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What Black Holes Can Teach Us About Nature and Spirituality

Article

Black Hole Experience, an immersive exhibition conceived by artist Kelly Nunes and Dax Dasilva, can deepen our understanding of nature, spirituality, and our place in the cosmos. Here’s how.

Author

Joe McCarthy

Topics

  • Article
  • Black Hole Experience
  • Explainer

Black holes have long captured our collective imagination, working overtime in the metaphor department for ideas as varied as entrapment, escape, freedom, transformation, overconsumption, and oblivion. The tremendous power that black holes possess, strong enough to overwhelm anything in the universe, distinguishes them as a source of continual fascination and fear. We’re fascinated by them because of what lies beyond: what worlds, what possibilities, what versions of ourselves? We’re terrified by them because we know that if our tiny planet ever entered their vicinity, it would disappear like a drop of water down a sink.

Black holes exist so far away that they remain an abstraction, an elusive figment of our imagination. So why bother engaging with them? Why bother heeding their call? Weren’t the same things said of the climate crisis? The melting of the ice caps and the death of great forests were once dismissed as remote possibilities. Now, the Earth’s temperature is soaring, killing biodiversity. As we get pulled further into an environmental black hole of our own making, what can we learn from the real thing? 

Age of Union’s new exhibition, the Black Hole Experience wants to find out by allowing people to “step inside a black hole” and reflect on their place in the cosmos. In recent years, scientists have made progress in explaining the attributes and behaviors of black holes and detailed visual renderings have become available. 

The creators behind the Black Hole Experience, the multimedia artist Kelly Nunes and Age of Union founder Dax Dasilva, drew on these findings to develop an immersive installation that invites people to consider the spiritual properties of black holes. Doing so, the creators believe, could spark a nascent environmental consciousness and even lead to advocacy and activism on behalf of the planet. 

“We have emerged from 14 billion years of cosmic evolution to arrive at a moment in history where there is life,” said Nunes. “Let’s understand the significance of this moment by observing the scale of that which came before us. We are descended from the Big Bang, black holes, stardust, culminating in one relatively brief cosmic moment of conscious life on Earth. Let’s not squander nor take it for granted.” 

Kelly Nunes, the artist behind Black Hole Experience.

Stepping Into a Black Hole 

In 1968, NASA scientists beamed home an image they took from the moon’s surface of the Earth, a blue marble with swirling white clouds, perched in a black expanse. The planet’s aloneness and seeming fragility became viscerally real for millions of people, so much so that the image, known as Earthrise, helped to spur the first Earth Day and the global movement for a safe and healthy environment.

There’s something about recognizing our place in the universe that clears away the clutter in our minds, clarifying what’s in front of us, and what really matters. Nowadays, it’s harder for a single image to arrest and transform us amid the avalanche of social media, but looking up at the night sky and mapping constellations still feels magical. Why else would millions of people travel hours to catch a glimpse of a total solar eclipse if not to feel in awe, connected to others, and aware of their own unique life?

Stepping into The Black Hole Experience, visitors encounter a similarly powerful blend of emotions and insights. You first walk down a portal-like corridor encircled by light. You take a seat in the next room and a screen surrounds you for a meditative journey through the solar system toward a black hole.

Take a deep breath and relax as you imagine yourself moving into a zone where no light can escape, a place where the force of gravity is so strong that your molecules pull apart and scatter. Your atoms, born from stardust, bearing your signature, would no longer be yours; you would be returned to matter, simple and fundamental. As the animation continues, you might feel your perception reset. A new worldview loads. You might feel a new sense of possibility, and your priorities reshuffled. What would it mean if every atom had meaning, every action ripples? If you were enveloped by a black hole and put back down on Earth, what would you do? Would you become a steward of this one planet?

Meditation has the power to make the mind more plastic and more open to new ideas. What if, like Earthrise, the Black Hole Experience sparked an environmental movement as visitors ponder the immensity of the universe and their place in it? There’s only one way to find out.

Check out the full schedule of the Black Hole Experience to plan your visit and follow along on social media.

Credits

Jimmy Hamelin for C2 Montreal

Stephane Desmeules

Yong Chan Tuan

Topics

  • Article
  • Black Hole Experience
  • Explainer

Article written by
Joe McCarthy

Joe McCarthy is a writer based in Brooklyn who specializes in global politics, climate action, and pop culture.

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