Chances are you haven’t looked right at the sun. If you have, maybe you only made it a few seconds before needing to look away. Or maybe you stood in line at a space center and looked safely into a special telescope for a few seconds. But what would it be like to spend 12 minutes as part of an art performance?
We who spin around you is Eduardo Navarro’s interactive new project that allows visitors to do exactly that. The project is hosted by Friends of the High Line and open to anyone visiting the favorite New York spot. During the last few hours before sunset, participants gather on the far-north portion of the path, donning masks that look like a simplified fashion product somewhere between ancient Athenian helmets and future steampunk gear. They then sit together, heads tilted to the sky, as an astronomer narrates a brief history of the orb that lights the earth.
Navarro himself is present for the three day event, offering the masks for borrowing (made of bronze and double-layered welder’s filters) to passersby. His recent projects have focused on nature—clouds, animals, and volcanos particularly. With We who spin around you, he offers a new way to perceive the sun. “I want to develop some sort of contemplation practice,” he tells The Creators Project. “Much like focusing on a candle during meditation, the people here can focus on the sun in that way—they can let a natural phenomenon become that centering light.”
The meditative vibe is facilitated by the “lecture,” given live at every performance. The presenting astronomers run a galaxy-meets-fashion blog and wrote their scripts themselves, which read almost more poetic than academic. “Try and forget all you know or have learned about the universe for a second,” begins the scientist. “Imagine what you might think of this glowing orb in the sky if you were seeing it for the first time.”
But there’s certainly science as well—the kind that everyone can easily grasp. “Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. That warmth comes from trillions upon trillions of photons cascading through the atmosphere, being absorbed by the atoms in your skin, and causing them to vibrate… When I started speaking, we embarked on a journey together. This journey has taken us 200 miles from where we started due to the Earth’s rotation about its axis. It has also advanced us 17,000 miles through space in our orbit around the Sun. And together with the Sun, we have just traveled 130,000 miles in our path through the galaxy.”
Participants range from fascinated science fans on their third visit, to curious couples, to families taking a break from touring. But a few minutes in, they’re all indistinguishable. Chatter dies away around them, and all are sitting still, identical faces pointing upward. From inside the mask, nothing can be seen except the sun itself, as it glows green through the lens.
Aside from feeling like a collective mental yoga, the event allows for something that’s usually impossible. Navarro seems proud to provide the chance. “Isn’t it interesting that the one thing that gives origin to all life on the planet is simultaneously is also the one thing we cannot take in directly with our eyes?”
“I hope they dream about this,” he continues telling The Creators Project. “I think this can be a transformative experience.” At the very least, it’s some surreal, next-level stargazing.
The performances took place from July 19 - 21, 2016. Click here to learn more about Eduardo Navarro's We who spin around you.