Stars In My Carpet Like Lumps of Porridge
// Opening, 6pm Wed. 20/06
// Thurs. 21/06 – Sat. 7/07/2012
Text by Tessa Laird in response to Adam Willetts’ exhibition
Postcards from Homo Maximus
The Homo Maximus system circles around the star 61 Cygni. This is the only star system in which humans have colonised every planet, hence it has been bequeathed a Tellurian Latin name indicating maximum human penetration. While the various groups of humanoids who have developed on these planets still reference their Tellurian origins, most of them have developed languages and cultures with few, if any, links back to Earth. What follows are brief descriptions of the geochemical characteristics of the planets, with some anthrohistorical anecdotes where deemed necessary.
Spherical, with radius 2439.7 km
Turkanu has a turquoise outer crust, indicating a hydrous phosphate of copper and aluminium. The blue rocky outcrops are naturally gun-metal grey, and painted cobalt by the Bismithereens who harvest the woad balls from Tinctoratus. This is mainly to uphold the legend that goblins live in a series of caves under the rocks, for the name Cobalt is an old Tellurian Germanic name for Goblin, and cobalt was thought to be the “gold of goblins.” These goblins were said to ride the Titanoboa (Herpes maximus), giant snakes of the Fievertrauwmin, the cosmic creation era of the Bismithereens, which anthrohistorians liken to the Aboriginal dreamtime of Tellurian Australia.
Vivid purple streaks are crust-like aggregates left behind by a race of giant snakes, which, due to an exclusive diet of a low-growing desertscrub with purple leaves (now extinct), exuded anthocyanins. Pigmentally, the purples were most highly concentrated at the moment of reptilian demise, and were intensified by the process of partial mummification in the dry desert environment. Mass extinctions occurred, due to noxious gasses (arsenious oxide) engulfing the planet over 500 years ago, during which time the Bismithereens evacuated to Tinctoratus.
Today, Turkanu smells of arsenic and old lace.
Ellipsoid, with radii (A: 3396.19 & C: 3376.2) km
Registanum is an extremely arid planet, made orange-red by vast quanities of iron oxide dust, residue from countless volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. Evenly spaced on this planet are a series of bright blue balls. Clearly their repetitious and even spacing indicates alien intelligence – they are not naturally formed.
Registanum is in fact a kind of “temple” planet, where the Bismithereens keep their finest woad balls in a decorative formation as an offering to Mel, the God of War. Inferior woad balls are scattered over the surfaces of other planets, but Registanum is reserved for the very best blue balls.
Spherical*, with radius 198.2 km
Tinctoratus’s white crust is 2% asbestos, but these levels are not high enough to cause any trouble for the Bismithereens as they go about the business of harvesting woad plants. Young virgin girls in groups of over 100 chew and spit the woad, and the masticated heaps of green stuff look like giant piles of boiled spinach. On contact with saliva, the green woad plant turns dark blue. Needless to say, blue lips, teeth and tongue are considered a standard prerequisite of beauty for a young Bismithereen girl.
After a lengthy process of fermentation, the spinach-like piles (known simply as grinstüff by the Bismithereens) perform an alchemical transmutation into rich blue dye. As previously stated, the Bismithereens save their best blue balls for Registanum, while other medium grade balls end up on other planets. Tinctoratus, however, remains home to some of the crummier woad balls, which have only managed to attain a pale blue colour. The Bismithereens are still trying to figure out what to do with these.
Red deposits on the planet’s white crust are the result of a controversial new dying enterprise involving crushed space-lice. Since Mel the God of War is only propitiated by the colour blue, this manufacture of red pigment is seen as a blasphemous activity and is consequently only practised on a small scale by a few renegades who will no doubt soon be brought to justice.
Spherical*, with radius 235.8 km
Zindiggy-qar is made primarily of zinc, platinum, and oxyhydroxides. There are also plenty of woad plants, however, the humanoids living on this planet, while related to the Bismithereens, call themselves Laxoidals, and have a less stringent relationship with woad production. While they achieve good intensity of colour, they often leave their woad in soggy heaps, rather than rolling them into clean spherical balls.
The orange or rather salmon rocks are proteic edifices.
Spherical, with radius 1737.4 km
Aguaneous is almost entirely covered in water, but interestingly the mineral properties of various rock and coral formations has resulted in a meshwork of colourful lagoons: jade, royal blue, pale spinach, and even bright red, thanks to a particular variety of space-lice that breeds in these temperate waters (the same space-lice that are being crushed for red dye by blasphemous renegades on Tinctoratus).
Bismithereens have very little interest in this planet due to its lack of woad growing capabilities, however, they do visit to harvest it for nutrients and food supplements, as well as setting up health spas in the spinach lakes, whose vegetal juices are famous for their health-giving properties.
Spherical, with radius 761.4 km
A pale, gaseous planet, Pheeew!anus is the only planet in the system that is uninhabited by humanoids, which some argue is reason to strip the 69 Cygni system of its name, Homo Maxiumus. But humanoids have had some relationship with the planet, sending out parties of underpaid agricultural labourers to harvest salmon and spinach from vaporous marshes. However, the smell proved too unpleasant for long term stays. It was named by a party of space hunter-gatherers who had their ancestry with the Tellurian !Kung of the Kalahari, hence the exclamation mark. This group soon found they preferred the dry, arid regions of other planets in the system.
Spherical*, with radius 106.7 km
Basilium, so named because it looks as though it is covered with globs of pesto, is in fact home to fougerite, a recently discovered representative of clay minerals, chemically and structurally related to “green rust.”
The red rock structures are based on brucite-like layers. Brucite is the mineral form of magnesium hydroxide, formed during the serpentinization of dunites. The unfortunate byproduct of serpentinization is abiotic methane, meaning that on Basilium, like Turkanu and Pheeew!anus, there is a lot of toxic gaseous matter to negotiate. The Bismithereens, however, have set up enclosed cities which are completely livable. Any excursions into the outer regions require full suit coverage. The obvious presence of Bismithereens on this planet is attested to the enormous amount of high quality woad balls nestling in the red rocks, of varied sizes. Bismithereens like to imagine that the woad balls form families, and that they therefore multiply themselves. This is, of course, utterly fanciful.
Spherical, with radius 2575.0 km
The planet that is furthest from 61 Cygni is cold and built of triclinic crystals. It is a pale orange planet with flattened woad balls, meringue pink bits, and coconut-ice white bits. This planet is inhabited by the Lapu Lapu, a warlike people with an open hostility to the Bismithereens. In fairness, they only occupy one planet, while the Bismithereens have attempted to colonise all the rest. But when the Bismithereens attempted to colonise Cocosnuciferatu, there was a mighty revolt, which the Bismithereens are still recovering from.
To add insult to injury, the Lapu Lapu make a point in any skirmishes with the Bismithereens to capture their most prized woad balls, and explode small, volcanic bombs inside them, so that they end up resembling pale blue pumice, a terrible insult to Mel, the Bismithereen’s God of War (also known as the Sharif of Malabar).
The pink and white terraces of Cocosnuciferatu are igneous, plutonic rock, of ultramafic composition.