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[Version 1 February 2008]
IMAGINING OUTER SPACE, 1900-2000
An International Conference
February 6-9, 2008 Organization: Alexander C.T. Geppert
– Program –
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
15.00 Welcome Reception and Opening Remarks
Ipke Wachsmuth and Alexander C.T. Geppert
Alexander C.T. Geppert European Astrofuturism, Cosmic Provincialism. Historical Problems and Historiographical Perspectives
Steven J. Dick Space, Time and Aliens. The Role of Imagination in Outer Space
Coffee Feature Presentation I
Philip Pocock SpacePlace. Art in the Age of Orbitization
Dinner Downtown: "Brauhaus Joh. Albrecht"
Thursday, February 7, 2008
09.00 Panel I:
Theorizing Outer Space
De Witt Douglas Kilgore
Debbora Battaglia Galaxies of E.T. Discourse. An Anthropologist's First Contact with the Science of Weird Life Thomas Brandstetter Imagining Inorganic Life. Crystalline Aliens in Science and Fiction Benjamin Lazier The Globalization of the World-Picture. Towards a History of Earth and Artifact in Twentieth-Century Thought
Coffee Panel II:
Personalizing Outer Space
Christina Wessely Cosmic Spectacular. Rocketry, Weltanschauung and the Quest for Cosmic Ice in Weimar Germany Thore Bjørnvig Transcendence of Gravity. Arthur C. Clarke and the Apocalyptic of Weightlessness
Lunch Panel III:
Localizing Outer Space
Andreas W. Daum
Kerrie Anne Dougherty Spaceport Woomera Sven Mesinovic Inner Space and Outer Space. Similarities, Differences and Connections
Coffee Panel IV:
Screening Outer Space
Burghard Ciesla Outer Space, Inner Fear. Cold War SF-Films in East and West Henry Keazor A Stumble in the Dark. Gerry Anderson’s Space 1999 Werner Suppanz Nazis in Space. Distant Worlds as Projection Screen of Cultural Memory
Feature Presentation II
Screening of Historical Films
Dinner at ZiF
Friday, February 8, 2008
09.00 Panel V:
Fictionalizing Outer Space
Claudia Schmölders Unwriting Heaven. Tunguska Region, June 30, 1908 Steffen Krämer Ancient Heroes and Early Christian Ascetics. Archetypes of Modern Science Fiction Rainer Eisfeld Projecting Landscapes of the Human Mind on Another World. Changing Features of an Imaginary Mars
Coffee Panel VI:
Visioning Outer Space
Alexander C.T. Geppert
Pierre Lagrange A 'Symmetrical' Explanation for Flying Saucers James I. Miller Encountering Aliens in the French Countryside. UFOs and the Fabrication of a New World in Quarouble, France, 1954
Lunch Panel VII:
Politicizing Outer Space
Monica Rüthers Outer Space, Children’s Material Culture and Soviet Imagery after Sputnik Michael J. Neufeld Smash the Myth of the Fascist Rocket Baron. East German Attacks on Wernher von Braun in the 1960s
Coffee Panel VIII:
Communicating Outer Space
Guillaume de Syon Between the Bubble and the Moon. Visions of Space Travel in Francophone Comic Strips Bernd Mütter Per Media Ad Astra? Outer Space in West Germany’s Media 1957-1987
Saturday, February 9, 2008
09.00 Panel IX:
Automatizing Outer Space
James Schwoch Short, Nasty, and Brutish. The Curious Life of Telstar, 10 July 1962 - 21 February 1963 Gonzalo Munevar Self-Reproducing Automata and the Impossibility of SETI
Coffee Panel X:
Designing Outer Space
William R. Macauley Inscribing Scientific Knowledge. Interstellar Communication, Universal Laws and Contact with Cultures of the Imagination Tristan Weddigen Alien Spotting. Damien Hirst’s Beagle 2 Mars Lander Calibration Target and the Exploitation of Outer Space
Chair: Steven J. Dick Helmuth Trischler General Commentary
Project Proposal and Briefing - 05 April 2006
SpacePlace: Art in the Age of Orbitization
