I am lying on my back, in an ocean of space. There is a whole galaxy above me. It is absolutely silent, utterly isolated, and completely peaceful.
It is also a geodesic dome located in the centre of the Train Yards industrial complex.
This is just the beginning of the magic of STARDUST. The current installation at Project SPACE, the alternate location run by Wall Space Gallery, is the inaugural collaboration between sisters Alex and Chris Chowaniec, Chowaniec Projects. Chris runs an eco-tourism company in Vancouver, while Alex is an artist based in Brooklyn, NY. Across geographic boundaries, STARDUST had compiled their shared values and vision over two countries and two very different industries.
When you step into Project SPACE, if you are lucky enough to do so before October 14, a large dome will greet you, 16’ in diameter. All white, the spandex-like material is stretched and tied at various points to simple pipe scaffolding that gives the dome its shape. This unassuming form brings to mind ideas of emergency housing, camping tents and satellites. It is simultaneously familiar and utterly alien. You are invited to enter into this dome after a brief set up by the gallery assistant, and your Twitter-Instagram-Facebook machine stays outside, along with your shoes. The interior is a sensory delight that I refuse to dull with adjectives as it’s best experienced but be prepared to be immersed in this piece, rather than observe it. This project is a chance to relish the kind of peacefulness most of us rarely experience and have forgotten how to carve out time for.
This project is a chance to relish the kind of peacefulness most of us rarely experience and have forgotten how to carve out time for.
I was lucky enough to speak with Chowaniec Projects just before my visit. I asked them how the adventurer and the artist decided to collaborate on more than a family photo album. Chris shared that they realized they were really doing the same thing from two very different angles. She cited both art and nature as a source of sanctuary, a space that allows us to pause, and reflect inward. These are both opportunities – rare and precious – to be alone with our own thoughts. STARDUST is what the sisters envision as the “physical embodiment of this idea”.
“We believe that time is the only currency that matters. We’re trying to give people back time,” Chris advised. “We believe that when you are given time with your own thoughts, provided sanctuary, that you are empowered and energized.” Both sisters assert that we’re going to need to learn to unplug and take care in order to rally around a troubling landscape of climate change, hyper-connectivity, and constant crisis.
Chowaniec Projects speaks glowingly about the skill share event they hosted and a day in which high school students came to experience the installation and discuss with the artists. The concept of prying a cellphone from most teenagers would be met with the same readiness we’d amputate an appendage, but Chris relayed that they were blown away by the students; that they could actually shut off, despite their immersion in a culture of constant multitasking. “They were so insightful,” Alex echoed, “articulate, and engaged.” Gallery assistant Neeko Paluzzi shared that the immersive experience is one that many wish to be prepared for prior, and one he’s careful not to over-explain and instead encourages each individual to have their own unique experience with the piece.
This installation is a tiny island of sanctuary in an ocean of notifications. I would encourage you to go and be untethered and float inside this tiny slice of sanctuary.
STARDUST can be found at Project SPACE, Wallspace Gallery’s location at Train Yards (505 Industrial Avenue, Unit 6.) The installation is on site until October 14. To learn more about Chowaniec Projects, visit their website.