Gaia is a touring artwork by UK artist Luke Jerram. Measuring seven metres in diameter and created from 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface* the artwork provides the opportunity to see our planet, floating in three dimensions.
The installation aims to create a sense of the Overview Effect, which was first described by author Frank White in 1987. Common features of the experience for astronauts are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment. Watch this great film about the phenomenon.
The artwork also acts as a mirror to major events in society. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the artwork may provide the viewer with a new perspective of our place on the planet; a sense that societies of the Earth are all interconnected and that we have a responsibility toward one another. After the lockdown, there has been a renewed respect for nature.
When presented indoors, the Earth artwork slowly revolves. A specially made surround sound composition by BAFTA award winning Composer Dan Jones is played alongside the sculpture. In Greek Mythology Gaia is the personification of the Earth.
The artwork is 1.8 million times smaller than the real Earth with each centimetre of the internally lit sculpture describing 18km of the Earth’s surface. By standing 211m away from the artwork, the public will be able to see the Earth as it appears from the moon.
Over its lifetime, Gaia will be presented in a number of different ways both indoors and outdoors. Depending on which country the artwork is presented in, and whether it is presented in a museum, science centre or parkland, the experience and interpretation of the artwork may alter. So far, wherever the artwork travels, it draws huge audiences. In 2019 at Liverpool Cathedral in just one month they saw 200,000 visitors.
Unlike the moon, which we have been gazing at for millennia, the first time humankind got to see the Earth in its entirety as a blue marble floating in space was in 1972 with NASA’s Apollo 17 mission. At this moment, our perception and understanding of our planet changed forever. Hanging in the black emptiness of space the Earth seems isolated, a precious and fragile island of life. From a distance, the Earth is just a pale blue dot.
Gaia as a venue for events
Gaia also acts as a venue, with hosts creating their own programme of events to take place beneath the artwork. So far venues have held orchestral and choral performances; space science lectures by astronauts; environmental discussions with scientists and activists; yoga; poetry readings; dance and theatre performances; religious ceremonies; Extinction Rebellion protests.
Luke Jerram’s multidisciplinary practice involves the creation of sculptures, installations and live arts projects. Living in the UK but working internationally for over 25 years, Jerram has created a number of extraordinary art projects which have excited and inspired people around the globe. Find out more via his main website. In 2019 Luke Jerram was elected Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Book for Sale
Luke Jerram: Art, Science & Play provides a fascinating insight into the evolving practice of international artist Luke Jerram. With over fifty colour photographs and two specially commissioned texts by Ken Arnold (Wellcome Collection) and Mark Ball (Manchester International Festival) the publication delves into the mind of an artist known for his imaginative ability to combine art, science and play, showing us that (in his own words) “anything is possible”. The book features this artwork Gaia and the The Museum of the Moon.
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*The imagery for the artwork has been compiled from Visible Earth series, NASA.