Ursa Major’s Visit

The Halifax Citadel, Nocturne Art at Night
Commissioned by Parks Canada and the Halifax Regional Municipality
Installation date October 15, 2011.

On October 15th, 2011 viewers entering the Halifax Citadel’s Parade Square saw the glowing outline of a large bear suspended in the east corner of the courtyard. The sculptural form is made from a combination of LEDs marking the star points of the constellation Ursa Major and light-weight polycarbonate acrylic components. Both western and First Nations cultures identify this constellation as The Great Bear. In the Greek myth, Zeus protects his lover in bear form from a hunter’s arrow by placing her in the sky. Here the trials of the Great Bear are far from over; in Mi’kmaq and Iroquois stories Ursa Major must contend with a set of hunters in hot pursuit: seven in the spring when the constellation is fully visible in the night sky, and three by October when four stars have dropped below the horizon.

Many civilizations have projected stories onto the constellation and this installation imagines another. In Ursa Major’s Visit, the Great Bear peers down at the earth from the northern sky and is intrigued by the unusual star-shaped form of the Citadel. A meeting point of the earthly and the celestial, the Citadel appears to Ursa Major as an invitation to resume her terrestrial form. For this special Nocturne event, she drops one foot into the courtyard.

While Ursa Major visits, she may shed some light on the transcultural interpretations of her past.