Joel Kuennen (US, 1984)
Residency period: August – December 2021
North Stars is a celestial time-keeping device. Mimicking the simple construction of a sundial, North Stars tracks the precession of the North Celestial Pole, caused by a slight wobble in the Earth’s rotation due to the gravitational forces of the moon and the sun. One complete cycle tracked by this device lasts 25,751.5 years. This device makes a cycle apparent while providing reference points to locate oneself within the larger process. It is a passive marker.
As the Earth’s axis rotates, the star that acts as a navigational beacon for the Northern Hemisphere changes: Polaris, Errai, Alderamin, Fawaris, Vega, Tau Herculis, Thuban, before arcing back to Polaris. There are gaps in time when there is nothing to point the way, nothing stable in the sky.
Polaris has been the North Star for the last 500 years and is the second most accurate pole star of all time. Thuban, which was the North Star during the Bronze Age, is the most accurate, coming within .2°. Precession, along with obliquity and eccentricity, also affects the climatic conditions on Earth, known generally as the Milankovitch cycles.
North Stars consists of seven porcelain cylinders, each glaze being formulated to match the corresponding star’s spectral type. These cylinders were then threaded onto a silicon-infused silicon carbide furnace roller that was inserted into a gneiss boulder. A cypher has been engraved on the face of the boulder that provides a way for future observers to understand the cycle the work references.
Joel Kuennen (born in 1984) is an art critic, curator, editor, and artist. In 2010, they received an MA in Visual and Critical Studies from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. They have been publishing criticism on emerging artists for 10 years. Their written work focuses on the intersection of technology, identity, and society. Since 2018, Kuennen have been working on a series of ceramic landscape interventions resulting from a research into the relationship between people and the natural environment through technology.