Interstellar imaginations come to life

Multimedia exhibition on Saturn’s orbit opens at local gallery

Photo by Bram Keast.

From now until March 12, Winnipeggers will be thrilled by a new multimedia exhibition at PLATFORM centre for photographic + digital arts, located at 121-100 Arthur St. in the Exchange District. The exhibition, Imaging Saturn, is a new long-term project of Regina-based media and visual artist Risa Horowitz.

Horowitz’s vast experience in media and visual arts has seen her live and work in seven provinces as an artist, writer, educator, and gallery programmer. Several of her works have been exhibited in Canada and abroad, including at the Canada House in London. Her recent works have seen the incorporation of  astronomy and astrophotography. Imaging Saturn is a product of these explorations.

Imaging Saturn is a full-fledged artistic experience. This new multimedia installation focuses on Saturn, its 29.42-year orbit (2011-2040), and the apparent path of the sun, surrounding stars, and the planet itself through space in that time frame.

“In 2010, on the night of my PhD comprehensive exam, a friend mentioned that the observatory on campus [at York University] was open for public visitation. I had never looked through a telescope before […] When we looked at Saturn, it made me cry,” Horowitz told the Manitoban.

“It really had an effect on me that light from the sun had travelled all that way, bounced off Saturn, and came through the lens and had gone to my brain through my eyes. It made it very real for me to see it that way.”

The stellar installation includes yearly photographs of Saturn, an accurate mapping of the ecliptic (the sun’s path with respect to Saturn), a mechanized orbiter of Saturn, kinetic sculptures that represent each year of Saturn’s orbit, and a 10-minute video representation of Saturn’s orbit.

“Saturn’s gorgeous, and it turns out that for so many amateur astronomers, it’s Saturn that turns them on. For me, because I am an artist, [when I saw Saturn] I very quickly started imagining how I might make something very interesting as a body of art,” said Horowitz.

Horowitz teamed up with local kinetic artist Ray Peterson to build the orbiter, and enlisted a handful of others to provide studio and technical assistance. Video Pool Media Arts Centre will present the exhibition in collaboration with PLATFORM.

Imaging Saturn is more than a representation of scientific or engineering concepts. The essence of the project is rooted in themes of participatory science and data visualization and Horowitz hopes it blurs the boundaries between the training that defines experts and the enthusiasm that defines amateurs.

“There is such a distinction that we make between disciplines of knowledge as if scientists are not deeply creative, or artists are not deeply intellectual or inquisitive people […] This is a nice way to bridge those disciplinary gaps,” said Horowitz.

In curating the exhibit, Horowitz came up with several abstract ideas, many of which had to be discarded before the final display was decided on.

“As a conceptual artist, a good deal of my works has to do with ideas – not so much objects that are decorated or beautiful. I am very motivated by ideas. I threw away a lot of ideas before I came to this piece,” said Horowitz.

After Imaging Saturn’s premiere in Winnipeg has passed, the exhibition will find its way to galleries across the country.

PLATFORM’s director Collin Zipp believes that Horowitz’s exhibition fulfills the set mandate of the centre, which made the collaborative process seamless.

“[PLATFORM] started in 1981 […] and we have always exhibited photography. As times change, so did photography, and so did we. Now we show any sort of lens-based works – anything that challenges the idea of lens-based practices,” Zipp told the Manitoban.

“This is a show that explores the different aspects of lens-based art making and technology, so it really helps to fulfill our mandate.”

For more information about the exhibition, visit