by Canadian artist Charles Stankievech. A transmedia installation that inhabits both the projection space of the planetarium’s dome and the subterranean chamber below, the visitor experiences a stratified ecosystem spread across multiple levels within the building, while representing vast distances in space and time.

Thematically, the video Eye of Silence explores alternative theories of the origin of life, consciousness and art. Projected onto the overhead dome, anewly commissioned, multichannel video work marshals high atmospheric video recordings of the Albertan Badlands, the Utah Salt Flats, Icelandic & Japanese volcanoes, and a meteorite crater in the Namibian desert. Visualizing the Earth at the critical moments of its evolution-the presentation begins by speculating about the moment when life on the planet was seeded from a frozen meteorite. The video ends with images of prehistoric cave art projected onto the dome’s curved screen, creating an architectural connection between our modern ways of imagining the cosmos in the planetarium with the ancient ways during rituals in caves.

In the cavernous space below, a black pool of petroleum rippling with infrasonic waves completes a deep biosphere cycle. Following a theory by an astrophysicist that oil is a result of ancient bacterial deposits, bacteria once again returns petroleum to its primal hydrocarbon elements in the installation The Dark Side of the Sun. Unconsciously, but present nonetheless, an ultrasonic sound installation What Is It Like to Be a Bat? hangs from the ceiling of the grotto. In an attempt at transspecies communication, an Artificial Intelligence reads the classic philosophical essay by Thomas Nagel in a frequency only audible to bats.

In between the parallel dark spaces of the dome and the cave, a singular and historic meteorite floats above a sand floor at the bottom of the atrium’s spiral walkway—suspending the moment in time just before a cataclysmic collision. Spanning the abyss of space and the depths of the earth, The Desert Turned to Glass is an epic meditation on origins, endings, and infinity.