And Then The Swallowed Me by Heather Gordon at CAM Raleigh
all final installation photos by Michelle Lotker

Location: CAM Raleigh, Main Gallery, 409 W Martin St, Raleigh, NC 27603
Opening: October 6, 2017 from 6-10pm
Artist Talk: October 7 at 11am
runs through Feb 4, 2018
Daniel Hall, Meet Heather Gordon, the Durham Artist Behind the Obscurely but Deeply Personal And Then the Sun Swallowed Me at CAM Raleigh, The INDY, Nov 22, 2017


I have this terrifying thought from childhood. One day, without notice, the sun will become a red giant and
in its death throes, will swell and swallow our planet, and all of us along with it. Alive.

Those I’ve met who share this early thought memory, seem to share an existential ennui that leaves us
realizing we are helpless to stop such an inevitability. Our physical bodies so limited in their capacity to
understand the what, why, and how of the common fact that we are all simply alive, with no real purpose
other than to be alive in the company of others simply being alive. Each of us on our own timelines. Each
of us facing the philosophical and emotional realization that we can do very little to make sense of it all.
And yet, we use our big brains, which we know are limited, to craft these narratives of existence so we
can fill it with purpose, make something of ourselves, contribute, feel less afraid, and leave something
behind that is beneficial, nurturing, insightful, or additive.

As an adult, I know our sun, like 97% of all stars in our galaxy, is not big enough to continue past red
giant status to become a supernova and instead will cool over billions of years to become a white dwarf.
On its way to this final state, the outward pressure of the atomic explosions fighting the inward pull of
gravity will lose equilibrium blowing the outer layers from the surface and consuming us in an instant. The
stuff of us, all of us, as well as all the material of our home will rejoin the stuff of stars. It’s the completion
and start of a beautiful cycle. It is the infinite in the present.

Perhaps the way to feel comfort and safety within this scheme is to know that we, along with all living
things as far as we can tell, are compelled to move, just as our sun is compelled to do what it does until it
dies. For us humans, we have the additional gift of sentience, so we can be aware of this condition. I
console myself that maybe this universe requires only one thing from us and it’s something we do by our
very nature…we move. And keep moving. Where, how, and why don’t seem to matter too much in the
long view. So I can relax. There’s nothing to figure out. I can just be alive, knowing that my body and mind
will be compelled to move along with all the other stuff of the world that moves without us moving it.

In the end, or beginning, whichever way makes you feel more comfortable, we and the stars, and the
planets, and the dark matter, and all the unknown things that exist, are all made of the same stuff. And
that stuff is born in stars, the creators and destroyers, the great recycling machines that start with
hydrogen, create some essential elements, then explode with colossal power to create the heavy
elements, mix the stuff of us, and all things, back into the caldron of creation. And repeat.


There are two main components of the installation. This first is a black tape installation around the entirety
of the wall space in the Main Gallery derived from the atomic radii of the elements produced in suns that
are large enough to complete their life cycles as supernovas. In this scenario, iron becomes the last
element produced. This is end game no matter how large the star. These radii are set in relationship to
each other in an origami folding pattern producing a conceptual shape that is the skeleton for the tape
installation. The pattern includes 23 elemental atomic radii in total. The shape takes us to the point of no
return. It is the infinite moment when we are swallowed by the red giant as a graphic form.

In the center of the space, on the floor starting from the back wall and extending through the space
toward the light of the front of the bldg, is a video projection of a swimmer in water. Imagine a swimming
lane, long and linear through the center of the space with a single, solitary moving human body, slow and
methodical, viewed from below and visible as a silhouette. It is us, swimming through this condition we
find ourselves, helpless to do anything but compelled to continue moving. The video is on a loop which
leaves the swimmer not getting anywhere. The moving figure stays within the lane, swimming, moving,
moving, but neither forward or back in the lane. Just moving in water.


Alex Maness – videography and tech installation

Justin Tornow – choreography and performance

Warren Hicks – music composition and audio install

Tape Installation Team Members – Leif Gann-Matzen, Alyssa MiserendinoErin Oliver, Mary Slater, Leah Smith, Sydney Steen, Chandler Thomas

KONTEK Systems – tech support and equipment

Visual Art Exchange – fiscal sponsorship for this project


Installation Progress Photos