'Knowledges' exhibit to explore new frontiers around Mount Wilson Observatory this weekend

Earth Instrument

Katie Grinnan

Earth instrument from Katie Grinnan's Astrology Orchestra. Made of wood, sitar strings, pegs and fiber glass.

Courtesy of Christina Ondrus

Inside the Mount Wilson Observatory.

Courtesy of Christina Ondrus

Outside the Mount Wilson Observatory.


If you’re planning to head to the mountainous area north of the 210 Freeway this weekend, you may not quite exit the stratosphere, but you will get close enough to experience a range of interpretations of the ecological, cultural and cosmological world around you.

On June 23 and June 24, a series of site-specific events collectively titled “Knowledges” will take over the Mount Wilson Observatory grounds in the Angeles National Forest. The area will transform into an exhibition of astronomy art, entertainment, and education.

The collection of events will feature over 30 artists and span a variety of mediums including sculpture, film, music and performance – all on the observatory grounds.

“We’ll have performances, installation art pieces outside, sculptural work, musical performances and screenings inside the theater and even some work inside a 60-inch telescope” says associate director Ellini Sclavenitis.

“The show is actually inspired by the Mount Wilson Observatory and is just an incredible site for observation and it seemed to have so many parallels between artistic process and scientific process.” says Christina Ondrus, founder of Knowledges.

“Our mission is to bring contemporary art to sites that are of undervalued cultural or historical importance” she says.

This weekend’s exhibition at Mount Wilson will be the nonprofit's first attempt of many to bring contemporary artists to reflect on what they feel are under-appreciated areas in Southern California.

“It’s a big element of the show that you leave the city behind and come up a mile above Los Angeles in the mountains," says Ondrus. "And I think it’s interesting that suddenly you’re in a place of reception, looking at the stars and taking in knowledge.”

Knowledges will guide visitors through the exhibitions through regular tours, which will take place alongside the the Observatory's already scheduled tours.

“There’ll be the usual park tours that Mount Wilson operates that will take you to all the historical sites of Mount Wilson Observatory," says Sclavenitis. "Knowledges will be running our own tours that will take people through the park to the different pieces of art and also feature sound installations that give a new perspective of the site.”

Be sure to check out the screenings of "The Last Soviet" by Kari Tribe and "Anticipating Atlantis" by Donnie Stroud and April Totten.

“Those pieces are very interesting in comparison," says Sclavenitis "'The Last Soviet" takes a cosmonaut from the last Soviet trip to space, while 'Anticipating Atlantis' looks at the last space shuttle launch of Atlantis.”

If you’re looking for total sense immersion, you can check out the "Astrology Orchestra" by artist Katie Grinnan.

“She actually built ten instruments [...] in relative scale to the planets. They are all based on her astrology chart and strung accordingly to the aspects of her chart," says Ondrus. "Ten performers will play them and orbit them and pluck them."

The event is free, but Knowledges will run for only this weekend, June 23 through June 24.

Check out the official website for more info and for directions to the observatory.

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