Prepared by Prof. Philip Pocock, in consultation with Prof. Dr. Peter Weibel, CEO ZKM. Conceptual Launch Pad: Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World (Galileo 1632) It was not Galileo's astrophysics and math that led directly to his imprisonment during the Inquisition. Ironically, it was a play, Galileo's Socratic dialogue from 1632 titled A Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World that infuriated the Pope enough to place him under house arrest. After all, 'Mathematics was rated at the time as a thing for technicians,' MIT Prof. Giorgio de Santillana posits in his book The Crime of Galileo in 1955. Galileo's dramaturgical choice of a Socratic dialogue, encouraging readers to reflect and think independently and critically, was far more potent publicly than any virtuoso display of abstract mathematical reasoning could be at the time. Galileo's Dialogue convincingly and playfully revealed before all the world the needless absurdity of a dogma upholding a geocentric world view, while affectively making his Eppur si muove (And yet it does move!) argument in favor of Copernicus' heliocentric world view, with no loss of mythology and delight and the common sense gains such acceptance would mete science, technology and culture. Ironically as well, it was the same invention that Galileo went partially blind peering through to empirically substantiate Copernicus' view from his 1543 treatise Revolutions of the Celestial Orbs - namely, the telescope or spyglass - that soon after its invention turned its optical gaze back on us to center the worldview again on humankind (as we tend or like to place or see ourselves?) With the speed of a couple of centuries telemedia have placed Earth once again at the center of another virtual geocentric or geo-centroid world scheme. A telematic universe starring planet Earth, orbited by surveilling spyglass satellites, shining stand-ins for planets, Fox and CNN competing with Venus and Mars for media attention, SkyTV acting as an ersatz-Jupiter, day and night. Nam June Paik, a TV art pioneer said it best titling a TV installation from 1965: Moon is the Oldest TV. Impetus to Launch Space Art Now: Open Discourse Concerning the Weaponization of, or the Cultural Utilization of Outer Space? Space vehicles and inter-planetary travel first appear in the great epic of India, the Mahabharata, at 220000 lines, the world's longest poem, composed by sage Ved Vyas perhaps 2500 years ago: 'Arjuna, blazing like the sun itself, ascended the celestial car (Vimana). And after he had become invisible to the mortals of the Earth, he beheld thousands of cars of extraordinary beauty. And in that region there was no sun or moon or fire to give light, but it blazed in light of its own, generated by virtue and ascetic merit.' Volume III, Vana Parva, Section XLII Translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, 1886-1890. Arjuna, both warrior-prince and human monad (symbolic individual,) apparently embarked a Vimuna (space vehicle) soaring up in a blaze through cloud cover into deep dark outer space. He was taking two discreet journeys in parallel: One, a cultural mythological journey, beholding, for instance, the celestial city of Indra, while at the same time setting out on an aerial military foray to slay tribal opponents in the ancient Mahabharata War, letting his iron arrows (Baan) fly and find their targets from on high. Although space culture, science and technology have undeniably made quantum leaps in many regards since the Mahabharata, their shared policy issue as to which path to take concerning Earth's utilization of Near Earth and Outer Space remains the quandary it was for Arjuna 2000 years ago - the weaponization of, or the cultural utilization of space? Accelerating Weaponization of Near Earth Space: 1960 to the Present. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson quipped in 1961: 'Control of space means control of the world.'
