Russia 2000 Zero Gravity flight

The Arts Catalyst's first zero gravity flight with Kitsou Dubois and other artists and scientists

The Arts Catalyst's pioneering work in opening new environments to artists was focused in 2000/2001 on space: the space agencies, research scientists and space industries. One of the outcomes was our first parabolic 'zero gravity' flight, organised for choreographer Kitsou Dubois in September 2000 with the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Russia, in collaboration with Projekt Atol Flight Operations, Slovenia.

To train cosmonauts to perform experiments and investigations in real conditions of space flight - zero gravity - in Earth conditions, the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Russia uses a special flying laboratory on a parabolic trajectory. A parabolic flight creates the conditions of zero gravity - otherwise only experienced for any length of time in orbit or space travel - by putting an aircraft into a series of diving manoeuvres. During each parabola, bodies and objects inside the aircraft float freely for 25 - 30 seconds. A flight will have between 10 and 30 parabolas.

This experimental flight was part of a collaborative research project between choreographer Kitsou Dubois and the Biodynamics Group at Imperial College, London, looking at the control of movement of the body in altered gravities.

Flight participants

Kitsou Dubois & company: Dancers Matturin Bolze, Laura Nercy & Jorg Muller, cameraman Eric Duranteau, designer
Dragan Zivadinov, artist
Professor Susan McKenna-Lawlor, professor of physics, University of Ireland
Mike Stubbs, artist
Dr Chris Welch, lecturer in astronautics, Kingston University
Marko Peljhan, Projekt Atol
Stella Wilkins
Emma Jane Kirby, BBC Radio 4
Nicola Triscott, The Arts Catalyst.


Trajectoire Fluide (video), Kitsou Dubois
Zero (video), Mike Stubbs
Zero Gravity (BBC Radio 4 programme), Emma Jane Kirby

Funded by

London Arts Board

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Transpermia/Project Daedalus, Antunez Roca

A mechatronic conference presenting the Dedalus project and its micro performances at zero gravity as well as the Transpermia theory.

Using the Space Station as a metaphor, Antunez Roca has developed a hybrid show alternating performance, concert and lecture. It is structured in different modules. During the show Ant·nez wears his Dreskeleton (an exoskeletal body interface) and with it he samples, activates and modulates sounds as well as controlling the films projected on two screens.

In the first module he presents some of the mechanical aspects characteristic of his work such as the Fleshbots, the Dreskeletons, the Biometries and the Systematurgy.

The second module takes us through recurrent images in his work.

The third module reveals the end result of the process of preparation for the Dedalus project in Star City in the Russian Federation as well as the micro performances that were carried out during periods of microgravity provided by the parabolas. In these micro performances we witness the Requiem bodybot experiment and the interaction between the dreskeleton, the softbot and the interactive films.

The last module presents the Transpermia theory and at this point the performance becomes more like a conference. Ant·nez proposes a new landscape for a Utopia called Transpermia. He describes some of his prototypes organized in 4 sections:

1 Interface: new devices with which to perceive the world and take part in it

2 Robots: machines as metaphors for life

3 Fleeting Identities: transitory states of personality as a setting for new experiences and knowledge

4 New Creations: models of activity in the Transpermia Utopia

Transpermia premiered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain as part of The Arts Catalyst/MIR conference, Extremophiles.


  • Conception, direction, drawings & performer: Marcel.lí Antúnez Roca
  • Music: Alain Wergifosse
  • Software: Jesús de la Calle
  • Flash: Gaetano Mangano, Álvaro Uña.
  • Fligth technical: Álvaro Uña, Paco Beltrán.
  • Typography: Carlos Romera
  • Video editing: Sergi Díez.
  • Technical: Paco Beltrán.
  • Grafic assistent: Júlia Rubio, Marc Trafak; Mireia Barberà.
  • Flash programer: Sergi Porter
  • Fligth camera: Begoña Egurbide, Saso Podgorsek
  • Dedal Coordination & Management: Marta Oliveres.
  • Dreskeleton (body interface): EBA.
  • Robot Requiem programmer: Joan Carles Bonet
  • Robot Requiem technical designer: Roland Olbeter
  • Fligth Assistents: CGTC (Yuri Gagarin Trainning Center).
  • Produced by: Panspermia S.L., The Arts Catalyst (MIR project), Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte-INAEM, ICUB- Ajuntament de Barcelona, Departament de Cultura Generalitat de Catalunya.


