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Description of "Redshift Navigator", an innovative sculpture in glass and metal, on a scientific theme, by artist Catalin Domniteanu.

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Redshift Navigator

66 cm W x 61 cm H x 46 cm D / 12 kg (26" W x 24" H x 18" D / 26 lbs)

contemporary art sculpture in glass & metal contemporary art sculpture in glass & metal

The Inspiration

“A Redshift Navigator is powered by the recessional velocity of the expanding Universe.” This is what the user’s manual must be informing owners in a far future. The imagined ship navigates on the hypothetical Space which is permanently created between galaxies, in the entire Universe. This surreptitious space coming into existence out of nothing is proposed by cosmologists to compensate for the expansion of the Universe. According to the theory, the metrics of the space between galaxies is what is expanding. Not that they move, but the distances between them increase and the time factor escalates. In other words, the space-time expands with a constant ratio per distance, which is called “the cosmological constant”.

I’m intrigued. This notion of new space appearing in… space has no equivalent in the world I knew. Quantum entanglement also doesn’t have an equivalent in the real world so I can relate to. It took me a while to get my mind around the notion, now this. My senses are telling me that I might be facing the most concrete “something from nothing” interpretation of data. The effect on me is strong, it halts my train of thoughts and I feel the urge to deny it all together. But astronomical observations of redshifting cosmic objects are undeniable. I can’t dismiss that, hence I must absorb the information even if I cannot work out its rationale.

As I formulate these sentences I realize how ludicrous they may seem to others. But not to worry, the scientists say, this is perfectly normal. The micro-cosmos and the macro-cosmos do not have to satisfy our knowledge of the world commonly extracted from the everyday experience. An adequate vocabulary is required. There is much to learn, and even more to investigate about the underlying reality. That, I can relate too, and even enjoy.

Undoubtedly, most of the art lovers are humanists. Yet here I am, proposing not just an apparently emotionally dry topic, but an incomprehensible one. But that’s just it. Science, to me, conveys amazing stories, which bear all the ingredients that one usually finds in literature or in fine arts. I’m arguing that they’re full of mystery, drama, glamour, veneration, revelation, surprise, hope and, why not, love. I can’t help but feel that I need more.

contemporary art sculpture in glass & metal
contemporary art sculpture in glass & metal
contemporary art sculpture in glass & metal
contemporary art sculpture in glass & metal
contemporary art sculpture in glass & metal
contemporary art sculpture in glass & metal
contemporary art sculpture in glass & metal
contemporary art sculpture in glass & metal
contemporary art sculpture in glass & metal
contemporary art sculpture in glass & metal

The Concept

Similar to algae growing on the bottom of a sailboat, the building blocks of life, like the amino acids and the nucleobases, don’t happen without a sustaining structure. Baryonic matter forms and exists by virtue of the laws of nature. Built on the subatomic particles properties, more and more complex atomic structures eventuate, which then give rise to chemistry, which upholds biology, and which further foster psychology and sociology. This theme captivates me, so it keeps appearing in my other works as well.

This sophisticated structure of the world starts with simple laws and keeps building itself up into the most intricate and fascinating architecture. The self-sustaining, self-erecting steel structure of the Redshift Navigator stands just for that.

Furthermore, a trained eye may see that the structure is not in a state of stability. There is a lot of tension in those rods and wires, as their crystalline structures sustain plastic and elastic deformations due to the stretching and compressing along their axis. In a century or two, maybe ten, something is going to brake. The atomic bond may eventually give up in some corner, then in another. This configuration is only temporarily stable, and that’s OK. Nothing in the universe is abiding.
In many industrial applications that “residual” tension is undesirable. In others, in architecture, bridge construction, or sailing, we make good use of it. I employed it myself for the Navigator for those fluid, tensioned lines give a sense of temporality and potentiality.

Now zooming out to the scale of the naked eye, the crystalline-like structures of the veils suggest inanimate type of matter, geometrical arrangements of atoms and molecules, in a pursuit of a causal existence obedient to the laws of nature. The same laws which are responsible for the growth of entropy in the Universe. And in the process, also granting this thing called complexity to enter the world, which ultimately allows for the emergence of animate matter – the key for the buds “infestation” of the ship, symbolizing life.

Why blue?
Because the universe is expanding and the galaxies are moving away, as they emit light towards us, the photons crossing intergalactic distances (over which space gets created) suffer some stretching. The photons end-up in our detectors with elongated wavelengths, which is called redshifting (the Doppler effect on electromagnetic radiation). But the Navigator is blue because it navigates only on the newly created space. As it comes towards us, the distance in the existing space between us decreases. The more it advances, the less new space gets created. Its light doesn’t stretch but it squeeze. It shifts towards blue - blue light has shorter wavelengths and it’s more energetic.

We’ve established that the ship navigates on this non-existing, ever becoming space. The propulsion of the ship, however, comes from the special apparatus that inflates the veils. The symmetrical, hollowed structure at the intersection of the veils’ rods must be nothing else but a representation of the Inflation Theory. The theory proposes that moments after its creation, the universe temporarily underwent an exponential expansion, prior to a more gradual expansion, measurable today. As a wide artistic indulgent speculation, here I’ve combined elements from the braneworld cosmology (predicting a succession of parallel branes collisions giving birth to multiple universes in the Superstring Theory) with the better known Big Bang Theory. Thus the symmetry around the singularity.

Lastly, the shape of the unusual ship makes a mythological connection in my mind to the adventures of Odysseus. He, who once ordered to be tied to the mast without wax plugging his ears, gets to hear the calls of the Sirens. No other mortal before was able to hear them and live after to tell others about it. But for that, he makes a pact – no one shall listen to his demands while under their calls. He pays a price to knowledge, the hardest one, which is to denounce his own instincts.

Disclaimer: all that the Navigator does is to be hold against my artistic interpretation. As for the rest of the explanations, I tried my best to remain honest to the scientific models and theories of the Universe. I believe I developed a good sense of the contemporary cosmology but I won’t be ashamed to be called up by a specialist. This is a domain of great controversies and very exotic ideas. I admit my limitations, but I love the challenge. If you are in the field and want to make a point, please feel free to contact me. I’ll make the necessary adjustments.

The Construction

In the traditional stained glass the glass pieces serve both the structural and the decorative role, and they have to strictly maintain verticality. By comparison, in painting, the colors (oil, water, acrylics etc) have absolutely no structural responsibility, and no one expects it. The canvas, the walls, and the ceilings play that role. However, my preferred medium is glass, and I aspire to the same flexibility for it. I want to evade from the “tyranny” of the flatness, and let the glass escape into the space carrying the light with it.

I can’t deplete the glass of its own weight, that would be one way of doing it (only if I could manipulate the laws of physics when and where I want). But there are other ways. In my previous works I accomplished that by particular arrangements which balance the center of gravity back to the structural vertical plane, and which allow perpendicular forces to it. The Redshift Navigator takes it further - its construction benefits from the disjointment of the structural component from the decorative component, and wonderfully brings on that freedom. I am more than happy, and I already foresee other projects taking shape with this knowledge.

This is my second work in black, opaque glass and I love how generous it is. I’ve done the previous sculptural works with much attention to translucency, texture, shade, and reflected colors. In the process I came to immensely appreciate the reflected light, to the point of making it exclusive in my portfolio.
One particular benefit, which one can see that I joyfully enjoy doing, is the lead came. In contrast with the traditional stained glass where the lead came is a dark network of lines, often too wide and too dense for the pattern, in reflected light they become part of the scenery, adding texture and playing an aesthetic role.

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