The United Nations 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies adopted unanimously by the General Assembly in 1963, since ratified by 98 states and additionally signed by 27 states, clearly sets limits to the militarization of space in Article IV: 'Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner.' The Outer Space Treaty also condemns any 'propaganda designed or likely to provoke or encourage any threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression, and considering that the aforementioned resolution is applicable to outer space.' In 1996, US Space Commander-in-Chief, Gen. Joseph W. Ashy, fanned his space defense policy cards flat out on the table in Aviation Week and Space Technology: 'It's politically sensitive, but it's going to happen. Some people don't want to hear this, and it sure isn't in vogue, but absolutely we're going to fight in space. We're going to fight from space and we're going to fight into space. That's why the US has development programs in directed energy and hit-to-kill mechanisms. We will engage terrestrial targets someday - ships, airplanes, land targets - from space.' In 2001, shortly after 9/11, the Bush administration withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and vastly increased the missile defense budget in 2002, the same year his administration's Quadrennial Defense Review defined: 'A key objective is not only to ensure US ability to exploit space for military purposes, but also, as required, to deny an adversary's ability to do so. ' Following up at the 2003 US Air Force Association Los Angeles symposium, Pete B. Teets, US Air Force Undersecretary, declared: 'Space is the ultimate high ground. Our military advantage there must remain ahead of our adversaries' capabilities, and our own doctrine and capabilities must keep pace to meet that challenge. É We haven't reached the point of strafing and bombing from space. Nonetheless, we are thinking about those possibilities.' He went on to emphatically acclaim: 'The United States wields airpower more effectively than any other fighting force in history precisely because it has embraced these three principles: We jealously gain and maintain control of the air even though others may try to deny us that control. We aggressively apply airpower in every conceivable manner to achieve our war-fighting objectives, from global vigilance to global reach to global strike. We proudly and actively support and nurture a culture of airpower professionals. We do all this better than anyone else. We must do the same in space! If we do not pursue control of space, then someone else will. If we do not exploit space to the fullest advantage across every conceivable mode of war fighting, then someone else will. If we do not develop a new culture of space professionals- a new form of war fighter- then someone else may do so first, with dire consequences awaiting our first engagement with such an adversary. Our success at wielding airpower has come with a realization that we need to do it beforeand better than- anybody else. Let us do the same for space.' In 2006, the United States Air Force Space Command Headquarters website breviloquently advertises its mission to the world online in bold blue type: 'To defend the United States of America through the control and exploitation of space.' And the current US Space Commander-in-Chief Gen. Lance Lord has voiced his vision for US Near Earth Space policy: 'Space superiority is not our birthright, but it is our destiny. Space superiority is our day-to-day mission. Space supremacy is our vision for the future.' Decelerating Institutional and Private Support for Awareness and Cultural Utilization of Space It may well be that it is a pan-cultural, almost innate, human urge to maintain a mythology for outer space. It is equally arguable that the mythological aura of the 'red planet' has raised interest and investment for current space exploration goals and innovation in the arriving two or three decades. Like the natural sciences, cultural production is a physical response to an environment (René Dubos), yet, like mythology, cultural production is a shared psychic response to the human environment as well. And that includes, certainly since the invention of the telescope and Galileo, outer space. Subculture feeds mainstream culture. The cultural utilization of space is no different. While unfolding an extended urban or hyper-urban mythology for space travel and discovery, it inspires and expands
mainstream culture as well when visionary, meanwhile nourishing hard science and technology with data and design. Far more than most other subcultural activities, inventing and constructing space culture has immensely more at stake, and indisputably as well, in the offing for humankind. When aesthetically wise and pertinent, thereby affectively influencing public awareness and opinion, open development of space culture cuts a path and rudders much of the course back to the Moon and on to Mars, space exploration and exploitation in general afect lifetimes to come. Don't forget it was a cultural discourse that Galileo initiated which set off a cultural chain reaction - Jules Verne and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky to name only two - catalyzing the modern era of space science and technology culture, Apollo 11 and the Mars Express. Space artist and activist, Arthur Woods, considers in his 1993 address to the 44th International Astronautical Congress, The Exploration of Space by Artists and Writers, that: "Visual artists and writers have created fictional images and scenarios on the development of space. Such visions are the primary way that the general public is introduced to ideas about space exploration. Artists and writers, in fact, lay the foundation which makes future space activities understandable by the general public and thus secures the necessary political support." Art that is not cosmetic must precede its application, applied art or design. As such, art inscribes design's very foundation. In spite of the apparent masking that the seemingly endless and exorbitant technical complexity behind a space programme may provide, it illudes .It is a mirage, and art or, more generally, cultural production, remains in the key public supporting role for furthering the space exploration and travel industry. Without art, Galileo would have been left with abstract mathematical principles to convince an already indoctrinated public that they were no longer at the center of the universe. Perhaps Galileo's greatest public success was his knowledge that there is an art to science. The legendary video artist and Satellite Art pioneer, Nam June Paik, in 1988 noted in interview with media artist and anthologist Eduardo Kac the need for a peace-instilling role for art in the global public's perception of, and position on the actual and potential uses of the Earth's orbit and satellite space: 'Since today we have satellites, we want to use them, discover what we, artists, can do with them. We want to try something new, in the tradition of Monet and Picasso. These same instruments (satellites) are used