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Laboratory Life

An exhibition of five works-in-progress made by 21 international artists, scientists and doctors in an open laboratory, exploring bioscience and the use of medical technology. Organised by The Arts Catalyst and Lighthouse Arts, and led by artist Andy Gracie.

The exhibition was the result of nine days of intensive work in a collaborative open laboratory. It showed projects created by five groups of artists and scientists, led by artists, Andy Gracie, Adam Zaretsky, Kira O'Reilly, Bruce Gilchrist, and Anna Dumitriu.

The exhibition featured DNA tattooing, an astrobiological experiment with fruitflies, a Regency dress embroidered and stained using microbiology, interpretations of synthetic biology terminology made by the public, and a garden shed for DIY tissue culture. Laboratory Life was named after Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar’s well-known book about an anthropological study of a scientific laboratory.

Our science advisors are John Paul, Helen Smith and Tom Shakespeare.

The Projects

The Quest for Drosophila Titanus, led by Andy Gracie
Collaborators: Kuaishen Auson, Janine Fenton, Meredith Walsh

This group of artists and scientists were engaged in an astrobiological experiment using various phenotypes of Drosophila melanogaster (the fruit fly). Since the early 1960s Drosophila have also played a critical role in space research and are regularly used in experiments on the International Space Station. As such they offer themselves as a perfect organism with which to conduct an experiment about how life might survive elsewhere in the solar system. Taking inspiration from diagrams obtained from NASA the group developed an apparatus with which to expose the fruit flies to various environmental conditions found on Titan. The aim being to take the first step in developing a new species which could adapt to living there. The 'best' flies from each experiment were selected to form a breeding colony which would be the ancestors of this new creature. Their exhibition of work-in-progress includes the experimental chamber, video documentation of the experiments, a printed manual which describes the experimental process, the breeding colony and the memorial to failed individuals.

The Garden Shed Lab, led by Kira O'Reilly
Collaborators: Valerie Furnham, Columba Quigley, Genevieve Maxwell

This group created a space for exploring the relationship between biotechnologies and domestic everyday experiences, such as cooking, tinkering, composting, and gardening. They build a garden shed in their laboratory and inside worked with tissue culture - a technology now just over 100 years old. In order to practice home tissue culture, they made a sterile laminar flow hood and a tissue culture incubator. The group incubated chick embryos, opened the eggs, and attempted to create cell cultures from them, always mindful of the ethical issues of these practices. The group explored the early histories of tissue culture, re-creating an experiment first performed in 1926 by tissue-culture pioneer, Thomas Strangeways, who attempted to harvest cells from a fresh uncooked sausage. Their exhibition of work-in-progress features their garden shed lab, containing their home-made sterile hood and incubator, their laboratory equipment and photographs and video they made whilst on site.

Public Misunderstanding of Science, led by Bruce Gilchrist
Collaborators: Kate Genevieve, Simona Casonato, David Louwrier, Daksha Patel

This group of artists and scientists spent several days testing the public’s understanding of science. Visitors to their laboratory were invited to draw and illustrate their understandings of scientific information and protocol, while listening to scientific discourse on synthetic biology. Their exhibition of work-in-progress is an animated film, which features the drawings sound-tracked with the original discourse and field recordings made on-site at a medical laboratory.

Infective Textiles, led by Anna Dumitriu
Collaborators: Rosie Sedgwick, Sarah Roberts, Brian Degger, Melissa Grant

This group of artists, doctors and scientists worked on the development of a textile-based artwork that takes the form of a Regency style dress stained with bacterial pigments and patterned by antibiotics. Their work used ‘garage science’ methods and ‘DIY’ microbiological processes to explore the notion of infection control. During the lab they cultured microbes from the local environment including soil, buildings and other public places. They then stained silk thread with natural antibiotics – including cloves, turmeric and green tea – and used them to create embroidered patterns on fabric. Their exhibition features the Regency style dress, which has now been pasteurized so that the bacteria are no longer living, video documentation of their project, framed works (which show slides of cultured bacteria and moulds, Gram’s stain paintings embroidered with antibiotic threads and drawings made by visitors to the lab) and a table of items used in their lab. 

