Tzimtzum (The Beginning of the World in Cygnus), 2023

Five toned gelatin silver shadowgram films, each in a Mylar enclosure. Each film 34 x 34 cm. Overall dimensions 48 x 110 cm. Unique objects.

In Kabbalist cosmogony all that exists happened through the tzimtzum or ‘self-contraction’ of the primordial Ohr Ein Sof or ‘infinite light’, rendering the divine paradoxically and simultaneously absent and present. Kabbalist scribes have traditionally drawn concentric circles to illustrate the idea. Four of these gelatin silver films were exposed in my studio beneath a 14-inch square photographic glass plate of part of the Cygnus constellation (coordinates 20h7m32s + 36016’35”) loaned to me by an astrophysicist. I shaded three imprints of the glass plate with a circular mask: I chemically inverted one to create a negative and in another I removed the glass plate so the mask shone a round cone of unmediated light. The original astronomical plate was recorded by the Mount Palomar telescope in California on the night of August 8-9, 1950, the very year physicist Will Steffan once identified as the start of The Great Acceleration: the historically unprecedented growth in ecologically impactful human activities on our planet. Is the creative act of divine self-contraction that was and is tzimtzum perhaps a guide to how we, as individuals and a species, need to behave in order to enable the faltering ecology of our planet to flourish once more?