skywalking under dark skies – following a constellation


one of the stars of the constellation – photo credit Dave Hughes

Having attended the incredible and genuinely unique ‘Sanctuary’ event in the Galloway Forest twice before, I decided it was time to propose an artwork.

The purpose of the event is to bring together creative people of many kinds, but all characterised by bold, experimental, and sometimes deeply esoteric work inspired by the concept of darkness, in turn inspired by the Galloway Forest Park’s status as a Dark Sky Park.

I could write literally pages about what i have seen and experienced in those rare 24 hours each time, deep in the forest, awake with every sense, with my neurons firing like gloworms. Everything it has made me think about and more is worthy of its own blog post, but here, now i shall just describe my project.

So to exploring darkness and Dark Skies. I went back to the basics of what got us all there to start with – gazing up at stars and wondering about the enormity and mysterious nature of space. I wanted to find a way of giving people the chance to travel the night sky, make it human-scaled somehow. I wondered if I could literally take a constellation and map it onto the ground, and i imagined people walking between simple points of light to mark their arrival at a star, and in following the path between these, traversing the path of the constellation. The artwork would be the act of walking, manifesting the constellation, the footsteps of people taking them light years between stars.

I chose the constellation Cepheus (related both spatially and mythologically to its near sky neighbours Cassiopeia and Andromeda) but perhaps more enigmatic. It has some strange qualities. one of its stars will become the North Star as our North Pole slowly slowly shifts in relation to the sky. it also contains the largest know black hole in the universe. This is what gave the piece its name – The Dark Heart of Cepheus.

For each of the major 7 stars of the constellation i created an illuminated pyramid shaped light unit, and named the star in both stellar designation and ancient arabic – the first systematic observers of the stars – and finally marked on each the number of light years that they are away from our own Sun. following the constellation meant walking just over a kilometre, but travelling thousands of light years.

People could collect a map from the Sanctuary HQ and use it to find their way. at each star was a ‘stardata’ box for the curious to find out about that star, and perhaps discover a clue about the mysterious Dark Heart. it seemed to be enjoyed by both children who loved the way it felt like a treasure trail, and adults who enjoyed the excuse to explore in the dark, perhaps a few who found it a contemplative journey.

more about the piece and the event here:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s