SPACE SOON: Art and Human Spaceflight

A 22 foot rocket constructed from junk.
Aleksandra Mir, Space Soon, Gravity,2006.
A still from Jane & Louise Wilson's "Dreamtime" showing the underside of a spacecraft.
Jane & Louise Wilson, Space Soon, Dreamtime, 2004
Near Earth participants sing with Jerry Dammers Spatial AKA Orchestra, 2006
Jerry Dammers Orchestra, Near Earth, Space Soon, 2006.
Kodwo Eshun & Laurie Anderson talk at the Roundhouse, 2006
Kodwo Eshun and Laurie Anderson, Roundhouse, Space Soon, 2006
A durational sleep experiment and installation , investigating long-term sleep and hibernation.
London Fieldworks, Space Soon, SpaceBaby, 2006.
Michelle Griffiths' Lunar capsule being installed, Roundhouse, 2006.
Michelle Griffiths, Lunar Capsule, Space Soon, Roundhouse, 2006.
Neal White, Space Soon, Space on Earth Station, 2006.

"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

Sat 9 September 2006 - Wed 13 September 2006

The Camden Roundhouse, London

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. It was constructed out of junk: steel, fibreglass, tractor tires, industrial fans and a discarded tank from a toothpaste factory.  It took two days of construction on site, stood erect for three days only and was dismantled in another two days.

The rocket that effectively went nowhere is commemorated through a mixture of production stills, drawings, space ephemera and the artist’s own pin up photos taken in scrap yards around England during the search for old and dirty things to make the work. 
The Arts Council of England, The Henry Moore Foundation
Industrial Design & Fabrication - Cory Burr, C.Burr Design / Stratford Welding
Engineering - Price Myers
Rigging - MTec Freight Group

Space on Earth Station - N55 / Neal White

Sat 9 September 2006 - Tue 1 September 2009

The Camden Roundhouse, London

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.

Space on Earth Station is a space station on earth. It is an experiment that is inhabitable, fully functional, using a low-tech and low-economy architecture. It is concerned with the transfer of knowledge and exploration of bottom-up aesthetics. Space on Earth Station is foremost an experiment that aims to explore conditions for living, and experiment with our removal from and reconnection with what is natural. Natural in terms of nature, rights, relationships and our social structures. It was designed, set up and inhabited by Danish radical architect group N55 with UK artist Neal White. During the week, experiments and expeditions were conducted in collaboration with artists and the public. Collaborators included artists Marcus Ahlers and Kayle Brandon.

SpaceBaby - London Fieldworks

Sat 9 September 2006 - Mon 4 June 2007
The Camden Roundhouse, London, in collaboration with the Department of Genetics, University of Leicester.
Whitechapel Art Gallery, London

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

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 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 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
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.

Lunar Capsule - Michelle Griffiths

Lunar Capsule was a whimsical Victorian butterfly-powered spaceship reminiscent of that in Jules Verne’s Earth to the Moon. The module was hinged with a clasp like a jewellery box and the instruments in the plush velour upholstered interior were unreliable. Mrs Bloom had a lot of time on her hands while she waited for touchdown on the moon.


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

Sat 9 September 2006

The Camden Roundhouse, London

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.

Space Soon was proud to present the premiere gig of Jerry Dammers' new band, The Spatial AKA Orchestra.

Songwriter and keyboardist Jerry Dammers (founder of The Specials and the 2 Tone Record label) and his 18-piece orchestra paid tribute to the cosmic jazz of Sun Ra, the prolific space-jazz explorer who famously claimed to have gained his musical purpose on a trip to Saturn. Costumes, theatrics and visuals mixed with ska, reggae, hip-hop, dub-step, rock and outer-spatial sounds created an unforgettable ride across the galaxies.

Jeremy Dammers and Kodwo Eshun also made a special screening of' Andrei Ujica's cult Russian space movie Out of the Present.


Secret Artist on the Moon: Apollo astronaut Alan Bean

7.00pm, Sun 10 September 2006
The Camden Roundhouse, London

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.

Apollo astronaut Alan Bean, the 4th man on the moon, talks of space and art - A Secret Artist on the Moon
Legendary Apollo astronaut, Alan Bean, one of only nine men alive today who walked on the moon, visited London for the first time to discuss his experience of visiting the moon and the power of art with author Andrew Smith.
Alan Bean, moonwalker and artist, was captured perfectly in Andrew Smith's best-selling book Moondust evoking the rawness of that moment 37 years back when he grabbed hold of something solid and looked up: "This is the Moon, that's the Earth, I'm really here, I'm really here."
In Secret Artist on the Moon, Alan Bean - who now makes paintings that attempt to bring to life that elusive experience - brings a uniquely human insight to that rare moment, never repeated, when humans for a few years left the earth's orbit to voyage to our nearest neighbour. We have never returned.
A uniquely human perspective on voyaging further away from home than any other person has ever been. 

Brilliant Noise - Glorious Soviet Cosmos

Sat 9 September 2006
The Camden Roundhouse, London

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

The astonishing Russian documentary First on the Moon by Alexei Fedorchenko shakes our understanding of the history of human spaceflight. 
Dream Time by Jane and Louise Wilson shows the lingering power of the Russian space programme in the cash-strapped post-Soviet era.
In Semiconductor’s Brilliant Noise, untouched images of our sun, captured by the SoHo satellite, present an alternative aesthetic of space.

Laurie Anderson in conversation

Tue 12 September 2006

The Camden Roundhouse, London

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.

