Lowry Burgess

Boundless Cubic Aperture

a clear box buried inside the stony ground

Lowry Burgess defies categorization, often blurring the lines between scientific inquiry and artistic expression. From pioneering the Space Art movement to publishing a manifesto that called for UNESCO to consider financial incentives for heritage site preservation efforts, Burgess designs visionary projects that will continue for centuries into the future. The Quiet Axis begun in 1966 and finished in 2007, is his most wide-reaching and ambitious initiative to date. Burgess envisions that this project will extend into the future while reaching back in time by engaging ancient sites of civilization and fossilized materials. Through The Quiet Axis he started a dialogue with the space community, leading to the launch of Boundless Cubic Lunar Aperture into space on board the Discovery shuttle in 1989, as well as his collaborative project The MoonArk. The latter aimed to send the first “museum” – a 6-ounce, 2-inch high structure containing hundreds of images, poems, music, and earth samples – to the moon. Burgess’s work is not defined by medium or locale, but rather a desire to forge connections between humanity, the future, and the unknown.

Boundless Cubic Lunar Aperture is a part of The Quiet Axis. Incorporating holograms, paintings, and organic materials, his project could conceivably survive into the distant future. For The Quiet Axis, Burgess aims to create an imaginary axis that passes through the sun, the earth, and into the cosmos with pieces of the project spread out across the world, in the deepest crevices of the ocean to the highest mountain tops. The box buried in the Sculpture Park consists of nesting cubes, water from eighteen rivers around the world, organic materials from far-reaching locales, and all elements from the Periodic Table. In addition to life on Earth, The Quiet Axis also concerns the mysteries of space. Over the span of a decade, Burgess worked with NASA to launch the innermost cube of Boundless Cubic Lunar Aperture into space, making history as the first officially sanctioned work of art in orbit. After its arrival back on Earth, Burgess placed Boundless Cubic Lunar Aperture in a 400-million-year old glacial rock at deCordova on the shores of Flint’s Pond, connecting the skies above to the earth’s geological formation.

About Lowry Burgess 

Burgess was born in Philadelphia in 1940 and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Instituto Allende in San Miguel, Mexico. Over the years his work has brought him to the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT as a Fellow and Senior Consultant for 25 years and to the Carnegie Mellon University as Professor of Art and Dean of the College of Fine Arts. Burgess launched into international fame by working with NASA to create the first official work of art taken into outer space in 1989, identifying him as a pioneer of the Space Art movement. Equally interested in life on Earth, Burgess is best known for his essay “Toronto Manifesto, The Right to Human Memory,” (2001) in response to the destruction of the Buddhas in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, in 2001. This article led to discussion between Burgess and UNESCO of a new financial incentive for the protection of cultural sites throughout the world.

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