A visit to a Sister Planet

Sister Planet
Sister Planet LEA27

Sister Planet is Kimika Ying’s latest installation at the LEA, and given I enjoy science-fiction and have a bit of an interest in space exploration and astronomy, it’s one that should be right up my street. It takes as its theme what is often referred to as Earth’s “sister planet”, Venus (so-called because it has a similar size, gravity, and bulk composition to that of Earth). But what is presented here is not the Venus known to science today, but rather the Venus science-fiction once presented to us, even as late as the 1940s: a warm, wet planet with verdant rainforests existing under its heavy clouds.

Here, then, is a world from an alternative universe, where human beings have started to explore, establishing a small base on the edge of a verdant rainforest surrounded by hills and strange rocky outcrops, and above which the odd volcano or two pokes its snout.

Sister Planet
Sister Planet LEA27

The forest itself is both strangely terrestrial in nature, and also very alien, while the base camp mixes parts of old rockets with pot-bellied units sitting on spindly legs. Above the trees and beneath the clouds, strange green creatures fly, often chasing large seed pods which periodically drift up into the sky. The creatures have no wings as such, but propel themselves by a sudden spinning motion, which also gives them their name; while under the canopy of trees, other strange flora and fauna reside.

Of course, we now know that all the early hopes of Venus really being a sister planet to Earth have been well and truly dashed; the planet is in fact one of the most inhospitable places in the solar system; yet the old science-fiction stories might, under other circumstances have been right. The orbit of Venus sits just beyond the inner edge of what is called the “circumstellar habitable zone”, or “Goldilocks zone”, the region around a star within which planetary-mass objects with sufficient atmospheric pressure can support liquid water at their surfaces, and thus possibly offer conditions suitable for the advent of life. As such, an exploration of what / if with regards to Venus perhaps isn’t in appropriate.

Sister Planet
Sister Planet LEA27

Sadly, however, I’m not sure that this installation succeeds in doing that; while the blog that  accompanies the installation makes for good reading, chart as it does both the development of the idea and Kimika’s leap into mesh content creation, I’m not sure it achieves anything else. Certainly, as one who very much enjoyed at appreciated Kimika’s Oceania Planetary Park, which formed a part of the fifth round of LEA AIR grants, I came away from Sister Planet somewhat disappointed.

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