Space Art: “Why we need space artists” + An “Inner Telescope” on the ISS + Expressing ourselves through space exploration
Three space art related items:
** Why We Need Space Artists – Room: The Space Journal – In this brief intro to space art, David A. Hardy, a well noted space artist himself, explains why the artist’s view will always be needed even after there are high-res photos of a celestial place.
In the BBC six o’clock news of 15 July 2015, as a result of the first New Horizons images, several paintings of Pluto were shown (some by myself) with the statement, ‘There is no longer any need for artists’ impressions.’ This comment was of course intended to be whimsical but, as the public sees it, there is an element of truth in it. We have after all now received images from all of the major bodies in our Solar System.
There will always be a need for artists (quite apart from the aesthetic aspects; space art can be at least as beautiful as terrestrial art) because from space probes we only see the whole object – planet, moon, comet – or close-ups of it, as it looks from space. Only artists can visualise what it would look like for someone actually standing on the surface. Of course, we heard the same sort of comments when photography was invented, when digital art became available, when the Hubble Space Telescope sent back its first amazing images of distant stars and nebulae. . . But let’s take a look at the history and background of space art.
** A Space Odyssey: Making Art Up There – The New York Times – French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, currently lives on the International Space Station. In February, he took a break from his usual work load:
… there was a more unusual item on Mr. Pesquet’s agenda. Working with the earthbound artist Eduardo Kac, he created an artwork in space. It was a simple piece: nothing more than could be done with two sheets of paper and a pair of scissors. “Since the goal was to be born in space, it had to be created with materials that were already in the space station,” Mr. Kac (pronounced katz) explained in a telephone interview from his home in suburban Oak Park, Ill. Transporting art materials by rocket ship was not in the plan.
The artwork — a piece of paper cut into an M, and another piece of paper rolled into a tube and stuck through the middle of the M — might look a bit silly on Earth, where gravity would accentuate its flimsiness. But floating weightlessly in the space station, it looks fragile, even magical — not unlike the planet beyond.
Viewed with a certain amount of imagination, the paper construction can be said to spell “moi.” Mr. Kac, a professor of art and technology at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, means this not as an individual “me” but in the collective sense: His “moi” stands for all of us. The piece itself is called “Inner Telescope,” for reasons that become clear only when you look through the O formed by the paper tube and view a tiny portion of Earth. “We point a telescope to the stars,” he said. “But this is a telescope that from the stars we point to ourselves.”
The project was supported by the L’Observatoire de l’Espace (The Space Observatory).
Here is a video about the project. (It is in French but you can obtain rough translated captions via Settings -> Subtitles/CC -> Language selection. Then click on the CC control.)
** Extraterrestrial culture: How we express ourselves through space exploration | The Planetary Society – Theater scholar Felipe Cervera writes about how “extraterrestrial space” is expressed in our culture.
Humankind has practiced outer space—that is, we have performed it—since time immemorial. Through science, philosophy and the arts, we have practiced extraterrestrial culture since the first time we took a star as a reference to life on Earth—Ptolemy, Copernicus and Galileo were all already practicing extraterrestrial culture. However, today extraterrestrial culture acquires a much more material potential. In an age of climate change and orbital trash, of planetary stewardship and satellite telecommunication, of interplanetary colonialism and orbital cosmopolitanism, the performativity of our extraterrestrial culture is no longer exclusively a projection for the future, but rather the pressing expression of the material relationality between us, our planet, and with the universe at large. How we enact space now is therefore a determinant factor in the ways in which we will continue to practice space in the future.
And how would he like to express extraterrestrial space?
Myself? I want to stage Waiting for Godot in orbit, and have Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye play Vladimir and Estragon. The play is a seminal work in the history of theatre in general, and an exemplary case of a genre called “theatre of the absurd.” This particular genre’s main characteristics are that the storyline is often circular and the characters live through a cyclical, almost nonsensical existence. In Waiting for Godot, Vladimir and Estragon spend the entire play waiting for Godot, whose complete identity we never really learn and who actually never shows up. The play has often been interpreted as a poetic representation of humans’ existential agony, and the search for a meaning in a world that may not have one at all. The end of the play encapsulates this:
Estragon (Neil): Well? Shall we go?
Vladimir (Bill): Yes, let’s go.
They don’t move.
Imagine Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye playing these characters and saying these lines…in orbit…on board the ISS…wouldn’t that be something?