Tattoo Traits, led by Adam Zaretsky
Collaborators: Zack Denfield, Helen Bullard, Simon Hall

This group of artists and doctors examined the feasibility of a new notion – “DNA Tattooing”. They explored the ethical, legal, and health issues that might be raised by such a process. Their work involved the creation of a "new media" which they have referred to as Shecan, and the extraction of hybrid DNA from this media. They then adapted a tattoo gun, with the intention of tattooing a novel sequence of hybrid DNA into the nucleus of a living cell, something which is statistically improbable, but conceptually possible. Their exhibition of work-in-progress features The Shroud of Shecan, a monoprint cloth containing the residue of their new media, Whirling Dervish Human Centrifuge, a sculptural and performative device which also contains Shecan, the adapted tattoo gun, beans which have received DNA tattoos, photographs of their work, and a release which the group adapted to manage the legal and contractual issues associated with DNA tattooing.


Wired, Culture24


Laboratory Life is organised by Lighthouse and The Arts Catalyst, with support from the Wellcome Trust. It was conceived by artist Andy Gracie, based on the Interactivos? model developed by the Media Lab Prado in Madrid.

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Arctic Perspective Initiative

Arctic Perspective highlighted the cultural, geopolitical and ecological significance of the Arctic and its indigenous cultures. In collaboration with the people of Igloolik and other communities in Nunavut, Canada, artists and architects are devising a mobile media and living unit and infrastructure, powered by renewable energy sources, which can be used for nomadic dwelling environmental monitoring and media based work 'on the land', away from the established Arctic settlements.

API was initiated artists Marko Peljhan and Matthew Biederman.

The API project website gives details of the process of the project, including the team's visits to Igloolik, Foxe Basin and other Inuit communities in Nunavut, Arctic Canada, the international open architecture competition to design the media unit, and the construction of the prototype unit.


Cahier No. 1: Arctic Architecture (ISBN 978-3-7757-2679-5) is now available - order online here
Cahier No. 2: Arctic Geopolitics & Autonomy (ISBN 978-3-7757-2681-8) - order online here


Arctic Perspective, London
21 May - 30 September 2010
Canada House, Trafalgar Square, London, UK
The Arctic Perspective exhibition at Canada House showed film and photographic documentation of the API project, including specially commissioned architectural models of the winning entries from an international open design competition for the mobile unit, which received more than 100 entries from over 30 countries. The winning unit architectural designs are by Richard Carbonnier (Canada), Catherine Rannou (France) and Giuseppe Mecca (Italy). Presented in conjunction with the London Festival of Architecture.

Arctic Perspective, Dortmund
18 June - 10 October 2010
HMKV Phoenix Halle, Dortmund, Germany
A large-scale exhibition of Arctic Perspective, organsed by HMKV, was held in Dortmund in the framework of European Capital of Culture RUHR 2010 and the international media-art conference ISEA 2010. The exhibition focused on the notions of architecure, geopolitics, autonomy, technology and landscape. As well as documentation from the API project, the exhibition also featured other positive nothern initiatives that reflect the values of API.

Contemporary Nomadism: Autonomy & Technology in the North (Discussion event)
20 May 2010, Canada House, London
Artists, academics and architects explored the API's cultural, historical and political contexts. Panel: Marko Peljhan, artist and instigator of Arctic Perspective Initiative, director Projekt Atol (Slovenia), David Turnbull, science sociologist (Australia), Richard Carbonnier, architect (Canada), Inke Arns, curator, artistic director HMKV (Germany). Chair: Michael Bravo, Scott Polar Research Institute (UK/Canada)

Arctic Perspective Open Space Conference
24-26 September 2010, PHOENIX Halle, Dortmund, Germany
The API open space conference gathered some of the most dynamic thinkers from and on the circumpolar regions and the open source technology and tactical media communities in an intense three-day situation involving critical debate and reflection.


API is supported by the European Commission Culture 2007 Programme, City of Dortmund, Federal Centre for Civic Education, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, City of Ljubljana and Arts Council England.

Partners include the Arctic Perspective Initiative, HMKV in Germany, Projekt Atol in Slovenia, C-TASC in Canada, Lorna in Iceland and Arts Catalyst in the UK.

