Art and Space

In 1979, Jean-Pierre Luminet published his paper “Image of a Spherical Black Hole with Thin Accretion Disk” in Astronomy and Astrophysics in which he presented the world’s first simulated photograph of a black hole and its accretion disk. In 2019, the first real image of a black hole was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration and published in the paper “Focus on the First Event Horizon Telescope Results” in Astrophysical Journal Letters. Luminet remarked on the striking continuity between the two images (and other early computer simulations that followed), art prefiguring radio imagery by way of mathematics.

In 1953, Jackson Pollock painted The Deep, which hangs in the Centre Pompidou today. In 2007, Olivier Michelon wrote of the painting: “The work resembles a cloud of brushed and poured milky paint, a cream mass in the center of which a slit discovers a matte black background accented with red. By approaching the atmospheric sensations of contemporary color-field painting, Jackson Pollock delivers with The Deep a vision that has remained singular in his career. Dug in the center of a torn nebula, this abyssal space still resonates, indicating an unexplored direction.”

In 2022, the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory released a MeerKAT radio telescope image of the galactic centre. What Michelon could not have known is that Pollock’s torn nebula somehow presaged this image—not simply a nebula but the heart of the galaxy itself, radio bubbles bursting from the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. A saturated abyss, an overflowing void. We can echo Hans-Georg Gadamer and say: the mode of being of nature is “pure self-presentation.”

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