The Chemisphere, detail (Southern Sky)

The Chemisphere, detail (Southern Sky)

The Chemisphere star map reflects a specific Earth-bound cosmology of the senses. Selected scents include those found in plants, flowers, tar, blood, fecal matter (as the perfumer's version indolall—seen above in the "Southern Cross" constellation), and scented pre-cursors of amino acids, critical in the production of DNA. I added the latter to the map upon an announcement in 2009 by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics that one amino acid was found in great quantities in interstellar space, ethyl formate, which gives rum its smell and raspberries their flavor. Now we know there are many of these amino acids in space, and also that physics favors formation of nucleotide bases, an indication that life begins at a chemical level from common galactic matter. Star maps in different cultures reflect deep-seated belief systems. This one anticipates the discovery of life elsewhere, while also cataloging our Earthly body chemistry and sensuality.

The Chemisphere (2009-2013), 20 x 56 inches, inkjet print with fragrant oils

I organized the map using the brightest heavenly bodies like Vega, Sirius, and the Andromeda Galaxy to represent carbon atoms, and incorporated gas clouds and nebulae into the chemical structures. The map has been exhibited several times but also used at conferences as a demonstration object, bringing a performative element for audiences to my lectures and presentations.