“Though my soul may sit in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”
~ The Old Astronomer (To His Pupil) by Sarah Williams
Monument to Fallen Stars is a tribute to fading celestial bodies and outmoded civic lighting. An outdoor installation, the piece transforms retired City of Calgary streetlights into a tapestry of grounded constellations. Viewers enter the field of sodium streetlights strewn across an empty parking lot, exploring the space as lights buzz slowly on and off around them. At first, the formation of lights appears haphazard – like a gravesite for fallen infrastructure. In the centre of the site, a small wooden platform holds a single telescope.
Trained at a high-up mirror on the wall of a nearby building, when viewers look up through the telescope, they see their surroundings reflected back on a macro scale. This “bird’s eye” awareness reveals the formations of streetlights around them not as random, but as the calculated placement of familiar constellations – Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Orion, Andromeda, and so forth – many of which are no longer fully visible in the night sky above downtown Calgary.
Drawing connections between above + below, visible + invisible, wilderness + metropolis, curiosity + conquest, Monument to Fallen Stars offers an intuitive moment of pause, asking viewers to stand back and consider our human relationship with dark skies.
Without the infinite stars above to remind us, how can we maintain our humility? As we begin to outglow the twinkle of 14-billion-year-old starlight, how do we continue to nurture our sense of wonder? Viewers are asked to consider a world where the only stars we still see, are those we’ve crafted for ourselves… and perhaps take a moment to consider some alternatives.
Thank you to the kind people at the City of Calgary’s Roads Department for donating 100 outmoded streetlights to this project.