Phylida Bluemel - thoughts

Open Door residency

Overheard this weekend: “M42 is a nebula, the middle ‘star’ in the sword of Orion”

How do these words hold together?

What relation can they have to a site, 1,344 light years away, where large remote incandescent bodies are being formed from a cloud of gas and dust?

What relation can they have to us?

I’m fascinated by how we construct meaning, how we make sense and get about in the world. Even as, species-wise, we’re increasingly aware of the immensity and complexity of the reality beyond our immediate perception.


This weekend; toying with astronomical scale, by the telescope or over coffee, spotting nebulae like trains; I’ve been struck by the metaphorical leaps we must make - to draw the universe close enough – to handle it in our palms - to be able to say anything meaningful about it at all. Playing language games, tossing around terms, we’ve been naming and clustering. Identifying sisters, that are vying for suitors, that are lifetimes
apart in the sky.

A patch of lichen, a splatter of cells under the microscope, the Pleiades cluster. Each take up a relatively similar amount of space in my perceptual field – portioned by frames into circles. ‘Lichen’, (l-i-c-h-e-n) takes up more or less the same space on this screen as ‘Orion’, (o-r-i-o-n). Analogous tools playing opposite games. But I suppose a single stain of lichen flung into the sky, over millennia, would garner a mythology too.


Astronomical truisms that bear repeating:
- The moon has a texture.
- The constellation looks different from the other side.
- There’s no centre
- Moonlight is sunlight.

(If Orion and M42 can play together in the same sentence, I don’t see why I can’t play some language games of my own. Remake the world a little. Stare immensity in the eye.)