In our lifetime, technological advancements will be made that our grandparents might consider only explainable by magic. The speed at which we progress scientifically is amazing. Ever since early civilisation, when the first human being created a myth to explain why the sky is blue we’ve pursued answers, and moreover certainty. We crave understanding, rules with which the world makes sense. But despite the evident progress within the scientific community, so many of the planet’s population are, in a lot of ways, still living in the dark. A good education is still a privilege many of us are denied. So many prevalent societal issues could be averted, cut off at the root, by simply educating people. Quite contrary to the saying, ignorance is not bliss. I have never seen ignorance breed anything except hatred and fear.
This need for the obtaining and sharing of knowledge is one of the things that makes The New Observatory such a relevant exhibition. This might seem strange at first; especially if we consider the traditional observatory. A home for an astronomical telescope and a star gazer’s paradise. A place where you can explore the science of the tides without ever getting your feet wet. A key to unlocking the world’s magic and revealing the truth behind natural phenomena. When the Bidston Observatory was founded in 1866, this is what we understood as an Observatory. Now, in 2017 FACT is being transformed into a New Observatory in order to explore what these places of observation and understanding might mean in a modern society.
In The New Observatory, you can explore anything from the behavioural patterns of naked mole rats to the societal patterns of divorce. Unlike its traditional predecessors, The New Observatory is for everyone: it’s an open invitation to come and learn, theorise and reason. Although, in this age, we have garnered so much knowledge, it seems, that every question answered creates multiple new questions. By answering a question of security, we have opened up a thousand new debates about life in a surveillance culture. This topic is addressed in James Coupe’s A Machine for Living, a towering 40-ft high watchtower that is occupying the main atrium, which is both a place to observe and in turn be observed.
The New Observatory is a place to both make observations and share them. In light of recent events it has become obvious that communication and the sharing of knowledge are vital. Not only to scientific progress but to societal progress as well. By understanding ourselves and the world around us we can create better art, technology and lives for humanity. The eclectic nature of The New Observatory highlights this interconnectedness of things. Though the themes may not at first be obviously linked, they are all ingredients of a future and a present, best experienced together.
The New Observatory is showcased at FACT until 1 October.