Earth as in Heaven
Location: Web-based commission for this website
Launch Project >
Jem set himself the task of finding out where in the world the names of stars
appear on other websites and what earthly things these names are used to describe.
Once the names were located, he marked, on maps of the world, the towns and
countries where the websites are based – linking together these places
to create new earthly patterns for twenty-two constellations. When you open
the Atlas you enter the Star Map – this is your navigation tool. Click
on the names to open the individual constellations. On each constellation page
you can see its original pattern along with its new one mapped onto the surface
of the earth. Click on the name of a star to open the website where it is featured.
Look carefully and you will find that star names crop up as, amongst other things:
TV components, handbags and even erotic drawings.
detail of Aries from
On Earth as in Heaven
the astronomer stars are data; catalogued, numbered and mapped, graded by size,
colour, spectral content and red shift. Their names date back to an earlier
age when, ordered into constellations, their passage across the night sky was
a clock, a beacon, a calendar for agriculture, a map for navigation, bound in
The stars still hold their mystery and now, millennia
after their naming, I wondered where and when these names appeared and how they
connected, here on earth.
I soon discovered that I had embarked upon a serious data
mining exercise. I imagined initially that all the stars would have streets
or towns named after them (or themselves be named after terrestrial locations),
but this was far from the case. Using Google as a research tool I found that
star names were more often than not the name of an object, a document, a person,
something transient at a specific time and place…
Some star names (where they had them) proved so problematic
I had to dig far down the line of alternative nomenclature - numbers, Greek
letters and abbreviations - to find even one terrestrial manifestation. With
others, references were only to themselves or ‘useless’ data. The
star ‘Pione’, for example, repeatedly yielded typos for the word
‘phone’. Eventually, after over 40 pages of results, I found a Pione
I came across an old atlas and started to draw the constellations
onto its pages, layering them on top of the existing maps of data; climate,
ocean currents, geology…
Dealing with the ever increasing overload of information,
these disparate mappings interconnect nodes on the planet into nonsensical yet
ordered networks, into patterns based on the star gazing and pattern forming,
myth making past of our ancestors. On earth as in heaven.
On Earth as in Heaven is a result of a period of residency,
supported by the Calouste
Gulbenkian Foundation and Arts
Council England, at the Astrophysics Department of Oxford University.