The road to Kilbourne Hole in southern New Mexico

Las Cruces Space Festival

The Las Cruces Space Festival is an annual celebration of space-related activity and interest in southern New Mexico  with a stated mission of  ‘Making Space for Everyone’. 

 

Southern New Mexico has a rich history of space exploration, from the early developments by Robert Goddard in the 1930s, to the rocket launches from 1946 onwards at White Sands, through to the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport at Spaceport America. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commissioned for the 2019 festival, Hand Made Light was a series of art interventions in and around Las Cruces and a first time collaboration between myself and Colorado based artist Jeff Erwin. Working with three separate locations, we set out to create a new work for each site and a development of our theme of light as code: light as language. The three very distinct locations brought forces into play which took our ideas and our outcomes into unexpected directions and revealed more than we probably expected.

Doña Ana County Courthouse, Amador Drive, Las Cruces

As mentioned in Shine, the first of these interventions was a roof-based work on top of the old Doña Ana County Courthouse. The building is now empty with the exception of some of the rooms which are home to Southwest Expeditions - a company for the outward bound experience and who we would later team up with at the desert crater Kilbourne Hole.

 

With a production team of myself and Jeff along with astronomers Karen Kinemuchi and Emma Dahl we took a long and very hot weekend to complete our task of a reproduction of the emission spectrum of Neon. So that's neon in spectral lines and neon as a sign - a giant neon sign. Now completed in 46 lines it stares up into the sky and that's the only place to view it from (or make your way up onto the roof and be a part of it). Now we can only wait for google earth to update the view from space and when they do that particular neon sign will be found at the junction of Amador Drive and Alameda Boulevard, Las Cruces, New Mexico.

 

More on the roof installation on the Neon page.

We Choose to go to the Moon

The 2019 space festival met with a very special anniversary of space exploration: the first manned mission to the Moon. It's known the world over that Apollo 11, commanded by Neil Armstrong, was the mission which achieved the goal but much less is known about the following mission of Apollo 12. However, we took that mission as our inspiration for our temporary installation at Kilbourne Hole.  Kilbourne Hole is a volcanic crater in the desert of southern New Mexico and it was the training location for two of the Apollo 12 crew. Our installation was on the 50th anniversary of the training visit.

 

In a collaboration with a bus-load of fellow visitors to the crater, (led by Southwest Expeditions) We choose to go to the Moon ended up as several things. At the time of its making it was a shared reflection of the aspirations which led to man’s flight to the moon but it also formed a new connection to mine and Jeff's preoccupation with the reading of starlight. With the intervention over and everyone back on the bus for the journey home however, the work then started down the road of becoming something else.           

 

With the help of local film company NMCO media we wanted to make sure that we had a reasonable record of the day at the crater. As soon as we had a chance to look at the day's footage though we realised that we had so much more than that. This would be the start of our new plans to bring narrative ideas into documentary type footage and so to create our film "We choose to go to the Moon", drawing on the words and sentiments of President John F Kennedy when he delivered his now famous speech and pronouncement, “we choose to go to the moon” in September 1962. 

The film can currently be viewed on youtube at We choose to go to the Moon

 

H-alpha

At a place known as La Cueva, in the foothills of the Organ Mountains, New Mexico are some remarkable rock formations. The actual site of La Cueva is a rock shelter which was occupied from almost 5,000 BC through the historic period that followed the arrival of the Europeans. For our third site-specific work in the 2019 festival Jeff and I wanted to focus in on the one spectral line that has such an important role in the science of astronomy and subsequently, how we understand the light of the Universe: the H-alpha line is the brightest line in the emission spectrum of Hydrogen.

More can be read about the piece on the blog page and about our very good fortune to get the unexpected help of a visitor, conveniently attired in red.

We choose to go to the Moon - film poster
The making of 'We choose to go to the Moon'