SPACE SOON: Art and Human Spaceflight

"We are all already in Space... "

Major new commissions by Aleksandra Mir, N55/Neal White, and London Fieldworks
Projects by Michelle Griffiths, Jerry Dammers, Kodwo Eshun, Resonance FM and Laurie Anderson and a special appearance by Apollo astronaut Alan Bean.

This was Buckminster Fuller's reported response to the first flight into space by Yuri Gagarin. Artists - caught between fascination and repulsion by the new millennial push to Mars and return to the Moon - are still trying to decode the manual to Spaceship Earth.

For a short, intense period the Roundhouse was transformed into a rocket factory for a rocket going nowhere - Gravity by Aleksandra Mir. Outside, N55 and Neal White’s Space on Earth Station reversed into the future, while in the labyrinth of Roundhouse Studios, London Fieldworks investigated long-term space travel in SpaceBaby, while on the upper floors Michelle Griffiths constructed her Lunar Capsule. In the lead up to, and over the five days of its duration, Space Soon unfolded a spectacular succession of art and space events.

Major new commissions:

Gravity - Aleksandra Mir

Gravity was a monumental, ephemeral scuplture, a 22-metre rocket of giant junk, reaching to the top of the Roundhouse main space, built and dismantled in just 5 days. Click on the link opposite to see a film of the making of Gravity.

Space on Earth Station - N55 / Neal White

Radical Danish architects N55 and UK artist Neal White constructed and inhabited a Mars base-type series of microdwellings, taking over the entirety of the Roundhouse car park, in order to explore our terrestrial neighbourhood.

SpaceBaby - London Fieldworks

A durational sleep experiment and installation by artists London Fieldworks, investating long-term sleep and hibernation, with the University of Leicester Department of Genetics.

Lunar Capsule - Michelle Griffiths

Lunar Capsule was a whimsical Victorian butterfly-powered spaceship reminiscent of that in Jules Verne’s Earth to the Moon.

Events:

Taking Control

Symposium exploring the future of space exploration from the human perspective.

Cosmic Engineers: Jerry Dammers Spatial AKA Orchestra - Tribute to Sun Ra + Special Screening of Out of the Present

The premiere of Jerry Dammers' new Spatial AKA Orchestra, presenting a tribute to the legendary jazz composer Sun Ra, and special screening of Andrei Ujica’s cult Russian space film Out of the Present.

Secret Artist on the Moon: Apollo astronaut Alan Bean

Legendary Apollo astronaut, Alan Bean, discussed his experience of being on the moon, the impact of spaceflight on the human mind, and the power of art.

Brilliant Noise - Glorious Soviet Cosmos

Film night with Alexei Federchenko's First on the Moon, Jane & Louise Wilson's Dream Time, and Semiconductor's Brilliant Noise.

Laurie Anderson in conversation

Laurie Anderson, NASA's former artist-in-residence returned to the UK, after the success of her show End of the Moon, to reflect on her NASA experience and her visit with The Arts Catalyst to Russia’s space programme with the writer and theorist Kodwo Eshun.

We're All Going to Die

Resonance FM's operatic, radiophonic concatenation of space ephemera and near-Earth collision paranoia. Featuring the divergent talents of Ken Hollings, DJ Original Bear, Tom McCarthy, Johny Trunk, DJ Rocket 88, Resonance Radio Orchestra and Lembit Opik MP.
Resonance FM
broadcasted live from the Roundhouse throughout Space Soon.

Near Earth: a week of space creation

In the lead up to Space Soon, The Arts Catalyst and Roundhouse Studios organised a week-long workshop for young people aged 14-19 years, taking them on a journey exploring space through digital photography, animation, sound and music, drama and the performing arts.

Links to artists' websites:

Editorial checked: 
Taxonomy - themes: 
Project
Exhibition

SpaceBaby, London Fieldworks

SpaceBaby was a performance-installation and lab in action performed during Space Soon at the Roundhouse.

SpaceBaby - performance installation and lab in action. A new video work Spacebaby: Guinea Pigs Don't Dream incorporated images from the experiment.

SpaceBaby was performed at SPACE SOON at the Roundhouse in London, September 8-13, 2006, in collaboration with the Department of Genetics, University of Leicester.