in the applied arts, which are essential to humankind because they are useful in everyday life. But there is also the military use of satellites. We want to use satellites for pacifist purposes. ' It is not outlandish to imagine or even forecast that the greatest contribution space exploration and discovery may make humankind all in all is in the arts, and not in science. US Air Force Undersecretary Pete B. Teets already made it clear that space culture is a cornerstone for the US Space Command and a budget priority. The Hon. Pete Teets understanding of space culture is that 'If we do not develop a new culture of space professionals - a new form of war fighter - then someone else may do so first.' Would it not seem plausible that without the democratic check-andbalance that an appropriate cultural counterweight from the arts would serve in raising public awareness for other courses for space culture to take, little would stand in the way of the election by the US Defense Dept. to continue a space culture policy bent on the pride that total military domination of space would instill. And is it not equally plausible that such a policy may spark the insurgency of a space arms race? Faced with Teets' gamble, it seems prudent here to respond preemptively, if that is still possible, and be first, not by developing a counterculture of professional space belligerents, but instead first fighting to find funding to search for and develop a meaningful cultural panoply for space professionals. It seems to be democratically prudent, even prophylactic, for orbital and Earthly peace and stability that art affectively contradict the Teetsian doctrine for all our outer space and its acculturation. Not by reacting in protest and feeding his message to the press as a first line of defense. Not by acting circumstantially, didactically or mimetically by restaging space programmes, such as mirroring the panoptic surveillance of Earth as a primary focus, enabling a reading of cultural production in space as a mere militaryindustrial spin-off. The fact is that many works of space art to date fall close to this category due to insufficient and narrowband funding for the production of ideas and works which as a result all too often remain aloof, rarely connecting to the aesthetic, conceptual and philosophical concerns which orbit and are under the influence of other major genres of activity in the contemporary arts. NASA and ESA's Space Culture and Education Expenditures
NASA's budget released for 2007 apparently demonstrates a new more myopic view of the interdisciplinary nature and synergy of art and technology. At NASA the decline in cultural funding continues exponentially, all the more so, when measured against an increase in general spending. Educational funding fell at NASA between 2005 and 2007 from 179 to 28 million US dollars. Biology and physical science expenditure took a nose dive during the same period from 925 to 145 million US dollars, while total new obligation spending increased at NASA to 10,364 million US dollars. In 2007 from 8,371 million US dollars in 2005. Numbers sometimes speak louder than words. From the European Space Agency website: 'ESA's budget for 2006 is an estimated Û2904 million. É European per capita investment in space is very little. On average, every citizen of an ESA Member State pays, in taxes for expenditure on space, about the same as the price of a cinema ticket. In the United States, investment in civilian space activities is almost four times as much.' In ESA's budget breakdown by programme there is no listing of a discreet education or cultural budget allotment or programme. There are however several ESA- and partner-funded educational and cultural programmes such as the International Space University established in 1987 in Strasburg France, Art Catalyst UK research project Developing a Cultural Policy for the International Space Station in 2006, as well as ESA's Erasmus User Centre's Artist-in-Residence programme in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, also encouraging the development of cultural uses for the International Space Station (ISS), with Japanese space artist Ayako Ono having just finished a residency in February 2006. Culture is a mirror of production, the mirror that the public sees. Artistic vision draws perspective, and perspective not only draws factories, it draws opinion. Cultural funding is all the more important to innovation and discovery in a domain of activity as invisible as Near Earth and Outer Space. Successful and safe interplanetary travel, Near Earth Space tourism and other neo-cultural products and practices are hard-to-imagine without art's generic ability to cognitively extend the human senses of sight and sound, even touch. The Canadian media pundit, Marshall McLuhan, quipped that artists are society's antennae, making the invisible visible and the inaudible audible. Cultural funding goes hand-in-hand with transducing and transmitting the practices and purposes well known to insiders in the space science and tech community but only to the public at large through cultural representation, that like metaphor and mythology motivates understanding, rewarding public and private agency investment in space programmes and services. SpacePlace: Art in the Age of Orbitization and The Orbitants Two-Stage Plan There are two stages to this project. The first populates a context for the second. Stage One comprises a mobile interactive repository encompassing space-related art produced since Galileo Galilei's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World first appeared. Like his characters, Space is the Place will also be 'orbitants.' The database entries weigh in favor of contemporary art and media. Nonetheless, architecture, film, literature, music, painting, sound are in abundance. Stage One is titled SpacePlace: Art in the Age of Orbitization. With Stage One's aggregate of contextual space art content launched, in stable orbit and aggregating more space art content, from the wings, Stage Two lifts off. Stage Two is the launch of an art satellite (or pico-payload to the ISS) that interacts from orbit with a series of art installations or ground stations at various far-flung cultural venues and museums on Earth. Stage two is titled The Orbitants. It is time for art about orbit to enter orbit. A poetic diversion or detour not to define or denote orbit, but to ignite insight enough to form an understanding of orbit is key to recognizing the current transformation of our environmental paradigm underway from one of influential globalization to perhaps total orbitization. After Galileo's long night, the dawning of the age of orbitization not only continues to stimulate debate between peaceful and enriching versus belligerent and dominating visions in the greater space community, it indicates the need for aesthetic and philosophical research which space art in its broadest sense can only provide. Notions and connotations of orbit and orbitization underpin this entire twostage project proposal: SpacePlace: Art in the Age of Orbitization (Stage One) and The Orbitants (Stage Two).
The environmental paradigm shift from globalization to orbitization is illustrated on a recent cover of the German Spiegel magazine. Hovering a bit above page center, it shows a shipping container cube on which the image of the Earth's surface is texture-mapped. Not only the globe but also globalization has become a marketable commodity to be bought and sold often through cryptic orbital channels in an invisible marketplace, closed to many and overseen by supra-orbitant bodies, usually the military. This transportable cubic globe on the cover hangs suspended by chains and a crane hook, balanced against a black sky above a horizon below which appears a stark moonscape, that uncannily calls to mind planet Earth, perhaps a future Zombie Earth. The illustration is emblazoned with typography that reads: Spiegel Special - International Edition - Globalization: A New World. What this illustrates is that globalization is no longer our most far-reaching context. It is effectively no longer the border guard containing our world. The global village has become exactly that, now surrounded by a territory that is orbital in nature. Its nucleus no longer residing at the system's geometrical center but rather a collective of city centers, financial hubs, parliament forums, even art centers to which orbital culture both gravitates and attempts escape. Globalization, once the most influential environmental process, acted invisibly to all but the most tunedin art, science and technology antennae. Environments and the processes causing their formation are almost invariably invisible by necessity. Unless unsharp or out-of-focus to most, an environment, a background by definition, cannot work as a background. Ironically, the most influential orbital environment, called Near Earth Space, is not near at all, unless eyes and ears are updated with audiovisual transceivers. Orbital influences on human activity and the process of orbitization itself remain for the public-at-large out of sight (and out of mind?) This particular blindness is exacerbated by the recent apparition of globalization as an entity resembling its depiction on the Spiegel cover, yet still assumed to be that which it once formed, the environment, when in actuality it only contains this history as a memory, a souvenir. And this is exactly why the orbital is stealthily emerging as our all-purpose, allinclusive environment, and orbitization the formative process to which we adapt as orbitants, aggregating and syndicating. Globalization like preceding paradigms marking the course of some civilizations has been drawn out of the environment it once comprised, distilled by a new generation of controlling commercial, cultural, industrial, military and social technologies' that extend to those with reach access to a greater context, promising a greater sphere of influence. This newly formed context or environment is of course the space of orbit, and it supersedes the globe. From its commanding and well-camouflaged position, orbitization oversees the processes of urbanization, cyber-urbanization and globalization under the watchful eye of supra-orbitant commanding organs. Orbitization has all but grounded globalization like organized clusters of Lilliputians landed Gulliver. Globalization under the influence of orbitization becomes a giant figure in a humungous landscape that is mostly sky. The orbitization process dubiously began as Galileo empirically disproved geocentricity with a spyglass. The spyglass and its progeny are immobilizing planet Earth at the center of a new geocentric model - the center of a swarming militant media cosmos of orbiting control, under supra-orbitant control. That surmounts and surpasses, relegates and regulates even global activity, all machine and human communication and exchange not only on but also around the planet. To be secured, if deemed advantageous or necessary, to change the political or economic course of the globe, or a lesser regime, a supra-orbitant power-that-be, may heed, apply or perfect orbital the space supremacy war tactics that US Air Force Space Commander-in-Chief Gen. Lance Lord described to the American Congress in 2004 as: 'Simply put, it's an American way of fighting É freedom to attack as well as freedom from attack." Since uttering this new space war stratagem to the American people with next to no critical response in the mainstream American press, both China and Russia have used diplomatic channels to call for international solidarity against the military domination of Earth's orbital space, with little success, and no resolution from the UN. US Space Command's repeated, provocative space supremacy policy announcements open themselves up to temptation, to partial interpretation by some competitive nations and observers as a doctrine abetting orbital hit and run tactics with supreme impunity and without a trace, and everywhere to hide. If so, it is imaginable that a space race might become more aggressively Aresian than competitively Olympian. J Jean Baudrillard writes of orbit in his essay The Pataphysicist: 'Outside of this gravitational pull which
