The imperceptible hum of the universe

14 Apr 2020
Elena Dias-Jayasinha
‘Music of Spheres’ student curator Elena Dias-Jayasinha. Photo: Simon Woods

Hey! I’m Elena Dias-Jayasinha, a fourth-year UQ student completing a Bachelor of Advanced Humanities (Honours) majoring in Art History, and a concurrent Diploma in Languages majoring in Japanese. I currently volunteer at the artist-run initiative Outer Space, and am working on an archival project with the Verlie Just Collection. I’m also the student curator of the new exhibition at UQ Art Museum, Music of Spheres. The UQ Art Museum team asked me some questions about what this exhibition is all about so here are my thoughts!

How did you get the opportunity to curate an exhibition at the UQ Art Museum?
Last year I undertook the course Visual Arts Writing and Curating coordinated by UQ Art Museum Associate Director Dr Holly Arden. Our final piece of assessment involved creating a proposal for a UQ Art Collection-based exhibition, utilising one of the three gallery spaces on the third level of the Museum. We were told that some exhibition concepts may be selected by the Art Museum to be mounted, and I was thrilled to find out mine was chosen. I then worked closely with Curator Anna Briers to develop the concept into an exhibition. The initial idea was significantly expanded beyond its original scope of a one-gallery Collection show to span three galleries and include selected external loans and a new commission.

What inspired Music of Spheres?
Last year was the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. With my news feed filled with celebratory events, outer space was very much on my mind. I also wanted to propose a show that would pique the interests of both humanities and science students. I thought about how I could use space as a means to explore some sort of broader concept, and eventually arrived at my initial proposal: an exploration of the dichotomy between fear and curiosity when faced with the unknown, through the lens of outer space. The show has significantly developed since those early stages, but that is where it all began.

Where does the term Music of Spheres come from?
‘Music of the Spheres’ is a concept attributed to ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras. It posits that all celestial bodies – the Sun, Moon and planets – emit an imperceptible hum based on their orbital revolution, and that life on Earth reflects these cosmic sounds. The theory expands on Pythagoras’ discovery that the pitch of a musical note is directly proportionate to the length of the string that produces it (i.e. mathematical relationships express qualities of energy that can manifest in forms such as sound). ‘Music of the Spheres’ has been criticised and built upon by numerous thinkers, including German astronomer Johannes Kepler.

What key themes does Music of Spheres explore?
Music of Spheres focuses on the interconnected nature of the universe. Artists look to the cosmos, exploring ideas of mysticism, spirituality, the micro/macro, imagined worlds and hidden forces. They reference Indigenous Dreaming stories, Christian religious architecture, Zen Buddhist mythology, and the vibrational qualities of geometry and colour. In his theory ‘Music of the Spheres,’ Pythagoras posited that there is a divine, poetic order to the universe. This exhibition sees us as united in the same celestial soup and looks to the sky to better understand the universe and our place within it.

Music of Spheres features artwork by Lincoln Austin, Eugene Carchesio, Daniel Crooks, Michaela Gleave, Tjungkara Ken, Peter Kennedy, Lindy Lee, Dylan Martorell, Leonie Pootchemunka and Rosalind Atkins, Koji Ryui, Sandra Selig, David Stephenson and Guan Wei. The exhibition will open at UQ Art Museum when the world does.