27/07/2012 07:42 BST | Updated 27/07/2012 07:42 BST

Katie Paterson for Exhibition Road Show: Campo del Cielo, Field of the Sky


In 2011, I was approached by the arts producer Di Robson of DREAM to create a new commission for Exhibition Road Show, a festival of the arts and science taking place on the Road over the Olympics between 28 July and 5 August 2012.

My proposal for the festival was to take a meteorite that has travelled through space and time for 4.5 billion years, cast it, melt it, then recast back into a new version of itself. The artwork would be placed on the Road, for audiences to gather around and touch.

The ancient meteorite I chose to work with was found in the Formosa province of Argentina in the area known as Campo del Cielo, or Field of the Sky, which informed the title of my work. This meteorite lay buried below the earth for over 5,000 years. I undertook a great deal of research finding this particular meteorite; through books, journals, auctions and online resources, and via discussions with many specialists and meteorite hunters.

As a tiny planet older than the earth, a fractured element of another, the meteorite made its way through space for millennia after millennia. By melting it entirely, I like to think I'm creating a newly formed yet still ancient meteorite. The iron, small rocks, metal and dust inside, becomes reformed, and the layers of its cosmic lifespan - the warping of space and time, the billions of years of pressure and change, formation and erosion - become collapsed, transformed and renewed, in this alchemical, almost ritualistic process. The outer sculptural form shaped precisely as when the meteorite arrived on earth, a trace of its cosmic memory.

The experience of casting the meteorite was fascinating; I have never worked in this way before. The 110 kilo meteorite was sunk in a bath of silicon, and after setting, emerald green wax was poured inside. The wax, retaining the intricate surface details of the meteorite, was dipped in white ceramic over and over, creating an empty shell. The day we melted down the meteorite at a foundry in east London was unforgettable. The meteorite was cut into pieces and heated to over 1700 degrees. It was a nerve-wracking and exciting moment, to watch the bright molten metal, a luminous fountain, being poured into the cast.

From Saturday 28 July, this piece of our shared history will be exhibited on Exhibition Road. For nine days, the cosmic becomes personal, as viewers are permitted to touch and interact with the installation.

After the festival ends, Campo del Cielo, Field of the Sky will be exhibited at different locations in the UK and further afield. In years to come, my aim is to launch the meteorite back into space, so it once again showers the earth in tiny pieces.