SpaceBaby was the first in a trilogy of works by London Fieldworks exploring the theme of hibernation and suspended animation in the form of a performance installation and lab in action. The project referenced the vested interest of space agencies into the possibility of human hibernation and acknowledged fictional representations of human hibernation within science fiction writing and film. The artists inverted their sleeping patterns and slept within the installation during exhibition opening hours. In the context of SpaceBaby, a parallel was drawn between shiftworkers and astronauts on long haul space missions. The lab-in-action was manned by a team of geneticists who examinined the effects of disrupted sleep upon whole genome, gene expression, with a particular interest in individuals undertaking shiftwork. Blood samples were periodically extracted from the sleep inverted artists and processed within the installation using Affymetrix gene chip Technology. The processing of the samples resulted in a series of images depicting the gene expression of disrupted sleep and were incorporated into the video work, SPACEBABY: Guinea Pigs Don’t Dream.

SpaceBaby: Guinea Pigs Don't Dream - video work

SpaceBaby is a 20-minute semi-fictional video journey into genetic space. It is the latest addition to London Fieldworks’ Hibernator, a trilogy of installation and video works connecting myth and science, environmental cues and technological control, the virtual worlds we imagine and the real world we cannot escape. It mixes laboratory procedure with physical performance, CGI, narrative and sound. Human guinea pigs, fruit flies and lab rats are seen inhabiting a hallucinatory 24-hour world where night and day are interchangeable.

Working with writer Ken Hollings and composer Dugal McKinnon, London Fieldworks artists Jo Joelson and Bruce Gilchrist have used documentary footage of the live SpaceBaby experiment, along with resulting data and footage shot around the capital. The narrative is played out in a world where everyone on earth appears to have fallen into a sleep-like trance. Has the whole planet stopped moving or merely its inhabitants?

The film was premiered at Whitechapel Art Gallery, 4 June 2008

Funders & Sponsors

The SpaceBaby experiment and installation at Space Soon was funded by Arts Council England and supported by AHRC, University of Leicester, Affymetrix and Ambion

The SpaceBaby video work was Funded by Arts & Business (New Partners Award), AHRC and Arts Council England and sponsored by Affymextrix, Ambion, with collaborative support from Department of Genetics at University of Leicester.

Editorial checked: 
Taxonomy - artists practice: 
Project
Exhibition
Commission

Truth Serum

Neal White's Truth Serum was an off-site participatory performance, linked to a gallery installation, exploring the pharmacology of truthfulness

The Office of Experiments' experiment in consensual self-experimentation in support of freedom from artistic censorship was conducted with volunteers in a secret venue in Liverpool on Saturday 29 March 2008. The project sought to highlight the case of artists such as Steve Kurtz and Critical Art Ensemble, and their persecution in the USA, which marks an ever-increasing creep of the security state into the nervous system of culture. A small number of volunteers took part in the experiment; They were asked to attend a venue in Liverpool at a specific time on the day.

The experiment was commissioned by The Arts Catalyst from Neal White of the Office of Experiments, as part of Sk-interfaces, an exhibition at FACT (Foundation for Art & Creative Technology), Liverpool. Developed with Dr. Nicolas Langlitz from the Anthropology Research Collaboratory and Max-Planck Institute, Berlin, for the Office of Experiments.

Truth Serum was also shown in Sk-interfaces at the Casino Foundation for Contemporary Art, Luxembourg in September 2009.

The work features in  'The Body and Contemporary Art' by Sally O'Reilly for Thames and Hudson Twentieth Century Art Series.

An essay by Nicolas Langlitz 'The Office of Experiments' Truth Serum Threat: Notes on the Pharmacology of Truthfulness' accompanied the work.

Link to artist's website:

Office of Experiments

Editorial checked: 
Taxonomy - artists practice: 
Taxonomy - themes: 
Event
Exhibition
Commission

Interspecies, Manchester

Can artists work with animals as equals? It has recently been discovered that humans are closer to the higher primates than was previously thought.

This exhibition, marking the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth brings together a group of artists who actively question the sovereignty of the human species over the all other animal species.

Four artists were commissioned to develop projects with non-human animals.

Kira O'Reilly, one of the most experimental and controversial performance artists in the UK, presented an action/installed performance featuring herself and a sleeping female pig. The work addresses the ethics of human and non-human animal interaction, acknowledging the implicit ambivalences and violence in the appropriation of animals as a resource.