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MIR Flight 001

One of the most fascinating aspects of manned space flight is the state of zero gravity or weightlessness: astronauts and objects floating in air. But it is only recently that this extraordinary 'by-product' of the space programme has been recognised as a rich scientific resource, with a multitude of experiments queuing up for the space agencies' parabolic flight programmes and for the new International Space Station. To date, the aesthetic possibilities of zero gravity have barely been explored, in part due to the exclusiveness of the environment, accessible only to astronauts and scientists.

In September 2001, the Arts Catalyst took a group of London and Russian artists, scientists and philosophers to Star City, Russia, to undertake projects in zero gravity, utilising the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre's parabolic flight programme.

The Russian Federation is a nation with a large space programme. To carry out this programme it is necessary to train cosmonauts in real conditions of space flight - zero gravity. To achieve zero gravity in earth conditions, the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre uses the flight of a special flying laboratory - the Ilyushin-76 MDK - on a parabolic trajectory. They have extensive experience of these flights. The IL-76 MDK is a very large aircraft specially adapted for parabolic flight.

After the parabolic fligh, Flow Motion gave a free concert of electronic music for the people of Star City at the Cosmonauts Club.

London and Russian artists and scientists selected for the MIR flight 001 (some flying, some ground-based) were:

  • Anna Alchuk, artist and poet
  • Ansuman Biswas, artist and musician
  • Alexei Blinov, engineer and member of Raylab
  • Anthony Bull, biomechanics scientist, Imperial College London
  • Jem Finer, artist and musician
  • Kevin Fong, doctor, lecturer in space medicine, University College London
  • Edward George, musician and member of Flow Motion
  • Andrew Kotting, film director
  • Trevor Mathison, musician and member of Flow Motion
  • Judith Palmer, freelance journalist
  • Anna Piva, musician and member of Flow Motion
  • Mikhail Ryklin, scientist and philosopher
  • Morag Wightman, dancer
  • Louise K Wilson, artist
  • Andrey and Julia Velikanov, artists

Resulting projects

  • Gravity: A Love Story - Morag Wightman & Craos Mor
  • Zero Genies - Jem Finer & Ansuman Biswas
  • Wave Particle - Jem Finer & Ansuman Biswas
  • Kosmos in Blue - Flow Motion
  • Too G - Andrew Kotting
  • Universal Substitute - Andrei & Julia Velikanov
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MIR Campaign 2003

The MIR partnership invited proposals from European and Europe-based artists and scientists to undertake projects/research in variable gravity conditions on a parabolic flights or using other facilities, such as the centrifuge and the hydrolaboratory facility used for EVA training, at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre (GCTC), Star City, Russia. From the call, we received nearly 100 proposals from artists and scientists all over Europe and selected the following projects, which were undertaken during a working visit to Star City in April 2003:

Marcelli Antunez Roca (Spain) - micro-performances, taking place during the parabolic flight. The formal development of the actions use the body, an exoskeleton, a system of computers, and robots. Roca develops and works with orthopaedic mechanisms that are used for controlling the body and expanding the body's possibilities.

Vadim Fishkin (Russia/Slovenia) - variable gravity project using the kapelgraf device, which can translate data originating from various sources into the drops of fluid language. In normal gravity, the kapelgraf translates a time-based substance (sound-voice) into a more substantial, but still ephemeral substance (drops of water). In zero gravity, the drops remain floating in space.

Kodwo Eshun, Richard Cousins & Anjali Sagar (UK) - The essay film Otolith will draw on the traditions of Russian utopianism, European reverse anthropology and Indian modernism.

Ewen Chardronnet (France) - Media artist and founder member of the Association of Autonomous astronauts. Author of 'Quitte Le Gravite'.

Yuri Leiderman (Russia) - Kefir grains, colonies of special bacteria, can be regarded a good embodiment for Tsyolkovsky's "radiant shells of mind". Leiderman grew kefir grains, "trained" them, selected most "healthy" samples and named them. Selected grains set off for the aircraft to experience variable gravity.

Rebecca Forth (UK) - scientific research project into the respiratory and cardiovascular effects of clarinet playing in zero G. Rebecca is head of aviation medicine at the Centre for Space and Aviation Medicine at UCL.

