How do we navigate space? How do we map the passage of time? Of course, we have tools like clocks and telescopes, but how are these instruments themselves fixed in history or fragmented by time?
Artist Kate Scardifield has been exploring this idea through 19th century astronomical objects as part of a six-week residency with UTS Art. Combining her established practices in textiles, video and sculpture with loan objects from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), Soft Topologies ‘wakes up’ these archived tools of measurement by combining them with adaptable forms and a changing gallery environment.
"It's not often you get the opportunity to have access to a gallery space six weeks out from an exhibition," says Scardifield. "It's allowed me to approach this exhibition in a really different manner. In a way, I have used this show and residency to open up and expose some of the iterative learning process."
Scardifield spent four weeks as a Research Fellow at MAAS in 2017, working across Sydney Observatory and the Powerhouse Museum. Choosing fragments of objects from the museum’s collection of 19th century astronomical instruments, Scardifield has now developed a charismatic exhibition, full of minute treasures and infinite possibilities.
"There are parts of a telescope used at the Parramatta Observatory,” she says, “and a single weight from a clock that was used to keep sidereal time – that's Earth's rotation relative to the distant stars, rather than the Sun."
Expect fluid and transformative pieces, with Scardifield hoping to change and re-sequence works to create "spatial inversions" that respond to and interrogate the architecture of time, space and the human body.
Treating the gallery as an active working studio during the duration of the exhibition, Scardifield will also be inviting diverse experts to join her in re-shaping the textiles intermittently. “I’ll be working with a sail maker, a percussionist, a choreographer, and an engineer amongst others.
"The residency has allowed me to resist the urge to make anything fixed or static," she says. "So the formation of objects will continue to evolve during the exhibition."
Soft Topologies is presented as part of the Sydney Design Festival and will be on display in the UTS Gallery until Friday 20 April. For details of Scardifield's talks and other public programs related to Soft Topologies, visit art.uts.edu.au
Image courtesy of the artist and ALASKA Projects