Science Fiction: New Death seeks to provoke the question - have the Sci Fi visions we once imagined of the future since become a reality? I guess we all know the answer to that one.

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Dario Solman, Target Orbit

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Jon Rafman, Hope Springs Eternal/Still Life (BetaMale)

Because i write mostly about art and science/technology, i've seen my fair share of exhibitions that reference scifi. However, FACT's latest show is the first one i've visited that is entirely dedicated to science-fiction and visual arts. And in this instance, science fiction isn't explored as the ultimate future forecaster, it is rather the starting point of a reflection on our current condition, an invitation to explore how our relationship with technology has made our everyday lives increasingly look like it is set against the backdrop of a science fiction novel.

Inspired by the work of J.G. Ballard, our story looks to the bleak, man-made landscapes of the future and asks: What happens when virtual environments become indistinguishable from reality? Will our global culture allow us to choose where to live, and who will stop us? What will we do with knowledge that becomes freely available to all? With social platforms acting as camera, how will 'selfies' develop and what new forms of narcissism will thrive? What is it that we need to preserve, and what do we need to change? These questions are explored through intense visualisations of electronic communication, dystopian domestic interiors, and re-enactments of historical revolutionary moments.

New Death, a title which comes from a text that fantasy writer China Miéville wrote for the exhibition, is ominous but so are the glimpses that the participating artists give into the techno-mediated we've built ourselves: conditions of intensified surveillance and repression, border control, loss of citizenship, etc. Not everything is bleak and joyless in the show though. You can bounce off a trampoline and pretend you're an astronaut, meet intelligent robots that attempt to avoid boredom at all costs, you can even participate to the exhibition by writing a story describing a dystopian near future. I don't know what a sci-fi fan would make of the exhibition but i found it smart, provocative and thought-provoking.

Quick overview of the show:

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Petra Gemeinboeck and Rob Saunders, Accomplice. Installation at FACT Liverpool as part of Science Fiction: New Death

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Petra Gemeinboeck and Rob Saunders, Accomplice. Installation at FACT-Liverpool as part of Science Fiction: New Death

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Petra Gemeinboeck and Rob Saunders, Accomplice. Installation at FACT-Liverpool as part of Science Fiction: New Death

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Petra Gemeinboeck and Rob Saunders, Accomplice. Installation at FACT-Liverpool as part of Science Fiction: New Death

Accomplice is a small clique of social autonomous robots hidden behind one of FACT's gallery walls. Because these machines are curious, they attempt to discover their environment and the first step to live new adventures is to break down the wall. Their mechanical arm relentlessly punches against the wall. In the process, they not only make holes, they are also acquiring knowledge: how the wall react to their poking, how to best expand their horizon and what it is like out there, on the other side of the wall.

As the wall disappears, the robots discover other creatures: the gallery visitors. The more they can see and hear, the more excited and active these robots are getting. Their behaviour, however, isn't predictable and linear. As soon as the movements and noises made by the visitors or the colours and patterns they are wearing have become too familiar, the robots become bored. In a sense, the roles usually taken by the audience and the robots or the artefacts and the visitors are reversed: the robots are the spectators and the gallery goers perform for them.

I had a chance to talk with Rob Saunders at the press view. I scribbled our conversation on a bit of paper, lost it so i'm going to point you to this Robots Podcast: Curious & creative in which he talks about being inspired by Gordon Pask's conversation theory, designing curious systems, the laws of novelty and the social structure that might evolve from them.

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The Kazimier

The bits and pieces of walls laying unceremoniously on the floor and the unpredictable attitude of the Accomplice robots echo the exhibition experience that Venya Krutikov & Michael Lill of The Kazimier have designed for Science Fiction: New Death. They turned the FACT building into a disordered, stern and slightly disquieting space to navigate. Your movements inside the gallery might or might not be filmed. That poorly-lit corridor might be off limit. That door over there might open on another artworks or maybe it's a dead end.