Stefan Gec (UK) - a work physically recording the G-load exerted by the centrifuge onto a celestial globe. The globe to be positioned in the void normally occupied by the cosmonaut. Once installed into the centrifuge, the hollow globe will beslowly exposed to a significant G-load, causing it to be deformed by thepowerful force exerted upon it.

i-DAT (UK) - The Institute of Digital of Art & Technology design a prototype for a self-orientating robot called Columbia: Monument to Lost Astronauts


Work resulting from these projects is being presented to the public at the following and other venues:

MIR @ V2: V2, Rotterdam, Netherlands 27th July 2003

Extremophiles conference: Royal Institution, London, UK 19 September 2003

Art in Zero G symposium: Paris 4 - 5 October 2003

MIR - Art in Variable Gravity: Cornerhouse, Manchester 8 November - 14 December 2003

MIR - Dreams of Space: Stills, Edinburgh 19 March - 5 June 2005

A special edition of the Leonardo Electronic Almanac documented these projects - September 2003.

Funders and Thanks

Funded by a European Commission Culture 2000 award.

MIR (Microgravity Interdisciplinary Research) is a consortium of European based arts organisations, Arts Catalyst, V2, Projekt Atol and Leonardo-Olats, which was founded in 2001 to promote interdisciplinary and art/science research in microgravity and altered gravity conditions. Two campaigns, with a total of three parabolic flights and a centrifuge experiment were organised within the MIR framework in Zvezdny Gorodok (Star City), Russia

With thanks to the Zero G team at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre

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Parallel Universe

Experiments and reflections on science from non-Western cultures, with a major new commission, CAT by Ansuman Biswas, and performance-lecture by Paul Wong

CAT - Ansuman Biswas

In CAT, Ansuman Biswas performed an experiment / demonstration drawing on the image of Schrödinger's Cat, the famous paradox in quantum physics. The work arises from a comparative study of modern scientific methodology and the 2,500 year old Indian science of vipassana. It lasted for ten days, during which time the artist remained sealed and meditating within a light and soundproof chamber. He attempted to maintain continuous, detailed observation of all sensory phenomena.

Dead Man Talking - Paul Wong

A multi-media presentation by Paul Wong (Canada/China) on Western science and Chinese medical practices, with reference to cultural attitudes towards death.

Programme of events:

Fri 20 March:
Lecture/performance by Luis Eduardo Luna (Brazil) on the link between sound and shamanic practices in the Amazon.
Sat 21 March:
Dead Man Talking, multi-media presentation by Paul Wong.
Sun 22 March:
Presentation about Islamic science by Professor Ziauddin Sardar of Middlesex University followed by a discussion of CAT between theoretical physicist David Peat and Jungian analyst Chris Hawke
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Artists Airshow

A day of art and flying in and around Europe's largest wind tunnel.

Airshow used the then deserted research facility where supersonic flight was developed and the ghosts of sixties rocket projects linger. Artists’ installations and transmissions were sited in the abandoned wind tunnels, test tanks and life-size helicopter flight simulators. There was a programme of flying events presented by artists and guided tours of the wind tunnels organised by the Farnborough Air Sciences and led by the engineers who formerly worked in the facility.

A highlight of day was Simon Faithfull’s Escape Vehicle no.6, a full-scale chair suspended beneath a weather balloon with a camera and transmitter. This apparatus was released from a launch pad - on an extremely windy day - and rapidly rose above the earth ultimately into the blackness of the stratosphere on the edge of space. With the naked eye, the audience on earth at Farnborough watched the balloon and chair recede and disappear into the sky, but they were then immediately able to follow the rest of the journey on a giant screen via a live video downlink from the escape vehicle.

Zina Kaye demonstrated the use of the Observatine UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), a petrol-powered unmanned surveillance airplane created with onboard camera and computer, controlled via an internet browser. The airplane took off from the Farnborough airfield runway, and the audience were able to follow the airplane’s flight by sight in the skies as well as on monitors. 
Miles Chalcraft’s Tear-Rain was a two-stage, 6-foot rocket aimed to deliver a year’s worth of tears over the assembled audience (as a small burst of rain at the end of another bad summer). The momentary cloudburst was to be observed with a rocket's eye view by an onboard wireless camera and simultaneously relayed to a large TV monitor. 