When NASA appointed the musician and artist, Laurie Anderson, as their first official artist-in-residence, they probably had in mind a celebratory and hi-tec output – perhaps lasers bouncing off the moon. But Anderson, disturbed by NASA’s revived plans to revisit and exploit the moon, created the performance piece The End of the Moon. NASA swiftly decided that there would be no further artists-in-residence.
In 2005, Anderson visited Russia’s space programme – the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre and mission control – with The Arts Catalyst and saw a very different side of the human spaceflight story, where the post-Soviet cash-strapped Russian space agency sells flights into space to Japanese dotcom billionaires at $20 million a time.
Anderson paid a special flying visit to London to take part in The Arts Catalyst's Space Soon event at the Roundhouse on Tuesday 12 September to reflect on her experiences, show her photographs and videos from her visit to Star City, in conversation with the author and critic 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

Mon 21 August 2006 - Fri 25 August 2006
The Camden Roundhouse, London

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.

Workshops were led by Semiconductor, Luke Jerram, Kate Tierney, Tony Hall, Trevor Mathison, Mat Fox, Marcus Ahlers, Hilary Westlake and Morag Wightman, with the input of scientists Chris Welch, Kevin Fong and Mark Lythgoe.
Led by Semiconductor - animation artists Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhadt - participants took snapshots produced from satelites orbiting the earth and explored how to create time-lapse digital animation sequences.
Led by arist Luke Jerram, participants explored the tricks of film and photography and learned how experts manipulate images from space. 
Led by artists Kate Tierney and Antony Hall, participants worked to decode and transmit sound from space.
Led by musician Trevor Mathison, participants experimented with panning, overlaps, fades, dissolves, delay and reverbs to record their journey to space.
Led by Mat Fox. Participants joined an out-of-this world band and created some cosmic sounds and recorded their own live sessions.
Led by Marcus Ahlers, participants collected electricity from sunlight, built hydrogen fuel cells and became energy technologists of the future.
Led by theatre maker ilary Westlake. Participants explored outer space themes using iconic music and images and created a striking theatrical performance.
Led by dancer Morag Wightman. Participants worked suspended off the floor and explored aerial dance with Morag Wightman, one of the very few dancers to experience zero gravity first hand, to create a new piece exploring gravity.


Aleksandra Mir studied a BFA in Media Arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York and Cultural Anthropology at The New School for Social Research in New York. Much of Aleksandra's work explores social norms and human interactions with space. As part of Arts Catalyst's SPACE SOON event in 2006, Aleksandra Mir created a rocket made out of junk entitled “Gravity”. The artist explored scrap yards and found steel, fibreglass, tractor tires, industrial fans and a discarded tank from a toothpaste factory to make her work in the former engine shed of The Roundhouse, London. When finished, the “rocket” scaled 20 metres high, took two days of construction on site and stood erect for only three days. The work is intended to highlight failures and resistance in the history of space exploration – a catalogue of various failures, disasters, minor mishaps and political hurdles. The construction and dismantling of 'Gravity' was published as a calendar Gravity: The Eternal Countdown.

For over 20 years, Neal White has critically explored art in relation to new ideas, forms and technologies. As part of numerous collaborative endeavours – he has been developing projects, research and artworks, publications, archives, fieldworks, critical excursions as bus tours and exhibitions with academics, architects and activists. His current work explores situated practices and knowledge - drawing together environmental and ecological matters of concern with marine biologists, ecologists, coders, architects and volunteers in Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island, Dorset for Arts Catalyst's Test Sites programme.

London Fieldworks was formed by the artists Bruce Gilchrist and Jo Joelson. London Fieldworks aims to enable creative research and collaboration at the art, science and technology interesection. Typically, their projects deal with issues relating to complex relationships existing between social, natural and technological worlds. In 2006, London Fieldworks collaborated with The Arts Catalyst and the Department of Genetics at The University of Leicester to create “SpaceBaby” at the event SPACE SOON.

Laurie Anderson is an experimental performance artist and musician who plays violin and keyboards and sings in a variety of experimental music and art rock styles. Initially trained as a sculptor, Anderson did her first performance-art piece in the late 1960’s. Anderson is a pioneer in electronic music and has invented several devices that she has used in her recordings and performance art shows. NASA appointed Laurie Anderson in 2005, as their first official artist-in-residence. NASA probably had in mind a celebratory and hi-tec output – but Anderson, disturbed by NASA’s revived plans to revisit and exploit the moon, created the performance piece The End of the Moon. After the success of Anderson’s show End of the Moon, Anderson paid a special flying visit to London to take part in The Arts Catalyst’s Space Soon event at the Roundhouse on Tuesday 12 September 2006 to reflect on her experiences, show her photographs and videos from her visit to Star City, in conversation with the author and critic Kodwo Eshun. Also in 2005, Anderson visited The Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre (Russia’s space programme) and mission control. This project was in collaboration with The Arts Catalyst and saw a very different side of the human spaceflight story, where the post-Soviet cash-strapped Russian space agency sold flights into space to Japanese dotcom billionaires at $20 million a time.

Kodwo Eshun is a writer, theorist, filmmaker and co-founder of The Otolith Group with Anjalika Sagar, 2002. Their practice includes curating, publishing and production of artists work. Their research into aural and visual cultures is informed by the legacy and potential of the moving image and the archive. In 2012 The Otolith Group made the film ‘The Radiant’ exploring the aftermath of the Great Tohoku Earthquake and the partial meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Links to artists' websites: