Ink on paper.
76 x 56 cm.
Signed on the verso.
“These constellations are all false, but deliciously false! They have grouped totally foreign stars in a single figure. Between real points, that is between stars that are isolated like one-of-a-kind diamonds, the dream of constellations has drawn imaginary lines.” – Gaston Bachelard, “Air and Dreams”
The ancient Sumerians, and later the Greeks (as recorded by Ptolemy), established most of the northern constellations in use today. When explorers mapped the stars of the southern skies, European and American astronomers proposed new constellations for that region. In 1922, the International Astronomical Union adopted the modern list of 88 constellations, which depict 42 animals, 29 inanimate objects and 17 humans or mythological characters. It was agreed that the list would be final and no new constellations would be added. The number 88 has no specific scientific or cultural significance — it is random.
Some constellations were not recognized by the International Astronomical Union in 1922 and thus have been abolished. More than 50 constellations fall in this category. Some of them appear in old maps and etchings, among them Argo Navis, which was one of the 48 proposed by Ptolemy. This list of the “victims” of unification and standardization forms the basis of Alexandra Paperno’s project. This list of 51 former constellations is the result of a peculiar bureaucratic process: something that had never objectively existed was officially abolished.
Three of these constellations: The Battery of Volta, Marmor Sculpture and Corona Firmiana are presented in this exhibition.
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