Luke Jerram’s Ghost Plane was a site-specific new commission: an apparition in the wind tunnel. A ghostly spitfire summoned up by eddying air currents shimmering across a reflective bed of mercury, Ghost Plane echoed the aircraft tested at Farnborough and the engineers who once used mercury to measure the shifting air pressure in the wind tunnels. Stefan Gec’s Celestial Vault, commissioned for MIR: Art in Variable Gravity, is a video installation recorded in the giant centrifuge at Moscow’s Star City cosmonaut training centre. It was sited in the return chamber of the large wind tunnel.

Tim Knowles was commissioned to create a site-specific balloon drawing machine, which produced randomised wind drawings by wind-blown balloons. Installed in the sonic wind tunnel, Flow Motion’s Dissolve. a digital audio installation, takes as its starting point Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point. Louise K Wilson created Loop, a site-specific video and sound installation using footage shot from the cockpit of a Slingsby Firefly of a repeated aerobatic manoeuvre performed in the skies above Northumbria in August 2004

Marko Peljhan gave a talk about his ongoing collaboration with the Aerosonde corporation, which manufactures long-distance UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) for use in environmental surveys in oceans and inhospitable terrain such as Antarctica.

To conclude the day, Anne Bean literally created a spectacular drawing for the sky, using balloons, parachute flares and small rockets, in collaboration with pyrotechnicians Mark Anderson and Nick Sales.

External links:

YouTube 1st International Artists Airshow, 2nd International Artists Airshow

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Investigations in Microgravity, Kitsou Dubois and Imperial College Biodynamics Group

In this interdisciplinary research collaboration, choreographer Kitsou Dubois worked with Imperial College's Biodynamics Group to investigate the control of movement in weightlessness

Kitsou Dubois has been developing a process of experimental movement performed in an environment of altered gravity conditions. With focused pre-flight training techniques and disciplined dancers, her choreography tames the adrenalin-fed wayward tendencies of bodies in weightlessness and forms them into shapes of apparently effortless beauty.

Between 1999 and 2003, The Arts Catalyst initiated and coordinated a long-term collaboration between Dr Dubois and the Biodynamics research group at Imperial College to investigate the control of the bodies in altered states of gravity, including weightlessness. The group comprised Professor Bob Schroter, Dr Nick Davey, Dr Olga Rutherford, Dr Anthony Bull, Dr Alison McGregor, Dr Steve Rawlinson, Dr Paul Strutton and Dr Alex Nowicky.

The team participated in 7 parabolic 'zero gravity' flights with the European Space Agency in Bordeaux, France, and the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, Russia. Outputs included a series of video installations, performances and demonstrations, as well as masterclasses, and a scientific paper.

Artistic & Scientific Investigations on Zero Gravity Flights,  Russia and France, 2000 - 2003

In September 2000, Dubois and her dancers took part in a parabolic ‘zero gravity’ flight arranged by The Arts Catalyst Project Atol Flight Operations at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Russia.  In this flight, Dubois investigated the ability of her dancers to control defined movements in zero gravity.

In March 2002 and April 2003, the group participated in two ESA parabolic flight campaigns in Bordeaux. In these flights, Dr Nick Davey led a neurophysiological study aimed at understanding the corticospinal control of movement in varying gravitational conditions. Dubois was investigation collaborator as well as one of the subjects. More details of the experiment are outlined below under Scientific Investigation .

Alongside this work, Dubois trained 3 other dancers - Mathurin Bolze, Jörg Müller and Laura de Nercy - for work in parabolic flight and in 2000 the company participated in a parabolic flight organised specifically for her research by Arts Catalyst and Projekt Atol Flight Operations at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, Star City, Russia, in which she had the freedom to use most of the entire aircraft interior as a studio/stage for pure complex movement research during 10 parabolas.

During her work with Arts Catalyst, Dubois produced a 4-screen video installation Gravity Zero and a new film Trajectoire Fluide, and then further films and installations using the footage and research from the flight, in collaboration with video artist Eric Duranteau.

Artistic Outputs & Public Presentations

Gravity Zero, Lux Gallery, 1999

In 1999, The Arts Catalyst and Lux presented a new multi-screen video installation commissioned from Dubois: ‘Gravity Zero’ at the Lux Gallery.

