Day-to-Day Data
Jem Finer
Title: On 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
detail of Aries from On Earth as in Heaven
To 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 myth.

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 handbag.

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.

Jem Finer
April 2005

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.

< Previous Artist