Totality (2016), Katie Paterson. © Katie Paterson.
07757 001122. Visitors entering the upper gallery at the Lowry in Salford are greeted by a neon mobile phone number that was once connected to the Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland. Nearby headphones play the trickling sounds of melting ice and creaking noises that reveal the strain and tension in the heart of the glacier. A vitrine conserves the archive of this 2008 project, including photographs and a printed record of every time a caller connected to the phone-line, and the length of their hanging on to some of the purest sounds one can find in nature.
As her solo exhibition shows, Katie Paterson talks people into doing the most extraordinary things, be it convincing a telephone company to link a glacier to callers across the world, sending a meteorite back into space, or growing a forest to supply paper for an anthology of books in a hundred years' time. The title of the show, 'Syzygy' – an alignment of celestial bodies – can be read as a metaphor for what happens when minds meet. Collaboration – with scientists, engineers, technologists or literary authors – is central to Paterson's practice. Her deceptively simple ideas, often using relatively modest media, are ambitious in their scope and deep in their meaning. They evoke forces that span inconceivable times and infinite distances, beyond our control and the limits of human knowledge.