Burning Glass, Reading Stone 2: Solaris
Burning Glass, Reading Stone 2: Solaris
October 13–November 8, 2020
The Atacama Desert, in Chile, is the most arid place on Earth; its atmospheric conditions make it the perfect site for astronomical observations. Over time this immense territory has hosted many different human populations, including the ancient Chinchorro culture, the Inca empire, Spanish colonizers, and Indigenous Atacameño communities who continue to steward this territory. Nowadays, some of the world’s largest telescope arrays are installed there.
For Solaris, artist Oscar Santillán gathered sand from the Atacama Desert, which was melted into glass and turned into photographic lenses. These “desert eyes” were brought back to the Atacama Desert and used to photograph its landscape. The captured images go beyond representing the landscape; in Solaris, the desert is an observing subject rather than a passive object to be looked at.
Taking inspiration from the sci-fi classic by Polish writer Stanisław Lem (which imagined a more-than-human intelligence generated by the sea of a distant planet called Solaris) the series of images renders more-than-human vision and cognition material. As the sand was not purified when it was melted into glass and formed into lenses, lens flare and other distortions appear in these images—ecological traces of the landscape endure as the desert looks at itself.
Taking up a framework he calls “Antimundo,” which combines approaches from science fiction, Indigenous worlding, and cybernetics, Oscar Santillán’s works often aim to sense and explore the porous membranes of our normative reality. By searching into lost episodes of science, knowledge production repressed during colonial times, Andean and Amazonian terraforming, and non-Western sci-fi, Antimundo breathes through Santillán’s artistic practice. In projects such as Solaris, Santillán mobilizes these tools not only to locate the edges of the world, but to consider how other forms of knowing actively compel us to act sensually, to exceed ruling conventions, and to participate within intricate ecologies of more-than-human selves.
Visit the Blackwood Gallery website for documentation, materials and resources. Interpretative video tours with Educator-in-Residence Laura Tibi for each image set, responses by Readers-in-Residence, and more will be released throughout the series.
Across the eight-part lightbox series Burning Glass, Reading Stone, the Blackwood Gallery activates a Reader-in-Residence program that brings readers into dialogue with each image set. This month, the Blackwood is pleased to welcome artist Laurie Kang into dialogue with Oscar Santillán’s project, Solaris.
Adapting the familiar artist’s residency format to one that focuses on practices of reading—reading an exhibition, reading a text, reading as interpretation—each Reader-in-Residence will respond to a series of works presented in the Blackwood’s lightboxes. For each four-week image set, a Reader produces a question-driven conversation with the artist (released in the form of a podcast), and then responds to the series in the form of a reading, set of images, performance-for-the-camera, score, or other experimental interpretative form (distributed via the Blackwood’s website). Bridging local and international respondents, including artists, poets, humanities scholars, and scientists, the Reader-in-Residence program creates a network of sustained engagement with Burning Glass, Reading Stone, and encourages the development of new dialogic and interpretive possibilities in a time of quarantine.
Visit the Blackwood Gallery website for podcast episodes and responses from Readers-in-Residence throughout Burning Glass, Reading Stone beginning October 19.
About Burning Glass, Reading Stone
An eight-part lightbox series
Collectively curated by current and recent Blackwood Gallery staff
September 8, 2020–June 27, 2021
Activating four outdoor lightboxes in public space on the University of Toronto Mississauga campus throughout the 2020-2021 academic year, Burning Glass, Reading Stone explores the conditions, technologies, and spaces of spectatorship that mediate our engagements with the world—physical and virtual. The lightbox program features eight sets of images: each provides a distinct testimony borne of a particular mode of observation or narration.
Distributed across a University campus still navigating social distancing protections necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the lightbox series responds to COVID-19 as a rupture that brings both public space and digital media under examination. What habits of looking has social distancing concretized? What wakefulness to the already existing inequities and gaps produced in our mediated environment is required? What responsibilities do images ask of us? What responsibilities do they occlude? How can various regimes of looking (scientific, testimonial, documentary, intimate, science-fictional) refocus collective attention?
The Blackwood Gallery gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the University of Toronto Mississauga.
University of Toronto Mississauga
3359 Mississauga Rd.
Mississauga, ON L5L 1C6
Visit our website for bus, shuttle and car directions.
Please note: The Blackwood’s gallery spaces are currently closed to the public. Burning Glass, Reading Stone is FREE and open to the public, and accessible 24 hours a day in four outdoor lightboxes across the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus. Some movement throughout the campus is required—ramps and curb cuts are in place across the University premises.
Please respect social distancing protocols while on campus.
1) An out-of-focus desert scene with a pale green-blue sky, suggesting dusk or dawn. Four hexagonal dots appear large near the centre of the image: these are streaked and rainbow-coloured lens flares resulting from imperfect optics.
2) A circular image appears in the middle of a black background. In it, an out-of-focus desert scene appears upside-down. The handmade quality of the lens producing this image is readily visible, with many streaks and imperfections on its surface.