Russian, Austrian, German, and Bulgarian artists were invited in November 2016 to explore the Special Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in the village of Nizhny Arkhyz. The observatory was strategically placed in the Bolshoi Zelenchuk Valley of the Greater Caucasus, the darkest spot in the former Soviet Union, and up until 1993, it housed the world's largest single primary mirror optical reflecting telescope. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the SAO, the scientific complex in the Karachay-Cherkess Republic was converted into an artist residence for three weeks, resulting in the exhibition “The Observatory.”
A digital version of the exhibition catalogue is now available online. Alongside archival photographs, the catalogue begins with information on the history, construction and technical equipment of the observatory, including an article by historian Ekaterina Degot about art, science and bureaucracy in the Soviet Union.
The second half of the catalogue is made up of exhibition photographs and artists’ statements. For example, Russian street artist Timofey Radya projected the words “They are Brighter than Us” across the night sky in an installation that requires viewers to stargaze. Vienna-based artist Eva Engelbert paid homage to Galina Balashova – the Soviet architect and cosmonautic designer – with a framework of patches, symbols and signs that reference Balashova’s space legacy.
The exhibition catalogue neatly binds together science and art, exploring their historical coexistence and ongoing relationship.