Upon entering Pianissimo you turn right into a pitch black corridor,
feeling your way in the darkness. Edging around a corner you enter an
apparently endless space of immense blackness, in front of you floats a
universe of tiny pin-pricks of light, like distant stars. The scale is
distorted and disorientating, you could be looking out from the bridge
of a space ship or looking down from a vertiginous height or seeing
something powerfully magnified. The random patterns of light seem to
form themselves into continents or solar systems. You hear the slow
rumble of deep space, the sound of blood pumping around your body. It
is Sir Bernard Lovell's 1967 lecture 'Our Present Knowledge of the
Universe' slowed down to an unrecognisable 3 rpm. After ten minutes or
so your eyes start to adjust and the pillars of the room slowly begin
The title of the show plays on the word 'sidereal', used in astronomy to denote that which is beyond our solar system. In his practice, Collier's primary subject matter is man's striving towards an understanding of the cosmos. Boundaries recur in his work, those that divide the universe, the surface of the self, the internal imagination and external universe, the bright light of certainty and the dark curtain of doubt. In Istanbul last month, Collier tattooed a dot on his skin to represent a kind of opposite, a final and logical equivalent, to the furthest star visible with the naked eye, and projected it into the night sky.
As Richard Panek examines in his book Seeing and Believing, the astronomer's quest to develop ever more powerful telescopes has had a profound effect on our conception of the cosmos; its size and our position within it. From the time of Galileo our knowledge has continuously expanded, from conceiving of the earth as fixed at the centre of creation to the understanding that we are not the only galaxy, but one of billions. Telescopes today can see tens of trillions of miles into space and penetrate into time past. From the ancient literary and religious trope of one's fate hanging in the stars, to the science-fiction fantasies of today, the cosmos has always played a central role in our cultural understanding of what it means to be human.
Milan is a fairly ugly city by Italian standards but if you escape the endless designer boutiques there are some lovely bars and restaurants along the old canal in the Zona Naviglio. The Gothic cathedral, the Duomo, is truly spectacular, its endless interior bathed in eerie green light. Apparently most Milanese live outside the city and commute in, then escape to the nearby mountains and lakes at the weekend. The cutting edge galleries are gathered in a compound of industrial-chic on Via Ventura, in the quiet suburb of Lambrate. Apart from Pianissimo, there are about five other galleries in the complex, including Galleria Massimo de Carlo currently showing Piotr Uklanski. Another neighbour is Prometeogallery, at present showing Alexey Buldakov, Peter Bystrov & Valery Chtak in 'Ars Erotica, Ars Theoretica, Ars Politica', an examination of the post-soviet condition, the highlight of which is an animation of a jiggling Constructivist painting with a soundtrack of pornographic noises.