Altered States of Gravity, Imperial College Gallery, 2000

In 2000, in London, we commissioned and presented a video installation of Dubois and the Imperial Group’s work, Altered States of Gravity for the “Creating Sparks” festival.

Trajectoire Fluide & Fille Air – film & installation, 2002 - 3

In April 2002, Dubois premiered her new video 'Trajectoire Fluide’ made in collaboration with Eric Duranteau. It was accompanied by talks by Dubois and Professor Robert Shroter and a demonstration of TMS by Dr Nick Davey.

Trajectoire Fluide was re-made as a video installation and shown in France during in 2002. From October - December 2003, the new installation 'Fille-Air' was shown at the La Maison de la Photographie, Paris, and in 2003, Dubois made the performance 'Trajectoire Fluide' at La Villette, Paris

Scientific Investigation

The team set out to investigate how the nervous system controls the subtle process of adjusting posture. And whether people who
are very good at moving their bodies, like dancers, have a better developed control system.

In the first investigation, led by neuroscientist Dr Nick Davey, the team wished to find out how it is that the back muscles contract to counter arm movements on the opposite side. Is this controlled by the brain in a coordinated way – does the brain switch on the pathways to the left back at the same time as those to the right arm? Or is it a reflex response? The team measured how active different muscles were at different times by recording electricity or electromyography (EMG) produced by the muscles, and how active the pathway from the brain was, for which transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was used. With TMS, magnetic pulses stimulate those nerves in the brain that project to back muscles, enabling the team to investigate how the responses in the back muscles to TMS change when the arm is extended.

Gravity’s action on the body brings into play balance organs in the ear as well as touch and stretch sensitive organs in the skin, joints and muscles, which can confuse the results, so the team wished to perform the experiment in zero gravity. The team applied to and was accepted for participation in the European Space Agency’s 32nd and 34th ESA parabolic campaigns in 2002 and 2003. They found, both on the ground and in zero gravity, that the back muscles were turned on when the arm was extended and that the pathways from the voluntary control areas of the brain were more active when this happened. This told them, overall, that the drive to the back muscles is stronger when the opposite arm is extended and that it is the brain’s voluntary control areas that control the stabilisation mechanism. The team concluded that the sense organs in the skin, joints and muscles were not heavily
involved and that the stabilisation of the body during arm extension was not simply a reflex response.

Another interesting result was the response of the body’s muscle to removing gravity. Rather than relaxing in weightlessness, as one might expect, the muscles of the back in fact became more active regardless of the position of the opposite arm. In other words the spine became more inflexible in zero gravity rather than the more flexible state it is in on the
ground. The team thinks that this process enables the body to orientate itself more easily when its gravitational point of reference is removed.

Scientific Paper

In April 2004, the scientific paper 'Human corticospinal excitability in microgravity and hypergravity during parabolic flight', written by the group, was published in Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine 2004 Apr;75(4):359-63.


The project was commissioned and organised by The Arts Catalyst, and funded by Wellcome SciArt Funds and Arts Council England, and supported by the European Space Agency.


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2nd International Artists Airshow

Three years after the first Artists Airshow, a day of art and flying in and around Europe's largest wind tunnel at Farnborough, the 2nd International Artists Airshow took place at Gunpowder Park.

The 2nd International Artists Airshow reflected both the explosive and ephemeral nature of Gunpowder Park and investigated the artists' almost impossible dream of flight.
Two performance works started the day: Ben Blakeborough's
Winged Self was a flying platform designed and flown by the artist, then, in Eagle, Ruth Maclennan encouraged a trained eagle to document the moving public on the ground. In Gunpowder Park's dense woodland, Sonia Khurana's video installation Bird explored the possibility of flight through the constraints of the human body, and Hehe's Smoking Lamp responded to the direct pollution caused by cigarette smoke, whilst on a nearby hill their Air De Londres was an observation point from which people viewed and listened to the polluted skies over London. In the field station, Rachel Chapman, in her project Mapping the Air, collected spores from visitors clothing throughout the day. By examining airborne spores, the trajectory of a person's journey and their activities were be traced.
The day's finale was Anne Bean, Mark Anderson, Nick Sales (UK)'s Black Mass, in which they made a large scale pyrotechnic work which launched a sky bourne sculptural mass of dense black smoke which aimed to block out the sun.
Late in the evening, following the 'Aesthetics of Impossibility' symposium, visitors went on a night field trip to view the insects attracted by Brandon Ballengee's ultra-violet Love Motels for Insects.
The 2nd International Artists Airshow was a collaboration between The Arts Catalyst and Gunpowder Park.

