Visiting GAIA for the first time, I had never felt so big yet so small. The installation, named after Greek mythology, is aptly interpreted to mean ‘personification of the Earth.’ The overwhelming sense of togetherness GAIA creates can overtake you, leaving you anchored in place and awe-struck by its beauty. As GAIA slowly rotates, the urge to protect what we have feels so present, as does the urge to make a change to better our planet.

A creation by UK artist Luke Jerram, GAIA is seven metres in diameter, and every inch is covered in NASA imagery compiled from their Visible Earth series. Currently installed in our very own Chapel, it is suspended from the trusts, giving us the unique opportunity to experience the grandeur of our planet like never before. The installation is accompanied by musical compositions from BAFTA-winning composer Dan Jones, further adding to the intensity and emotive feeling GAIA invokes.

Credit: R Pritchard

The Chapel provides the perfect location for reflection. It generates thought-provoking questions that lead to thought-provoking conversations, personal reflection, and thoughts on the world around us. For me, GAIA highlights now just how small we are as individuals, but how much we can achieve when we all come together. 

I am not alone in experiencing these feelings; in fact, it was Jerram’s aim. Known as the ‘overview effect’, GAIA attempts to instil a feeling of awe towards our world, and encourage each of us to take responsibility for the environment around us. 

Reverend James Pritchard had a few words to say about the installation:

“Having the opportunity to have GAIA in the chapel was something as a chaplaincy team we were keen to embrace. Keele Chapel, like the wider university, takes sustainability extremely seriously and we see it as part of our calling as Christians. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, ‘The destruction of the earth’s environment is the human rights challenge of our time.’

At the official opening, I shared my hope that as people experience the installation it might remind them of our interconnectedness both with this world and with one another.  I hope it will continue to inspire wonder, thought, conversation and creativity.

Amongst the many visitors to experience the installation, I’ve loved seeing some of the local children who look on with sheer wonder! Their awe, wonder and determination to care for creation echoes the powerful soundtrack, and especially the voices of children calling us to act on climate change now.” 

Credit: Ian Williamson

A touring artwork, GAIA was bought to campus by Keele Chapel and Arts at Keele. They collaborated with Appetite, a local arts project in Stoke-on-Trent which promotes arts experiences for all ages. 

Appetite director Gemma Thomas said: “We are thrilled to be presenting another of Luke Jerram’s installations following the positive response to Museum of the Moon a few years ago and other works we’ve presented, such as Play Me, I’m Yours and Lullaby. 

We hope that, following the past year, GAIA is providing audiences with a new perspective of our place and relationship with the planet. Whilst enjoying the piece in Keele Chapel, we are also hosting a programme of events where GAIA can be enjoyed and appreciated. We have been overwhelmed by the positive response to GAIA and we hope more people can visit before it closes on Saturday 27th November.”

Credit: Jenny Harper

The installation has been accompanied by a number of events. With the installation running from 6-27th November, there is still time to get involved, from yoga, to choir, book clubs and a poetry workshop, as well as the Chapel’s regular services. GAIA is accessible for every student, with BSL and audio description available at many events. 

To get involved, visit either keele.ac.uk/artsatkeele or appetite.org.uk . Appetite hold arts-related events all year round, suitable for all ages – head over to their website to get involved.