draft version

term southern constellation
narrator Bojana Piškur

What is a constellation? We are most familiar with the meanings this concept carries in the Western tradition, since the word itself comes from the Latin constellatio.


In philosophy, constellation denotes an important aspect of Adorno’s negative dialectics; in astronomy, it signifies the position of stars. As far back as 1800 years ago, Ptolemy described 48 constellations. But Westerners were first introduced to the southern skies only in the 16th century, when Andrea Corsali, sailing on a Portuguese ship to India, described and drew the Southern Cross. Aboriginal people knew and had a name for the Crux (“Mirrabooka”) long before Corsali, as did other peoples of the southern hemisphere.


A constellation is a hegemonic star pattern; it also signifies cartography, colonialism and capitalist expansion. Although I have proposed the term southern constellations (which is also the name of the current exhibition at the +MSUM) for this seminar, referring to the potentiality of the “south”, the term is inevitably related also to its binary opposite, northern constellations, and as such problematic.


Incas knew “dark-cloud constellations”; for them these constellations represented living forms, animals such as Yacana (llama), Yutu (bird), Mach'acuay (serpent). So instead of the visible part of a constellation, i.e. the stars, I propose we think of (imagine) what is not seen from the position of the Northern gaze. This is the dark matter between southern stars, the dark side of the concept of a constellation which constitutes counter-legibility, a critical constellation.