25 February 2024

Earth as astronauts see it set to hang in St Paul’s

Gaia at Natural History Museum London, 2018. Picture: Supplied

Stephen Cauchi

5 March 2022 

A glimpse Earth as only astronauts see it will be visible at St Paul’s Cathedral over the coming months, as a globally renowned seven-metre sculpture of the Earth is exhibited. 

The Gaia artwork aims to remind views of the urgency of the climate crisis, as it hangs from the cathedral’s ceiling above the choir stalls 

Dean of Melbourne the Very Reverend Andreas Loewe said Gaia’s purpose was to give people the chance to see the earth in a way only astronauts normally would, suspended in a beautiful holy space like the cathedral. 

Created from NASA satellite images, Gaia aims to create a sense of the “overview effect” described by American author Frank White in 1987. 

This is a shift in awareness experienced by some astronauts who get a feeling of awe for the planet and an understanding of the interconnectedness of all life, along with a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment. 

Dr Loewe said that for Christians, the artwork was also about viewing Earth as God sees it: whole, entire, and undivided. 

“It’s a really poignant reminder for us to put urgent action into place in order to mitigate against the climate emergency,” he said. 

“The cathedral’s always been an advocate for positive action in the climate emergency and when we saw the Gaia display at the COP26 [climate summit in Glasgow] we felt this would be a really powerful statement to make.” 

Dr Loewe said the UK-based sculptor of Gaia, Luke Jerram, had previously exhibited another work in Melbourne, the Museum of the Moon, at Scienceworks in 2018-19, visited by tens of thousands of people. 

Gaia has previously been exhibited overseas, including at a number of UK cathedrals, and in Perth and the Gold Coast. It is the first time it will be exhibited indoors in Australia. 

“When it was exhibited in Liverpool Cathedral it attracted hundreds of thousands of people, so we are hopeful that this is something that will reset visitations in the CBD,” Dr Loewe said. 

“It’s giving people opportunities to spend time reflecting what it is that they can do in order to make sure that the planet is safeguarded and kept and maintained.” 

Dr Loewe said that the sculpture would be suspended from the cathedral’s central tower directly above the choir stalls – close to where sermons are given from. 

He said a specially written composition by BAFTA award-winning composer Dan Jones would be played alongside the sculpture while the cathedral would have dedicated volunteers to guide people. 

Mr Jerram has been creating sculptures, installations and live arts projects since 1997. His other works include Glass Microbiology and Play Me, I’m Yours

The official opening of the Gaia exhibit, on 22 April from 4.30pm to 6pm, will also feature an expert panel discussing the climate emergency.  

The panelists will be Lord Mayor’s Foundation chief executive Dr Catherine Brown, University of Melbourne Melbourne Climate Futures senior fellow Professor David Karoly, University of Melbourne journalism lecturer Dr Jeff Sparrow, and Aboriginal elder and Australian Catholic University and Aboriginal art and culture lecturer the Reverend Aunty Janet Turpie-Johnstone.  

Gaia’s official opening will be on World Earth Day, 22 April, and it will be on display until June 26. 

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