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Knitted night sky shines in Melbourne

3 minute read

A new exhibition exploring the connection between art and science is going on display at the State Library of Victoria.

A giant knitted map of the night sky will illuminate Melbourne's State Library as part of a new exhibition.

Handmade Universe, launched on Thursday, looks at the connection between art and science, drawing in craft, coding, astronomy and botany.

At the heart of the new exhibition is a knitted map of constellations created by Melbourne-based artist and software engineer Sarah Spencer.

She used an upcycled 1980s machine to knit the large tapestry, using 15 kilograms of Australian wool and 842 LED lights.

Ms Spencer also developed an accompanying app, allowing visitors to illuminate individual constellations and learn more about their stories.

"I always hoped to light up all the stars to bring even more technology and mathematics and science to what is essentially a map of astronomy," Ms Spencer told AAP.

"I hope to engage people for longer, so they spend more time exploring what this piece means to them."

Combining knitting and technology also broke down gender stereotypes, Ms Spencer said. She hoped the piece would encourage others to challenge conventions.

"I want them to go home and look at the technology around them in a new light," she said.

"I want people to try things outside of the social norms because that's where discovery and innovation lays waiting."

Another feature of the exhibition is Dharangalk Biik or Star Country, a mural by Wurundjeri artist and State Library Victoria fellow Mandy Nicholson.

The digitally developed mural, wrapped around the gallery wall, shows the story of the Wurundjeri universe.

There's Bunjil, the creator, represented through a large star at the centre of the work, with the twilight colour scheme representing the time of day when the evening star shines through.

It was important to reclaim Indigenous stories and culture in a colonial space such as the library, Ms Nicholson said.

"The State Library is set on a very sacred landscape. Walking in, it's very daunting and dark. I don't feel warm and welcomed," Ms Nicholson said.

"But when you have exhibitions like this, it really opens it up and makes it more culturally safe. It takes away from that darkness and that colonial presence and reclaims this space."

The exhibition really explores the connection between old and new, and science and art, co-curator Linda Short said.

"Innovation is not always about a linear thing. It's not always about the next new thing," she said.

"It actually can be a more circular narrative about looking to the past and using ancient technologies."

The Handmade Universe exhibition will run at the State Library of Victoria from June 24 to February 26 next year.

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