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Bored Wolves

Antique Skies by Johan Österholm

Antique Skies by Johan Österholm

Artist’s book by Johan Österholm

Texts by Helen Korpak, Stefan Lorenzutti, Johan Österholm

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After nearly four billion years aloft, the Cartographer had found little new to add to the portion of its chronicle dedicated to nightfall and the dark side of the Earth. It tended to focus instead on the changes visible on the half of the planet that was experiencing daylight. Then, in the first part of the nineteenth century, peculiar things started happening in the nocturnal hemisphere. In the autumn of 1826, unbeknownst to the Cartographer, workers, vagrants, and socialites hurried toward Unter den Linden, the boulevard at the heart of Berlin…

—Extract from Johan Österholm’s text “The Nocturnal Cartographer”

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Artist Johan Österholm’s Antique Skies process begins with the unsheathing of an X-Acto knife. To the horror of librarians everywhere, he carefully slits out blank or nearly blank sheets of yellowing paper (endpapers, for example) from nineteenth-century astronomy tomes, which he unearths in antiquarian bookshops across Europe and later carefully dissects in his Stockholm studio.

What might initially seem like an act of vandalism is not without its conservational claim. For more than a century, these mostly wordless, imageless pieces of paper have been, if not wasted per se, then not exactly used between the covers of their respective titles. Via a process that incorporates the spangled contents of celestial glass-plate negatives, a spray gun loaded with liquid silver gelatin, and a repurposed street lamp, Österholm has a grand use for them: to serve as canvases for the re-emergence of stars long shrouded by terrestrial light pollution.

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