Less Remote: The Futures of Space Exploration (2008): Glasgow UK

Session 4: Inhabiting Space

Keynote Artists: Tomas Saraceno, Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Marko Peljhan, Rachel Armstrong, Zbigniew Oksiuta, Andy Miah, Sarah Jane Pell, Fraser MacDonald, Nina Czegledy. Moderator: Nicola Triscott

59th International Astronautical Congress, Arts and Humanities Symposium, Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre (SECC), 30 Sep - 1 Oct.

In this session, speakers considered the continuity between the needs of humans on earth and the possible demands of future 'spacefarers' in remote and often hostile environments. 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.
See Pell's IAC-08.E5.I.7 Space-related art from Atlantica mission abstract/paper/presentation.


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?" - Carrie Paterson, Artillery 2009

Performance, Yelling at the Stars

Willoh S. Weiland, Nicky Forster, Pip Norman, Sarah Jane Pell

IAC'08 Less Remote: Arts and Humanities Symposium, Evening Interactive Event, Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow, 1 Oct 2008.

Yelling at Stars is an ongoing science art project investigating the composition of interstellar messages. After sending a transmission into outer space on 31 May 2008 in Melbourne Australia, the Yelling at Stars team is in Glasgow for Phase Three, a performance research installation focused on communication with space. Art Design Andrew Fraser, Georgina Read, Roger Alsop. Video Visualisations and animations courtesy Swinburne University of Technology Department of Astrophysics and Supercomputing. Supported by the Australian Network for Art and Technology through its Professional Development Travel Fund.


Artist Interview

"“From the IAC in Glasgow my impressions are that on the surface, the aesthetic of space industry culture—from NASA down to the satellite manufacturers—is the same as it appears in the footage of the moon landing; still very much like ‘men going forward to plant the flag.’ …[T]he capacity to have a space program is dominated by appearances of military strength, which is the domain of men. “The IAC was an environment where discussion focused on the possible colonisation of space, the potential to live on other planets, commercial spaceflight and so on. These are missions that are being actively pursued. As an artist and a woman my concern is whether the discussion and the ventures are going to be dominated by the same paradigms that have failed here on Earth. The cultural utilisation of space, and conversation around avoiding the mistakes that we’ve made here on Earth, are particularly areas that the arts and humanities are able to contribute to. This is what Less Remote was about. “On an artistic level the use of the personal and the poetic in composing the Yelling at Stars transmission was an attempt to give weight to information that has historically been maligned as feminine, and therefore unworthy of dialogue—especially within the scientific community. That’s the interest for me; to try to hold this ‘other’ information, this mode of awareness, and have the scale of importance of different knowledges a little bit readjusted. “Yelling at Stars is proving the most creatively satisfying project that I’ve undertaken. The outcomes have integrated the research and the artistic elements—made them inseparable. And the ongoing research has been quite a revelation in terms of the way I work. Being ‘part of the conversation’ in Glasgow has brought up half-forgotten ideas about activism and art; about getting involved in the dialogue, not just reflecting." - Willoh S. Weiland (extracted quote) RealTime, 2008.


Patterson, Carrie (2009) Living Outside the Body Constraint: A Report from The 59th International Astronautical Congress, Artillery Magazine May/Jun 2009 Vol 3 Issue 5
Troup, Cynthia (2008) Willoh S. Weiland and Yelling at Stars Secretary of the Impossible, RealTime issue #88 Dec-Jan 2008 pg. 27
Brown, Allan (2008) Glasgow space congress brings it all home : Intergalactic travel is still humanity’s greatest party trick, Times Online review

Archived Links

The Arts Catalyst, Less Remote Project Archive

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. 64th International Astronautical Congress IAC'08, Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre (SECC), 30 Sep - 1 Oct 2008.

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