"We are all lying in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars", Oscar Wilde.
I didn't see Oscar during Chris Hilder's performance/lecture "Starry starry night", but his words came into my mind. This was one of the last scheduled events on the Fringe program and it was a thoughtfully constructed, enlightening and gentle note to end what had been a fantastically vibrant festival. It wasn't a great turn-out (maybe everyone was beat) but those that did come along left with the uplifting perspective that Wilde was metaphorically pointing to.
I've never really known what to point to up in the night sky but I believe that with my star-wheel that Chris gave each of us in the audience I could now locate on a clear night Scorpio, Sagittarius, Orion, the three crosses, along with three stars that were used by Maori as calender markers for harvesting and planting. Chris also revealed the secrets of how stars can be used to navigate the oceans and showed us two references for the latitude of New Zealand using the southern cross, the horizon and an outstretched fist or alternatively the constellation of Scorpio.
Once we were all serenaded into our seats by Don McLeans fingerstyle ballad "Vincent" Chris put on his best story telling hat and told us a Maori and a Japanese tale that both referred to what we commonly refer to as the "Pot". He told us the story also of Orion and Scorpius. The brave hunter drunkenly boasting he could kill all the animals that lived. Awakening in a grassy field he feels a sense of danger all about and keenly he watches for some marauding beast to charge from somewhere only to glance too late at a scorpion that fatally stings him at his feet. Scorpion and Orion as celestial constellations are at opposite points in the sky such that as Orion sinks below the horizon Scorpion rises and they are forever chasing each other.
Chris's computer program was remarkable in it's ability to project the image of the night sky onto the auditoriums screen hour by hour on any given calender date of the year in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. It could super-impose images of the zodiac and other animals, canoes and snares imagined by other cultures. It could even answer the quietly desperate question of Leo and Virgo thrown up by two young girls inspired by talk of Scorpio and Sagittarius. Though we don't see the girl's star signs in New Zealand Chris was able to oblige. He helped clarify what we see by using a model of the night sky and it was neat to hear a four year old girl answer correctly that it is the earth that moves and not the stars. And what is it doing? " It's turning around."
That's right, and us with it. Around the sky, around the sun, around each other.
- Robert Waddell