Artists' Projects

Winged Self, Ben Blakeborough (Australia)
Blakeborough has been training himself to fly 'winged self' for several years, a real flying platform that hovered according to the artist's body movements.
"The theory of the Winged Self has developed from concepts elucidated by Charles Zimmerman in the 1950s. His chief concept was simple; every human possesses the necessary built in balance and reflex control within the middle ear, nerves and muscular system - if man could create a controlled, powerful downward column of thrust below his feet, he could easily balance and hover in one place. By leaning in the direction one wanted to travel, one could tilt the thrust vector and hence move in that direction. Many novel and ingenious concepts from this period were funded by defence budgets but the findings and aircraft eventually fell by the wayside. Thankfully Zimmerman’s ideas of the free flying self have survived due to the documentation of his ideas and flying apparatus." Ben Blakeborough

Eagle, Ruth Maclennan (UK)
Mclennan encouraged a trained eagle to document the moving public on the ground, with the results transmitted live on screen. Eagle looks at the communication between hunter and eagle, while the audience is in a strange position as both witness of the flight, and object viewed by the ‘eagle-camera’. The eagle plays the role of a machine (a flying camera), while still retaining the autonomous will of a wild bird of prey.
"Eagle is an ongoing art project that explores the symbolism and experience of the co-operation between birds of prey and humans, in particular the relationship of eagle hunter to trained eagle which originated in Central Asian nomadic cultures. Falconry is a dance of death: a ritual that represents the complex interdependence of humans and animals. In eagle hunting, the eagle stands in for the human hunter, the human killer. This surrogate role is the sign of culture, of the ritualisation of death.”

Bird, Sonia Khurana (India)
Khurana’s video installation was constructed in Gunpowder Park’s dense woodland, in a small shed, similar to those used for bird hides, as a site specific work that explored the possibility of flight through the constraints of the human body.
“Bird is about being a body. It is about an encounter with failed flight. It is an investigation of two kinds of limitations: the body confronting its own flesh and the forces of gravity, and a discrete questioning of accounts of the body which overlook sexual difference.”

Air De Londres and Smoking Lamp, Hehe (Helen Evans and Heiko Hansen, France)
Hehe take one step beyond the notion of flight by looking at the air itself and its quality. Continuing with a project started in Paris using public air-monitoring equipment, they utilised an automated monitoring station not far from Gunpowder Park, in Ponder's End in Enfield, that measures ozone (O3) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). At Gunpowder Park they made an observation point where people viewed and listened to the 'coloured skies' over London. Smoking Lamp was an interactive installation which responded to the direct pollution caused by cigarette smoke, which also marked the end of smoking in public in England on 1 July 2007.

Black Mass, Anne Bean, Mark Anderson, Nick Sales (UK)
Following on from a massive 'sky drawing' created for Artists Airshow 1 with adapted parachute rockets, a co-ordinated detonation device and 100m ribbons, Bean, Anderson and Sales were commissioned to make a large scale pyrotechnic work which reflected the history of munitions manufacture at Gunpowder Park and launched a sky bourne sculptural mass of dense black smoke which aimed to block out the sun.

Mapping the Air, Rachel Chapman (UK)
Chapman set up a mobile "spore extraction laboratory" where spores were collected from visitors clothing throughout the day. By examining airborne spores that collect on skin, hair, clothing the trajectory of a person's journey and their activities can be traced, revealing the ecology of the environment that person has passed through – sometimes quite specifically. Collating what is collected from a set of people on a given day generates a kind of ecological 'map' of the air for that particular day, interrelated to the topography of land below.

Rachel Chapman's Mapping the Air

Links to artists' websites:

Anne Bean
Rachel Chapman
Ruth Maclennan


Grant for the Arts from Arts Council England, the Henry Moore Foundation, and ANAT

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