keeps bodies in orbit, all the atoms of meaning lose themselves or self-absorb in space. Our true artificial satellites are the global debt, the flows of capital and the nuclear loads that circle around the Earth in an orbital dance. Debt circulates on its own orbit, with its own trajectory made up of capital, which from now on is free of any economic contingency and moves about in a parallel universe. It is not even an orbital universe. It is rather ex-orbital, ex-centered. The only way to avoid this is to place ourselves straightaway on an alternative temporal orbit, to take an elliptic shortcut and go beyond the end by not allowing it time to take place.' Orbit is the elementary unit of space. Orbit is the raw material of space. Orbit is a path; it is a journey. Orbit is a worlding. Orbit is an energy storage and transmission device in one. Orbit is a frequency, a clock. Orbit is a wave. Orbit is a pump. Orbit is a mandala. Orbit is influence, crash or escape. Orbit is a twisted zone of power, or the center has left the circle. Alles dreht sich um alles. Stage One: SpacePlace: Art in the Age of Orbitization The bottommost layer of Stage One is a content repository of art from all genres and media that relates in the broadest sense to an orbital theme. There are currently 60 plus artists, musicians and filmmakers in the database, with more than 300 awaiting entry. A content management layer sits on top of the raw content repository. It is designed in such a way that each repository artist is a 'member' able to manage his or her entries. Some may not, and the system will manage their 'orbitants' for them. Others may join in by becoming real members. As such, the content management system is akin to a social software platform such as the well-known myspace.com. Each artist is represented by their space-related artwork, and has a personal profile, including their base location, their astrological sign, friends and favorites, an about-me entry, and an email address. When their audience decide to become members and join, the typical high-culture barrier between cultural producer and culture consumer is blurred. Space and space-related artists and audience orbit the repository on similar terms as members. As such, the Stage One audience is prosuming (producing and consuming.) Audience members become participants with the ability to orbit the orbit art entries in the repository through a custom web and a mobile interface. Audience participants may upload or launch text messages and digital images from their mobile phones, aggregating content as comments and attachments to any existing orbit art repository deemed fitting or appropriate. A folksonomy nomenclature layer organizes the content by keywords, a tagging system that is not imposed as taxonomy systems are, but emerges in an open and shared manner. The folksonomy tag layer organizes the repository contents to the screen, acting as the navigation paradigm. The numerous word tags are represented by icons of the authors of the contents each tagword represents, and mapped onto the screen according to a visual system in which each icon's screen location and size is controlled in real time by factors such as content relevancy and frequency. The viewers and participants on both the web and mobile portal are confronted by visual tagclouds with which they interact in Stage One - SpacePlace: Art in the Age of Orbitization. The Stage One interface is to be exhibited in June at the ZKMax public media space in the heart of Munich Germany. With little to no regular security or maintenance crew, the visitor's cell phone is the best choice as interface device, conceptually as it links to the orbital space of telecom satellites passing overhead, and pragmatically as a remote controlling computer with joystick and keyboard built-in and operated and maintained by its owner, able to navigate the space-related art content and with mobile interaction control what is displayed on two large projection surfaces for Stage One - Space Place: Art in the Age of Orbitization in ZKMax Munich. Stage Two: The Orbitants Stage One sets the stage for Stage Two - the launch of The Orbitants art satellite. With Stage One's context concerning space and orbit-related art and cultural production since Galileo forming its environment and informing, raising public awareness of space issues online, Stage Two - The Orbitants, compliments the general by the specific, adding depth, in fact reach, the broad-based appeal of Stage One - SpacePlace: Art in the Age of Orbitization.
