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Awe-inspiring giant Earth installation on display in Bristol

Gaia at Liverpool Cathedral for Liverpool City Council's River Festival 2019 Gareth Jones

Gaia at W5 Belfast

Press release issued: 8 August 2019

Following the success of Museum of the Moon in 2017 and The Impossible Garden last summer, the University of Bristol is delighted to host another spectacular installation by Bristol-based artist Luke Jerram.

Measuring seven metres in diameter, Gaia features incredibly detailed NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface, providing a unique opportunity to see our planet on this scale, floating in three-dimensions.

Gaia is hosted by the University’s Cabot Institute for the Environment, a diverse community of hundreds of  experts united by a common cause – protecting our environment and identifying ways of living better with our changing planet.

It will be in display, suspended from the rafters of the iconic Great Hall of the Wills Memorial Building, on Friday 16 August [10am-6pm], Saturday 17 August [10am-8pm] and Sunday 18 August [10am-6pm]. Entry is free and there is no need to book tickets. Visitors are encouraged to post photographs on social media using the hashtag #earthartwork 

This will be the first time the piece has been on display in Bristol after appearances across the UK and the rest of the world - although a smaller version was on display at the recent Extinction Rebellion protest at Bristol Bridge.  A specially made surround sound composition by BAFTA award winning Composer Dan Jones is played alongside the sculpture.  

Gaia (which in Greek mythology is the personification of the Earth) is 1.8 million times smaller than the real Earth with each centimetre of the internally lit sculpture describing 18km of the Earth’s surface. By standing 211m away from the artwork, the public will be able to see the Earth as it appears from the moon.

The installation creates a sense of the ‘Overview Effect’, which was first described by author Frank White in 1987.

Common features of the experience for astronauts are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.

Professor Dale Southerton, Director of the Cabot Institute for the Environment, added: “We are absolutely thrilled to host this spectacular artwork which will offer visitors an amazingly unique opportunity to view our precious and ever-changing planet.

“Our academics are working at the forefront of climate change research, looking at all aspects of our changing planet from land, sea, ice and air. From the wilderness to the cities, human to the physical, from local to global and from the ancient to the past.

“Earlier this year, Bristol became the first University in the country to declare a climate emergency, reaffirming our strong and positive commitment to take action on climate change.”

Luke Jerram added: “Unlike the moon, which we have been gazing at for millennia, the first-time humankind got to see the Earth in its entirety as a blue marble floating in space was in 1972 with NASA’s Apollo 17 mission.

“At this moment, our perception and understanding of our planet changed forever. Hanging in the black emptiness of space the Earth seems isolated, a precious and fragile island of life. From a distance, the Earth is just a pale blue dot.

“I hope visitors to Gaia get to see the Earth as if from space; an incredibly beautiful and precious place. An ecosystem we urgently need to look after – our only home.

"Halfway through the Earth’s six mass extinction, we urgently need to wake up, and change our behaviour. We need to quickly make the necessary changes to society, to prevent run away Climate Change. I hope this artwork can help us to have these  conversations."

Visitors will also be able to learn more about the work of the Cabot Institute for the Environment during their visit, with a focus on the research of academics from the School of Earth Sciences who are based in the Wills Memorial Building. This includes information about the new MSc by Research in Global Environmental Challenges degree, launched earlier this year.

A series of talks, interactive exhibits and children’s activities will be running on all three days in the Reception Room – opposite the Great Hall – which will offer visitors to Gaia, an opportunity to mingle with other visitors and earth scientists to discuss our planet – past, present and future.

The Bristol Dinosaur Project will also be on site with a fabulous selection of local fossils, dinosaur bones and palaeoart projects for all generations. Visitors are also welcome to explore the EarthArt Gallery on the ground floor of the Wills Memorial Building and hear more about a very fruitful, Bristol-based art-science collaboration. One of the world’s first geological maps of mainland UK by William Smith is also on show in the gallery.

Visitors can also take part in a special Gaia Tower Tour of the Wills Memorial Building on Saturday 17 August every hour from 11am to 6pm. This includes a visit up to the top of the building, with its panoramic views of the city, and an opportunity to go to the gallery of the Great Hall to see Gaia from above. Tickets cost £4 per person with proceeds going to The Grand Appeal – the charity for Bristol Children’s Hospital.

Further information

About the Cabot Institute for the Environment:

The Cabot Institute for the Environment is a diverse community of experts, united by a common cause: protecting our environment and identifying ways of living better with our changing planet.  Together, we deliver the evidence base and solutions to tackle the challenges of food securitywaterlow carbon energycity futuresenvironmental change, and natural hazards and disasters

About Luke Jerram:

Luke Jerram’s multidisciplinary practice involves the creation of sculptures, installations and live arts projects. Living in the UK but working internationally since 1997, Jerram has created a number of extraordinary art projects which have excited and inspired people around the globe. Jerram has a set of different narratives that make up his practice which are developing in parallel with one another. He is known worldwide for his large-scale public artworks.

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