Cultural Utilisation of the International Space Station

Cosmic Flash, proposed project for the cultural utilisation of the ISS, Tim Otto Roth. Artist's impression. 2005
Cosmic Flash, proposed project for the cultural utilisation of the ISS, Tim Otto Roth. Artist's impression. 2005

The Arts Catalyst's Study for the European Space Agency

The Arts Catalyst is working with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a cultural utilisation programme for the human spaceflight, microgravity and exploration division.

In 2005, the European Space Agency (ESA) contracted The Arts Catalyst in London to carry out a study into cultural utilisation of the International Space Station (ISS). A report from this study was submitted to ESA in February 2006. In September 2007, Arts Catalyst was awarded a contract extension to further elaborate and implement some of the policy recommendations from the study, and to undertake some pilot cultural activities, including artist residencies within the Human Spaceflight, Microgravity and Exploration directorate.

Progress Reports 

Update - 31 July 2009

There have been some delays to the project associated with the ISS programme. We hope to announce two artists' residency opportunities shortly, which are funded by ESA and the Arts Council England.

Update - 12 November 2007

The Artist as Space Explorer: exhibition in Berlin curated by The Arts Catalyst

In November 2007, The Arts Catalyst curated and organised an exhibition of art projects demonstrating the potential cultural dimension of space exploration for ESA/DLR International Space Exploration Conference, Berlin. The exhibition, titled 'The Artist as Space Explorer' was commissioned by ESA and presented in collaboration with transmediale, the Berlin-based festival for art and digital culture. It included works by Tomas Saraceno, Marko Peljhan, Kitsou Dubois, Tim Otto Roth, Agnes Meyer-Brandis and Simon Faithfull.

Update - 30 September 2007

Contract extension awarded to The Arts Catalyst

The Arts Catalyst has been awarded a contract extension by ESA to further elaborate and implement some of the policy recommendations from the International Space Station cultural utilisation study, specifically:

* To further develop the proposed pilot projects, in particular by setting up a pilot artist residency programme at ESTEC (European Space Research & Technology Centre). This programme would enable the familiarisation of interested artists with the technical, operational, procedural, and administrative possibilities and constraints of the International Space Station's in-orbit and ground-based facilities for cultural utilisation.

* To propose and support the implementation of further activities and utilisation projects that can reach the European public.

Update - 5 October 2006

Final study report submitted to the European Space Agency

The Arts Catalyst submitted its report to ESA in February 2006. It is still to be approved by ESA, however permission has been given to makes its contents public.

Update - 25 November 2005

Preliminary report & workshop completed

From the responses to the consultation phase, the study team submitted its preliminary report to the European Space Agency in early September. This report comprised:

1 Draft Policy Recommendations

2 Selection of Project Ideas by Type/ISS Feature

3 Historical Contextualisation of Art in Space, Space Habitats and Related Facilities

At the beginning of November 2005, a 2-day workshop was held at the European Space Agency's International Space Station - Erasmus User Centre, ESTEC, Noordwijk in the Netherlands. The aim of the workshop was to discuss and refine the draft policy recommendations for cultural utilisation of the International Space Station. It brought together representatives from the European cultural community and from the European Space Agency for a stimulating 2 days of discussion. These discussions will inform the recommendations that will be presented to ESA's Director of Human Spaceflight, Microgravity and Exploration.

From these recommendations, we hope that there will be put in place a structure within ESA for considering and assessing cultural proposals for utilisation of the International Space Station and its ground-based facilities. It is also possible that, prior to or alongside this, a small number of "demonstrator" projects using ground-based facilities may take place.

As representatives of the cultural community (however diverse), our aim is for the cultural community to be accepted within ESA as a user group for ESA's ISS facilities.

Announcement - 31 May 2005

Contract for study on cultural utilisation of space awarded to The Arts Catalyst

The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded The Arts Catalyst in London a contract to carry out a study into cultural utilisation of the International Space Station. The study sets out to investigate and focus the interest of the cultural world in the International Space Station, to generate a policy for involving cultural users in the International Space Station programme in the longer term and to develop a representative set of ready-to-implement demonstrator projects in arts, culture and media. Under the lead of the Arts Catalyst (GB), the study team also comprises Association Leonardo- Olats (F) and Delta Utec (NL), with the MIR network.

Media Articles

Jonathan Jones, art critic, in The Guardian - Universal Studios (UK)

Jens Hauser, art critic, in Arte - Space Art for the International Space Station (D/Fr)

Other Relevant Links

Nice article on the contemporary reality of living in space