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Sascha Pohflepp, Camera Futura

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Sascha Pohflepp, Camera Futura

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Sascha Pohflepp, Camera Futura

Before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon in 1969, the NASA elaborated various exercises to understand how man would move in microgravity. The experiments were not just simulations but "pre-enactments" of a new set of rules that we were about to enter, providing a window into the future through which NASA researchers collected not only data but also visual impressions. One such experiment was conducted at Stanford University in the mid-1960s by Thomas R. Kane. The applied mechanics professor had studied the ability of cats to spin their body mid-air so that they could securely land on their four paws. Kane would film a cat bouncing on a trampoline, study its movements, and then a gymnast in a spacesuit would try to reproduce the cat's movements on the trampoline.

Sascha Pohflepp's Camera Futura enables visitors to replicate the experiment. You are invited to wear a light space suit and jump on the trampoline while a camera captures your moves.

The energy stored in the trampoline's springs amplifies the power of our muscles, so that we can briefly launch ourselves and experience an instant of relative weightlessness when falling back to Earth. Camera Futura captures images from that very instant. These photos allow for a glimpse of our brief moment in a post-gravity world. In a sense, they are impressions of ourselves from one of many futures.

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Jae Rhim Lee, Infinity Burial Project Installation at FACT Liverpool as part of Science Fiction: New Death


Jae Rhim Lee: My mushroom burial suit

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Jae Rhim Lee, Mushroom Death Suit #2

The Infinity Burial Project is an art project with an aim to help us accept the reality of our own death. It is also a very bold and practical alternative to current burial system. Once buried or cremated, our bodies do not just decompose and vanish, they also contribute to the deterioration of the environment by releasing the toxic pollutants that our bodies have accumulated over the course of the years: pesticides, preservatives and heavy metals such as lead and mercury.

Mushrooms, on the other hand, can detoxify soils.

Jae Rhim Lee has thus developed the Mushroom Death Suit, a burial suit infused with mushroom spores to assist the decomposition of human corpses. The outfit comes with capsules that contain infinity mushroom spores and other elements that speed decomposition and toxin remediation. Besides, an open source burial container, and a membership society devoted to the promotion of death awareness and acceptance and the practice of decompiculture (the cultivation of decomposing organisms).

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Zach Blas, Facial Weaponization Suite


Zach Blas, Facial Weaponization Communiqué: Fag Face

Facial Weaponization Suite is a playful but also dark critique of the silent and gradual rise of the use of biometric facial recognition software by governments to monitor citizens.
During a series of workshops, Zach Blas worked with members of specific minority communities (queers, black people, etc.) to create masks that are modeled from the aggregated facial data of participants. The amorphous and slightly sinister masks are then worn in public performances.

Masks remain an effective tool to prevent identification technologies from capturing, analyzing, archiving and identifying our face. The use of mask also refers to social movements that use masks as a sign of protests. From the Zapatista rebels, to Pussy Riot, Anonymous, etc.

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Brad Butler and Karen Mirza, Deep State Installation at FACT Liverpool as part of Science Fiction: New Death

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Brad Butler and Karen Mirza, Deep State. Installation at FACT Liverpool as part of Science Fiction: New Death

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Brad Butler and Karen Mirza, Deep State. Installation at FACT Liverpool as part of Science Fiction: New Death (photo FACT)

Brad Butler and Karen Mirza are presenting Deep State, a film scripted by science fiction author China Miéville. The film takes its title from the Turkish term "Derin Devlet," meaning "state within the state," and tells a story about the representation of political struggle, moments of crisis, solidarity, schisms and oppression.

The whole film, which overlays archive protest footage and performed interludes, is online:

Brad Butler and Karen Mirza, Deep State

At first, i wasn't sure what to make of it but, as the images rolled on, i started connecting them to what was going on in Ukraine at the time of the press view of the show and i realized that at this very moment, maybe we still have a choice: we can be the people who raise their heads, protest and attempt to take some control back or we can be the people who are blindly herded into a society of control.

