The stars have fascinated humanity since time immemorial. People have mapped their dreams, experiences, and identities onto the heavens, and passed these traditions down from generation to generation.
Thousands of years later, the symbols we use for the skies feel kind of tired.
AstroExplorer presents 72 new constellations and 12 new horoscopes better suited to contemporary life. Loaded with healthy doses of humor and cultural critique, AstroExplorer is an entertaining gift for our times. And for the ages.
Scroll down to read the introduction and see sample illustrations.
For me, art is endlessly compelling because what we ask of it is always changing, constantly forcing it to evolve into the most perfect container for the experiences of our lives. I find this process pleasurably disorienting these days, as Contemporary Art has absorbed everything imaginable into its fold. So now, when I see a piece for the first time, I ask myself two questions: What facet of the artist’s experience does she hope to share through the content and form of her work? And possibly more important, how does the answer to this question help me understand what this artist thinks art should be—what is its reason for existing, how does it serve society—since art can now be anything at all?
This second question, the one that hopes to understand art’s purpose, belongs to the philosophy of aesthetics. I find this a delightful field to consider, but one where every conceptual crutch crumbles if you lean on it too hard. Nevertheless, I’ve recently enjoyed thinking about the following three reasons why some people might make art. First, some may seek to create works that appeal to a universal, timeless consciousness. Second, others might aim to capture their experience and its specific moment, striving to convey their passionate participation in life along with its cultural context. And finally, there are artists whose work tries to express the deeply personal, who use their internal life as their bridge to connect with others.
Artists who reach for the universal aspire for works that are transcendent. For an artist to successfully present an experience capable of transporting the viewer beyond his ego’s sense of space and time, to induce in them a feeling of sympathy with the eternal, well—that’s an amazing thing to ask of art and we’re all blessed when we feel this goal has been achieved. Works that succeed in this way can be found in Baroque classical music, for its appealing auditory play with mathematical structures can evoke profound intellectual and emotional responses.
Other artists work to capture their experience in its cultural context, aspiring to identify what makes their tiny blink in the continuum of human history extraordinary. People producing in this mode frequently employ the latest technologies, wanting their work to feel “fresh.” In focusing their energy on how today is different from yesterday, they embellish the collective record of our trials and tribulations, our injustices as well as our triumphs. Works that succeed in this mode include Dada’s visually illogical image and text collages, many of which were produced during World War I, a time when Europeans saw everything they thought stable about society fall violently apart.
The third group of artists I’ve mentioned investigates the deeply personal, revealing the fantasies they harbor and the crises they create, sharing the individual quirks of their thoughts and feelings as they develop a more complete understanding of themselves. These visceral works are born of prolonged introspection, and are valuable to us because they provide a conceptual and emotional map of how we may feel someday. Emily Dickinson’s poetry succeeds in this mode, her simply phrased allusions gesture convincingly to the profound experiences we’re all destined to confront.
For all of human history, the heavens, just like the arts, have been another site where people have charted their ambitions, be they big or small. Across all cultures and all times, the stars have gracefully accommodated our stories of the eternal, our experience of the present day, and have even helped us understand our individual identities.
In the most obvious physical sense, the night sky represents the eternal. The scope and scale of the universe rightly inspires awe, and the more we look and listen with scientific intent, the deeper our understanding of space and time becomes. But the stars anchor a cultural eternal, too. When people project images and stories onto the sky, they create touchstones to pass on their shared priorities, which in turn, keep societies cohesive. Nested within each fable supporting every constellation is a grandparent telling a parent telling a child about their way of life, about the moral dilemmas that they each may encounter in their journey, and suggestions for appropriate ways to behave when that time comes.
As a boy, I loved the trips we took to the planetarium…