The Orbitants art satellite requires considerable funding to acquire the necessary services including the involvement of an aerospace satellite system team with experience or interest in launching a picosatellite, preferably based in a technical university lab with prior success with pico-sats (University of Tokyo?) or sponsored by a professional satellite launch service provider. A pico-sat is not recoverable and slightly adds to the current concern of potentially dangerous orbiting debris. This consideration along with the apparent low success rate of student-launched pico-sats (mostly around 30%), it may be advantageous to prepare The Orbitants pico-sat to be launched as a payload that is delivered to the International Space Station. On board the ISS, there will be very limited time available for it from the ISS crew, should the onboard pico-sat require any attention. Still this scenario is more promising than a disabled pico-sat hurtling alone in orbit, and allows for the pico-sat to return to Earth. The Orbitants pico-sat or similar payload will be little more than a relay and a switch with controller and power supply. As an orbiting switch, The Orbitants art satellite basically starts and stops, while within range, participatory sound and light shows taking place in ground stations, mobile sculptural installations constructed for the project in various museums on Earth. Either in its own orbit or aboard the ISS, The Orbitants becomes a 90-minute day, triggering a sunrise as it enters the range of one of its ground station installations housed in one of several museums worldwide. Ground station installation illumination becomes brightest, audio peaking, when The Orbitants satellite is least distant from the target ground station, finally triggering a sunset in the ground station installation as it moves out of range. This sunrise-sunset pattern continues when The Orbitants passes in and out of the range of further ground stations in museums worldwide. A total of four ground station installations are foreseen; each unique and sculptural, reflecting in architectonic form and imagery their immediate locale and situation. One ground station functions as a nomad and is no name in its appearance, blending in as it roves from venue to venue, intended to be the project's festival participating ground station. All ground stations are primarily constructed from recycled PC housings that act as a sort of modular brick. Some faces of some PC housing bricks are painted with portraits. Other PC housings have texts laser-cut out on their sides. Still others are adorned with silicon caulk drawings. And the odd PC will be fastened to and support a working flat screen to display messages received from The Orbitants as it passes overhead. This ground station is foreseen for traveling shows and temporary events. Another ground station resembles a conceptual barbeque party, with kebab skewer sculptures representing orbital themes revolving slowly over a grill that is heated symbolically by the sound of the Earth turning playing streaming from an amateur online space radio station over charcoal grey speakers built into the base of the barbeque grill, itself a bricollage construction of mini-satellite dishes and discarded PC housings. This ground station situation is foreseen for Germany. A third ground station is nested under a flimsy net handmade from household silicon caulk. Intended for China, the roof-like installation is multi-peaked and porous, all in all a sort of virtual Asian pavilion. The roof tiers are nothing more than stretched net made of grey household silicon. Embedded in the silicon at some junctures, in random patches, are quaint and individual model trees purchased from hobby makers on eBay. Within some silicon lengths computer and power cables are wired and hook up to palm-sized flat screens used for message reception from The Orbitants art satellite when it deposits new messages it only recently itself when they were beamed up to it by guests in the groundSpacePlace: station it last orbited over. A fourth ground station is sunken, partially below ground, inspired by the subterranean astronomical observatory designed and built by Tycho Brahe in the late 16th Century. All four of The Orbitants's ground stations have some of their PC platinum-colored metal surfaces transformed into canvases adorned with painted and reproduced images and icons associated with Stage One - SpacePlace: Art in the Age of Orbitization, in order to close the loop and complete the project. Participants visiting each ground station are greeted by flat screens scrolling messages relayed by The Orbitants from participants at the ground station it last passed over. In response to messages received from a previous ground station, participants at the actual ground station type messages into a
repository that are subsequently transmitted to The Orbitants once overhead. In concert with the sunrise-sunset sound and light show triggered by The Orbitants relative proximity, the effect is stunning. As The Orbitants moves out of range and the sunset program is complete, participants are left in subdued light to ponder new messages scrolling on ground station screens, freshly deposited by The Orbitants as it orbits the Earth. Credits: Prof. Philip Pocock, The Orbitants project concept; with Prof. Peter Weibel, CEO and Director, ZKM Center for Art and Media Technology Karlsruhe Germany 2006.
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