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James Bridle, Homo Sacer, 2014. Installation at FACT-Liverpool as part of Science Fiction: New Death

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Close and Remote, Zone

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Laurence Payot, 1 in a Million You

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Mark Leckey, Pearl Vision. Installation at FACT-Liverpool as part of Science Fiction: New Death

Also part of the show: Nation Estate, a "vertical solution to Palestinian statehood."

Science Fiction: New Death was curated by Omar Kholeif and Mike Stubb. The show is open at FACT in Liverpool until 22 June 2014.

Sponsored by:





The KOSMICA: Full Moon Party took place last month as part of the Republic of the Moon exhibition programme and that means that I'm ridiculously late with these notes. Kosmica is The Arts Catalyst's evenings of performance and conversations for the 'cosmically curious.' I've attended a couple of Kosmica events in the past and this one was as exciting as ever.

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Space scientist Lucie Green is an expert in the sun but she gave a wonderful presentation about the magnetic bubble that surrounds and protects the earth from the radiation of the sun and about how the moon is electrically charged, Dr Jill Stuart focused on space politics, Tomas Saraceno talked about cities that are lighter than the air, Kevin Fong asked us to reflect on how past expeditions might actually belong to the future.

Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser from WE COLONISED THE MOON presented the largest Moon smelling session ever done on our planet. It was hilarious and it didn't smell nice. My wool sweater is not thanking them.

London based improvisation band Orchestra Elastique live scored Georges Méliès' A trip to the Moon.

All the talks are online. I enjoyed all of them but i wanted to spend more time on the most 'political' ones so i'm writing down below some notes and links from Kevin Fong and Jill Stuart's presentations.

Kosmica Full Moon Party Part 6, Jill Stuart

Dr Jill Stuart is a Fellow in Global Politics at the London School of Economics, and reviews editor for the journal Global Policy. She researches law, politics and theory of outer space exploration and exploitation. Her interests extend to the way terrestrial politics and conceptualisations such as sovereignty are projected into outer space, and how outer space potentially plays a role in reconstituting how those politics and conceptualisations are understood in terrestrial politics. ,

Stuart talked about the long history of outer space law and more specifically about 'Who owns the Moon?' (which she calls the Muuuhn)

We all know that iconic image of Neil Armstrong planting a flag 1969. Did the gesture imply that the United States can claim any kind of ownership over the moon? Who owns the moon exactly?

The answer is a combination of 'no one' and 'everyone' owns the moon.

No One because The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 says that outer space (which obviously includes the moon) cannot be 'appropriated' by any national State for sovereign purposes.

Everyone because the same treaty states that outer space is the province of all mankind.

The treaty was widely ratified and is still today accepted as being doctoring.

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David Scott salutes the American flag during the Apollo 15 mission. Great Images in NASA Description, NASA photo AS15-88-11863

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All the American Flags On the Moon Are Now White (via Gizmodo)

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Larissa Sansour, A Space Exodus

Now another interesting issue Stuart raised was the number of flags on the moon. The US chose to put a US flag on the moon, rather than some sort of global flag. But it turns out that there are more than one US flag on the moon. 6 US flags were delivered by humans on the Appolo mission.

And it wasn't just the US who got 'flag happy'. Four other countries had flags delivered even though it didn't have legal significance in terms of appropriation. Russia, China, India and the European Space Agency also have flags up there. Russia and China have soft landed on the moon and delivered flags. The other delivery method is to crash something on the moon that bears a flag.

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Imagemap of the locations of all successful soft landings on the Moon to date

Speaking of crashing into the moon: the moon is at the center of many geopolitical interests. In the 1950s, the United States were thinking about landing on the moon to show off their technological prowess (in particular to the Soviet) but a top secret study revealed that the US also briefly considered nuking the moon, instead of landing on it. The fall off would enable scientist to study the geological make up of the moon and the flash from the nuclear explosion would create a difference on the surface of the moon that could be seen back on earth.

