From the intriguing crossover of pseudoscience, pre-cinema, poetry, shadow theatre, and wonder, Oona Libens distils a precious little gem of a performance: Celestial Objects.
Full moons, solar eclipses, interplanetary gases, and volcanoes spitting glass… At Hôtel Rustique this winter, you'll be floating in a most peculiar way. The space for artistic encounters and experimentation, founded by Anne Brugni and McCloud Zicmuse, will be transformed into an intimate observatory under the auspices of Oona Libens, a Swedish-Belgian artist who found the perfect mould for her artistic output in the late nineteenth-century, itinerant company of Alma Cuomo from the Italian town of Urbino. "Teatro Dondolo presented pop-scientific productions that combined various disciplines, including shadow theatre. That's exactly what I wanted to do. So I re-founded the company and gave it a contemporary twist."
Celestial Objects is a sitting room production about space, a journey past planets, suns, constellations, and comets. It builds on Itinerarium Exstaticum, a book by Athanasius Kircher, a seventeenth-century German Jesuit and homo universalis who in a strictly religious age wanted to study space, following the invention of the telescope. He therefore imagined a journey across the universe accompanied by the Angel Cosmiel in an asbestos boat – so as not to melt on the sun. "You could interpret Celestial Objects as a kind of travelogue of the universe: if we are going to have to leave the earth soon, we might as well start looking for another place to settle down."
Oona Libens's poetic-scientific quest is driven by a fascination for pre-cinema, a passion for analogue technologies, and the childlike wonder sparked by the shadows on the wall. "Those shadows have been chasing me for a long time. [Laughs] Even as a child, I could never get enough of those magical figures you could create on the wall using just your hands. It is this wonder that I am still trying to rediscover, though I also try to burst the magical bubble somewhat by revealing how the production works and what is going on behind the scenes."
Ropes and pulleys, sheets, projectors, cassettes, lamps, overheads, and a veritable library of glittering or light-refracting reflecting possibilities. "I like the materiality and openness of those analogue materials. I find or am given many of them, or I make them myself." The result is a heart-warmingly sincere artistic practice on a human scale. "These days, everything is reduced to a screen, and yes, on a computer the possibilities are endless. Things occasionally go wrong in my productions – a rope breaks or something gets stuck – but that is part of the atmosphere. I think it is important not to forget that human aspect. I like to involve as many different media and senses in my work. The production is not only the result of an intellectual process. It is also emotional. I find poetry in that apparent simplicity, in little mistakes or irregularities, in the way reality transforms when you look at it through hand-blown glass."
> Celestial Objects. 22/12, 19:00, Hôtel Rustique