Nicolas Primat worked with primatologists and zoos to make a new work in which higher apes are taught video skills. The apes make the creative decisions, with humans simply providing guidance and training. Primat's work explores how the animals' ‘natural’ communication skills can be extended into the realm of human/ape creative collaboration.

Antony Hall encouraged the public to directly communicate with live electric fish in the gallery space, through mild electrical impulses (both tactile and visual). The artist's motivation for this project relates to his long term interest in aquariums. Typically installed as calming objects, on closer inspection they are revealed as contained environments of both aggressive conflict and submissive tolerance.

The Department of Eagles (Ruth Maclennan) is produced a participatory project, examining the communications between falconers and falcons. For centuries, these birds have served to naturalise human surveillance.  Arguably, their existence only continues today through human intervention such as tagging, breeding programmes, and the construction of artificial nesting environments.

Two other works were shown: Rachel Mayeri's Primate Cinema, which casts human actors in the roles of mating non-human primates, Beatriz Da Costa's PigeonBlog which investigates the military use of homing pigeons.

All the artists in Interspecies question the one-sided manipulation of non-human life forms for art. They instead try to absorb the animal's point of view as a fundamental part of their work and practice.

Interspecies is part of the Darwin 200 celebrations in 2009. 12 February 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth. A series of talks and debates between the artists, writers, scientists and animal welfare experts accompanied the exhibition.

Related websites

Kira O'Reilly, Antony Hall, Ruth Maclennan, Rachel Mayeri, Beatriz da Costa, Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson, Cornerhouse

The Guardian
Human Features
Open Dialogues Blog

Exhibition supported by

Arts Council England, Darwin 200

Editorial checked: 
Taxonomy - artists practice: 
Taxonomy - themes: 
Project
Exhibition

The Lab

An interdisciplinary arts-science curriculum project

Teachers days, artists' training and workshops for students took place during the 2004/5 school year. The artists worked within three main themes, Transformation: Sound and Electronics, The Changing Nature of Materials and (Un)Natural Selection: biodiversity to biotechnology.

The artists:

Flow Motion (Anna Piva and Eddie George) worked with pupils to record and process sounds from their environment. They created loops and rhythms, used multi-track and mix. The final piece, interspersed with moments of melody, driving rhythm and rap, contained intensely personal voices and sounded astonishingly professional.

Kate Tierney worked with pupils using stills camera and video. Using reflection as a theme, the pupils began to manipulate images using Photoshop and Flash. The finished piece brought together still and video images and animated text and showed a budding awareness and obvious delight in abstract visual language. A presentation/installation which combined the visuals from Kate’s workshop with the sound from Flow Motion’s workshop was screened at the end of the three days.

Lucy Stockton-Smith’s workshops were designed to encourage the pupils to explore and identify the structure and function of organic materials. They made slides of organic materials which they projected large scale and used as a basis for drawings and prints. The workshops were a hotbed of fervent discussion and activities throughout the two days.

Sally Hampson’s workshops were also designed to explore and identify the structure of organisms. The pupils used close observation to create beautiful, finely detailed lifelike drawings and sculptures. The concept of the museum was also explored imaginatively.

Siobhan O’Neill’s workshops used drama and storytelling to explore the role that genetics and culture play in defining what makes us unique and what similarities we share. Over the two days each pupil created a self-portrait with sound, image and text that showed a growing expansive awareness of self.

Tony Hall’s workshops explored cymatics, patterns in liquids caused by sound. Pupils devised their own experiments with household liquids and foodstuffs to create choreographies of changing patterns, which they captured with drawings, microscopic images and short digital videos.

Marcus Ahlers worked with the pupils to build Solar Puddles and Solar Cells, and explored their practical applications. A Solar Puddle, consisting of a shallow pool of water in the earth contained by layers of plastic tarp and insulated from below with natural materials, pasteurises water. The Solar Cell, built from junk materials such as plastic bottles and tubing, utilizes natural dyes extracted from plants and converts solar energy into electrical energy.

Artist Luke Jerram held workshops for 11 year olds about to start in Year 7 at Castle Community School as part of a summer school. The children made hot air balloons and seacraft.

Partnership:

Castle Community School, Creative Partnerships Kent.

Editorial checked: 
Taxonomy - themes: 
Experience

Pages