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Otherworlds: Visions of our Solar System

  • Things to do, Exhibitions
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Space. To go, boldly or otherwise, isn’t really an option for most of us, despite the advent of contactless TfL payment . But we have sent countless craft, probes and bits of hardware, as well as the odd mammal, into the heavens. And they have returned with or beamed back screeds of technical information – now held in the archives of various space agencies. It’s this data that artist and writer Michael Benson sifts through, taking individual frames of often grainy black-and-white footage to come up with the seamless colour montages of celestial goings-on in this show.

In dark frames, on dark walls, the 70-odd dramatically lit photographs on display glow theatrically. Moving through the show from Earth and the Sun to the farthest-flung planets, you’ll encounter breathtaking (probably deadly) atmospheres and startling geological formations: Mars’s frosted dunes, one of Saturn’s moons venting water into space, the tactile magnetic upwellings of Venus’s Tusholi Corona.

If not quite a giant leap, it’s a towering achievement on Benson’s part to give tangible form to things beyond sight and comprehension. However, the meeting of science and art here isn’t entirely happy. While hard facts are whittled down to the smallest of digestible chunks, some of Benson’s aesthetic considerations seem a bit random; particularly the long thin formats he chooses, which look as if they’ve been designed to go above a sofa.

Neither a great photo show nor a knockout science display, ‘Otherworlds’ sits in that strange zone of edutainment . Brian Eno has been drafted in to produce a soundtrack – perhaps inspired by one of Benson’s more esoteric titles such as ‘Late Afternoon on Mars’ – but his patented synth waft soon starts to grate, its Muzaky stylings only adding to the sensation that, instead of crossing the galaxy, you’re trudging through a giant coffee-table picture book. Which, indeed, you will find as you exit through the well-stocked gift shop. 

Written by
Martin Coomer

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