Friday Fiver: Total Eclipse of the Art

On Aug. 21, 2017, all eyes will be on the sky, as a total solar eclipse occurs for the first time in nearly four decades.

And two artists from Vermont will keeping more than just eyes on the sky. Michael Zebrowski, a professor of art at Johnson State College in Vermont, and Kelly Holt, his project manager, are planning on installing four art exhibits along the eclipse’s path across the U.S., and includes one right here in The Holy City.

The yellow tripods will be mounted with a time lapse camera and a live stream camera, and will capture the eclipse as it makes its away across the country.

Anyone interested in partnering with them on the project is encouraged to contact them at holt.kelly@gmail.com or http://zebrowski.tumblr.com/. Or, shoot us an e-mail at the Alliance and we’ll get you connected.

Michael Zebrowski

Michael Zebrowski

We sat down with Michael and Kelly for this week’s Friday Fiver.

What was the inspiration for taking on this ambitious cross-country project?

I have a fundamental desire in my artwork to challenge the scale of my work. I do this not necessarily through how big a structure or sculpture is, but through the relationship that the structure has to the immediate environment, earth and universe. So the event of the eclipse on August 21st fits right into this. I see this project like orchestrating a band’s US tour except all venues play the music at the same time almost and the band consists of the sun moon and earth. My thinking is if I place a modest structure at four points along the path of totality across the country then the works are more about their relationship to the Moon, Sun and Earth. And ultimately our relationship to these celestial bodies.

You have chose four locations for the installations – Charleston; St. Joseph, MO; Jackson Hole, WY; and Salem, OR? How did you select these locations?

I chose the four locations because I wanted to fully do justice to the entire eclipse event across the USA. The total event lasts 95 minutes roughly from land fall in Salem Oregon to exiting in Charleston. I love the idea that everyone will stop and look even if they don’t know about or anticipate the event. There is a type of movement in sculpture and other forms of art that are “site specific,” meaning a work that is placed in a particular place while responding to the conditions of the space. This work is site specific. I also like the idea of expanding this concept to include “time specific.” This work is also time specific. The multiple locations, one in each time zone, is important to following through further with this notion of connecting to time. More simply, the locations all exist on or very near the path of totality. The path of totality is where the true shadow of the moon will hit the earth. If you were on the moon looking at the earth, you would see the shadow cross the planet. Satellites will pick this up as well.

Once you have documented the eclipse, what will you do with the photographs?

The time lapse photography and video will be a way to see the eclipse no matter where you are. Our goal is to have a live feed in all four installations and beyond. We teach at Johnson State College in the Fine Arts Department. There will be live projections there for students and colleagues to see the event as it happens. It happens to be the first day of classes in the Fall. A great way to start the semester. The live feed will also be recorded as a set of four videos that can be projected as an installation in a gallery setting at a future date.

Where will you be for the eclipse?

My family regularly travels to South Carolina to go to Charleston and Hilton Head. We will be in Charleston or just north where we will be completely absorbed in the path of totality. The path of totality travels just north of Charleston proper. If funding through partnerships allow, we will have Kelly the project manager and other team members in each location across the country, monitoring cameras, coordinating with live-time locations and participating in conjunction with community partners during eclipse driven events.

Normally, we ask our Friday Fivers what they would wish for if they could wave a magic wand over Charleston. Today, however, we’re going to ask you this: If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you make happen ANYWHERE on Aug. 21?

Clear skies across the country, especially in Charleston where we will be. The goal is to install ECLIPSE Survey in all four time zones. The hope is that a collective pause during the eclipse signifies a cultural moment in time. I have never witnessed a solar eclipse. This work has been developed in preparation for personally seeing the eclipse and looking to share the event with a broad public audience; ultimately bringing the eclipse into the fold of my public art practice. I have been developing an approach to this moment over the last 5 years and the work presented in this proposal is the result of that process.

Interested in being a Friday Fiver? E-mail mike@artscharleston.org.