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‘The Artist Observatory’ is the second edition of a new alternative residency programme piloted by Catalyst Arts. This series began last autumn with Alice Clark as ‘Artist-at-Sea’ on board marine and oceanographic research vessel the RV Corystes and continues with artist Lucy McKenna taking up research residence at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium this spring. At a time when artists are experiencing a decline in accessible resources and facilities in the pursuit of their work and research, Catalyst Arts is committed to the mediation of new approaches to facilitating unique research opportunities for artists tailored to their specific practice and field of research.

Lucy McKenna makes work that is concerned with belief systems and seemingly divergent ideologies relating to reality and existence. The works she creates trace humanity’s continuous attempt to reconcile its positioning or exclusivity in the Universe, whether that be through methods of scientific experiment, technological progression, ritual practice, or folklore. The documented interpretation of anomalies, mysteries or unexplained phenomena in the world is very present in her work, along with semblances of the tools and equipment used in perceiving these events. Focusing on commonalities in different philosophical theories her works seek to unfold the information hidden in those spaces where the analytic and the intuitive concur.

This focused interest in the acts of observation  will be the initial point of departure for Lucy’s research period at the Observatory, ranging from learning how astronomers obtain and interpret their data to areas of cosmogony and how our collective ideas about astronomy and the sky have influenced humanity’s views and ideas over history. The residency will offer the rare opportunity to access first hand the processes carried out at the Observatory and Planetarium in Armagh, engaging with astronomers for discussion and research, diffusing the boundaries between artist and researcher and supporting the mutable position of the artist as observer.

In addition, the site’s rich history and heritage as a leading Observatory in the British Isles, specifically looking at its archive from the 19th Century is of key interest to the artists and she will see to find further information on Irish astronomer Charles E. Burton, whom she has been researching as part of an ongoing project.

The project has been made possible through the support of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council and the generous collaboration of the staff at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium. The residency launch will coincide with NI Science Festival on 18th February and continue throughout Spring.

For updates on public events please see our website and social media as the project develops.

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