Lenses on the Sky is a large-scale environmental installation permanently residing outside of OMSI’s newly redesigned Planetarium. This interactive installation pairs the study of space science with cultural stories from across the globe and investigates how humans across time have interpreted the stars and imagined the exploration of new frontiers.
The installation is composed of five cedar wrapped vessels that protrude from the ceiling from within a skyscape of hanging aluminum forms. Two of the vessels, long and telescopic, are known as the Outies. These vessels display analog interpretations key subjects in the sky. In one, two globes, one black, one illuminated are arrayed so that a visitor can create the illusion of a solar eclipse by moving their body as they look up in the vessel. The other tells a story of light pollution by sequencing LED strips which illuminated etched stars on a series of acrylic panels.
Three other vessels, the Innies, shorter and outfitted with rear-projection scrims, show stop motion animations which depict indigenous stories of the stars from across the globe and across time. A story from the Shasta tribe of Oregon and Northern California, as provided by the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, tells the story of a Raccoon and Coyote who chase one another into the night sky, becoming the Little Dipper. A Namaqua Khoikhoi story of a Zebra hunt tells the story of Orion’s belt and sword, and a Maya story explores the underworld through the adventures of a crocodile.
The installation is meant to welcome all people into the wonder of space science. Girls, and frequently underserved audiences can start to see themselves in the global stories that are depicted on each of the three rear-projection vessels (the innies). And the intent of the installation was to create a system that can be expanded and enhanced over time.
The project was designed to be an incredibly collaborative effort from the start and only continued to grow along the way. From the cultural advisors who co-curated content for the animated stories, to Airstream who donated the aluminum for the Skyscape, Skylab Architecture who designed the pendants, Pesznecker Brothers and OMSI who fabricated the pendants, and the OMSI shop who lovingly fabricated each of the vessels and managed installation, and the suite of artists, creative technologists, and content strategists, who donated their time and efforts in order to bring this installation to life on a challenging budget.
Not only does the sculptural skyscape and vessel experience reshape a heavily travelled corridor and inspires kids and families to look up, it offered the Museum, plus & grater than's partners, and their community a way to work together to create something to inspire more families to look up.
"Lovely synergy of beautiful sculptural art forms with integrated digital and graphic content to convey a series of stories in a way that feels personal and immersive."
"A perfect balance of awe and discovery! Bravo for an artful installation that connects science with cultural meaning."
Traci Sym (experience direction), Daniel Meyers (creative direction), Reiko Igarashi (pendant design with Skylab Architecture), Kirsten Southwell (stop motion design, production), Thomas Wester (technical direction), Alyssa Glass (content strategy)
Content Team: Kyrie Kellett (OMSI senior learning & community engagement specialist); Maiya Osife (content advisor, Portland Metro); Chris Rempel, Greg Archuleta (content advisors, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde); Alonzo Méndez (content advisor, Tzeltal Maya); Dr. Christine Mullen Kreamer (content advisor, Smithsonian Institution)