Less Remote: The Futures of Space Exploration - An Arts and Humanities Symposium (2008): Glasgow UK

Space-related art from Atlantica mission

Sarah Jane Pell

KEYNOTE: Abstract

Artist Sarah-Jane Pell spoke on her artistic and scientific involvement in the longest ever human undersea durational mission ever attempted, Atlantica. A custom-built facility called the Leviathan Habitat is to be submerged off the coast of Florida. This presentation posits the Atlantica mission as an innovative platform for discussing new modes of being, strategies of technicity and the aesthetics of care and operation from within an analogue to future outer space habitat missions

Less Remote was an artist-led symposium at the 59th International Astronautical Congress in Glasgow, 2008.

Less Remote was organised by Flis Holland and Arts Catalyst, in association with Leonardo and OLATS. The symposium was co-sponsored by the IAA Commission VI.

Critical Review

"The question of who performs within the context of "outer space" is skewed by the optically-dependent, Cartesian systems of Western culture and philosophy. However, here a new kind of interrogation of universality can occur, one that recognizes cultural, racial and gender difference as they are ultimately enacted within spectacle/spectator relationships. In this context, such notions as the autonomy and power suggested by the aerial view are challenged by the fact of humans' dependence - as a species - on our anatomy, Earth-based life support systems, social structures, and evolutionary potential. The ocean is an analog to space. In many ways it is equally inaccessible, especially because in places it is harder to image, with pressures that are technically challenging to cope with at the deeper extremes. Artist and diver Sarah Jane Pell has fashioned what she calls "a studio practice underwater," working with scientists to measure biorhythms in different states of immersion, and becoming accustomed to what most people would consider intensely claustrophobic experiences. Pell has a slight but tall frame that she remarkably compresses into diving bells, and aquarium tanks during land-based performances. She will be one of the inhabitants of the Leviathan Habitat, submerged off the coast of Florida as part of the Atlantica project, a 90-day undersea durational mission with relevant applications to eventual space colonies. Pell began her explorations with choreography intended for use in altered gravity conditions. For a project spanning 2007-2012, she has engaged in designing and using wearable aqueous architecture. The body can become accustomed to the difficulties and poetics of motion in extra-terrestrial environments through training in the ubiquitous watery environment of our home planet. An experiment by JAXA, the Japanese space agency, suggests that water might be the key to successful reproduction in space. Dr. Rachael Armstrong, a medical doctor and science fiction writer who has advised Stelarc and Orlan, walked the audience through various animal reproductive experiments performed in micro-gravity. In space, says Armstrong, the development of the cytoskeleton (cellular structure) is adversely affected, as well as neural tube closure in developing embryos, a critical process in forming the central nervous system. High rates of mutation and embryo death also often occur. But strangely, JAXA reported that the tiny Madaka, or Zebra fish had no problem. Is water the key not just to life, but to birth?"

- Artillery Magazine May/Jun 2009 Vol 3 Issue 5 feature: Living Outside the Body Constraint: A Report from The 59th International Astronautical Congress written by Carrie Paters
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