To Unravel the Universe, Voyager 1 and 2

Woman with dark shoulder length hair looking over her shoulder at the viewer.

To "Unravel the Interstellar" and "Voyager 1 and 2" is a collection driven by my long love and interest for cosmology and astronomy. Aside from following NASA's projects and watching Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos as a child, simple star-gazing was a spiritual routine. Light traveling millions of light-years away from a star that may no longer exist always reminds me of my place in the much bigger universe. I am a lucky little organism born with the ability to appreciate that the seemingly flat night sky is a soundlessly expanding beast of other worlds and life. And as long as I remember to look up from our "pale blue dot," the ills of my mind and heart can be remedied.

Star-gazing is a meditation that inspires an appreciation of all things. It is where I see the convergence of art with science. Many people contest the necessity of NASA's missions, similar to how some criticize art. They believe that these are gratuitous activities that do not serve our basic needs of food, shelter, and water. Yet, they do satisfy the undeniable human trait of curiosity. Human curiosity spans from why we love others, to why Saturn has rings. Michaelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel for four years in hopes of finding something for himself and others. The researchers of Voyager 1 and 2 were self-admittedly driven by the same goal when they built these machines with no guarantees of success. When we engage in art and science, methods of discovery, we learn not just of externalities, but ourselves.

The importance of engagement is why the work of Carl Sagan, an astrophysicist, Voyager contributor, and former professor at Cornell University, is so important to me. Dedicating his whole life to the popularization of science to the general public, Sagan encouraged appreciation, curiosity, and discovery. Furthermore, he pioneered the addition of the Golden Record onto Voyager 1, holding a collection of sounds and images from Earth for extraterrestrial life. Carl Sagan is both an artist and a scientist. He is undoubtedly a considerable inspiration for not only my project, not only my choice of study but how I live my life. Therefore I dedicate this work in his memory.

How it was made:

Sitting on my bedroom floor listening to many weeks of Voyager documentaries, I employed traditional Japanese Shibori binding to 22 yards of undyed fabric. Shibori is a resist-dye technique of binding and knotting practiced since the 3rd century. I chose Shibori to continue exploring Japanese printmaking techniques after my woodblock studio in the spring of 2019. With the initial idea of using a combination of hand woodblock printing and Shibori, I wanted to honor the beauty of Georges Lemaître's Big Bang Theory, where a singularity transforms into everything. But as the project continued, I realized that to create imagery by binding techniques alone would be a more honest use of the tradition and more faithful to the universe's creation story. With a single white spool of thread, I used binding traditions like Miura (assembling fabric into bunches smaller than a fingernail) and my inventions incorporating wooden dowels and Styrofoam. As the fabric length shortened, my bindings became more diverse and sparse to represent the expansion and transformation of matter through time.

After three months had passed, it was finally time to dye the fabric. And once I did, I fell in love with the uncertainty of the inside. So the project remained as a sculpture. Then curiosity got to me, and I created two fabric scrolls (humorously named Voyager 1 and 2) to get a clue inside the larger shibori project (named To Unravel the Universe). The scrolls, however, only contain the ending pattern closest to the current state of the universe, or more accurately, our solar system. For we only gathered so much from Voyager 1 and 2. And the rest of the universe, past and present, remains a mystery.

Going forward, I hope to expand and advance the project to be displayed in Cornell's Physical Science Building next to Carl Sagan's former office building.

~Sabrina Haertig

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