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Australia

I’m honoured and excited to be one of the first residents at the Sydney Observatory. This is one of my favourite places in Sydney and I’m really happy to expand my practice here in 2021 for Australia’s winter season, as well as to meet all of my amazing co-residents. I think investigating the skies and space and making connections here on planet Earth is important for us to make better choices to preserve it. What a ray of hope for 2021. Ad astra!

Sydney Observatory Residents. Image: Ken Leanfore

From the Sydney Observatory website:

The Sydney Observatory Residency Program offers space in-kind at the Observatory and will see the selected residents collaborate with the Museum on projects that engage audiences with the Observatory’s disciplines, collection and program.

In its over 160 years, the Observatory has led many significant projects, including the creation of the colonies first meteorological records, the chartering of over 430,000 stars in the southern sky and has employed dozens of female ‘computers’ and scientists to measure the stars. Government Astronomers worked and lived in the building until 1982 when Sydney Observatory became part of the Powerhouse.

The 11 residents selected for the inaugural residency program in 2021 work across a diverse field of practices from astrophysics, science, philosophy and the environment to visual art and theatre:

  • Leading environmental historian Nancy Cushing will explore the working and social history of Sydney Observatory’s Time Ball, focusing on what it meant to the people to who managed it.
  • Artist and scenographer Elizabeth Gadsby, together with award-winning theatre and opera director Imara Savage and soprano and composer Jane Sheldon, will collaborate to create an audio-visual installation inspired by eyewitness accounts of solar eclipses authored by four women: astronomer Maria Mitchell, editor and observatory assistant Mabel Loomis Todd, and writers Virginia Woolf and Annie Dillard.
  • Contemporary visual and contemporary artist Michaela Gleavewill create a new series of work inspired by the astronomical data in the Gaia and Hipparcos star catalogues.
  • Amala Groom, a Wiradyuri artist whose practice is informed and driven by First Nations methodologies, will engage with the Observatory’s collection of Time and Timekeeping to expand her research on the relationships between time as a western construct and Wiradyuri epistemologies.
  • Annie Grace Handmer, researcher at University of Sydney School of History and Philosophy of Science, and host of Space Junk podcast, will present a series of interviews with the team at the Observatory as a behind the scenes exploration into the collection and stories within the building.
  • Spanish-Australian astrophysicist and science communicator Dr Ángel R. López-Sánchez will create a body of images connecting the Observatory, the city, and the Sky through Astrophotography.
  • Astrophysicist Rami Mandow will further develop a community project SpaceAusScope, providing the tools for space enthusiasts to build their own backyard radio telescopes.
  • Award-winning poet Kate Rees aims to develop a language of the nocturne and night, inspired by the collection, history and sky views from the Observatory.
  • Chinese-Filipina award-winning artist, designer and writer Catherine Sarah Young will research into the archives to explore how rain was measured and historical references to extreme weather in Sydney, as part of her work exploring climate change and the environmental future.

(USA and International)—The Peace Studio supports, trains, and unites the next generation of artists, journalists and storytellers to inspire people everywhere to become active peacebuilders. Earlier this year, they began commissioning creatives to generate peace offerings in response to the isolating COVID-19 pandemic in their 100 Offerings of Peace Campaign. I’m stoked to have contributed to this awesome and necessary campaign on Day 23; my piece is about the Australian bushfire crisis.

Human hearts cast out of resin, bushfire ash, soil, stones, flowers, etc.

“I moved to Australia in September 2019, and what I viewed initially as a move to a country that was relatively safe from climate catastrophes quickly turned into a move to ground zero because of the bushfire crisis. I decided to use the ashes to create art as a way forward for healing and regeneration. I reference the scene of the “Weighing of the Hearts” of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, in which the dead person’s heart is weighed against a feather. This peace offering asks us, what weighs our hearts down or makes them lighter?”

“One day I woke up and a piece of the planet was in my heart,” is how my art/sci/nature/sci-fi video offering starts. Check out the video here: https://thepeacestudio.org/day-23/

The Peace Studio is co-founded by Dr. Maya Soetoro, also consultant to the Obama Foundation and whom we in the Obama Leaders: Asia-Pacific cohort have the honor of being with. Let’s do what Yo-yo Ma (Day 25) says and to create art and post it online with the hashtag #OfferPeace. Please support their wonderful work on @the_peace_studio and www.thepeacestudio.org.