The first Apollo mission carried a plaque which still stays on the moon and says "Here men from the planet earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969. We came in peace for all mankind."
That same July 1969, the US was also investing in the Vietnam war. How do you reconcile this idea of coming 'in peace for all mankind' with bombing Vietnam?

The last human mission on the moon was in 1972. Since then there has only been some soft landing.

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Moon, a 2009 British science fiction film co-written and directed by Duncan Jones, was about a man on a three-year solitary stint mining helium-3 on the far side of the Moon

Since then, one of the big issues that have emerged is mining. Is mining the moon legal? Is it even desirable?

The moon might have helium-3 which could be a fuel to travel from the moon to other planets. But is it legal? The Outer Space Treaty is a bit ambiguous in that regard. It says that any activity should be carried out for the common heritage of our kind and benefit all people and all countries. The treaty therefore advises to redistribute anything that should be gained from mining. However, the fifth treaty (1979) sought to clarify some of these issued but mostly failed as only very few countries ratified it.

In 2002, China stated their moon intentions. They included establishing a base on the moon for the purpose of mining, they said that the resources that they extract would be for the benefit of humanity. What does that mean?

Stuart believes that mining will be a big issue in the future.

Another problem of the main Outer Space Treaty is that they are rooted in a state-centric language. Many people are curious about the companies that sell plots of land on the moon and other celestial bodies. The outer space treaty says that no nation state may lay claim on a celestial body. So does that give green light to individuals, corporations or private partnership? Stuart doesn't believe so. We are only now learning to deal with the fact that it's not just states that are planning to go into outer space. Wealthy individuals and corporations are looking at it too. Outer space law still have to catch up with that.

Kosmica Full Moon Party Part 5, Kevin Fong

Kevin Fong, a space medicine expert and the co-director of the Centre for Aviation Space and Extreme Environment Medicine (CASE Medicine), at University College London, talked more generally about exploration.

There aren't any wide space left to explore on the surface of the Earth. A hundred years ago, however, there were still many places where humans had never been (South Polar region, some of the highest mountains, etc.) Now we've explored the earth, the air, we've even been to the moon. What happens next?

We're a bit blasé about the future. Going to the moon doesn't look like a big deal anymore now.
But in context, going on the moon was a terrible thing to do. Millions of American tax dollars were spent, 5% of the country GDP, were spent on sending people into space when people (in and out of the country) were starving and unable to afford healthcare.


John F. Kennedy at Rice University ("We choose to go to the moon in this decade"), September 12, 1962

There are some myths regarding the public attitude about moon exploration. It is said that everybody was really into it in the 1960s and then everyone lost interest. But in fact, research shows that approval for the Apollo mission never reached 50% amongst members of the U.S. until they landed on the moon and then approval reached a high point for a couple of weeks and then went back down again. So people weren't so enthusiastic about sending men to the moon.

Why did we go to the moon? We already know that it was a surrogate battlefield for a war that could not be fought in any other way. And some of the people who were the architects of Apollo had actually been around during some of the most atrocious moments of the 20th century. And if they didn't take part in it, they were certainly aware of it and did nothing to stop it. Some of them even probably were 'card-carrying nazis' until the day they died. Yet, we celebrate them in a revised history. And some of the research actually emerges from the V2 rocket. We look for vision and inspiration when actually the mission comes from some of the darkest pages of human history.

Was Apollo worth it? Someone said that Apollo was an aberration and that it was a piece of 21st century that was dragged into the 20th. Which is why we never went back. It was just too hard to do and it was too soon. And that is the way that most explorations are done.

We see romanticism behind most explorations. According to Fong, the exploration of any time doesn't make sense to the rational people of the same time. When you look back at the great explorations of the past, it's the same story. It's some imperial power leading their effort through their military, usually at great expense and great risk of human life.

An illustration of this theory is Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe between 1518 and 1522. In 1518, Ferdinand Magellan can't convince Portugal to support his expedition project so he goes to rival Spain and sails with 5 ships and about 280 sailors. The whole expedition is a real ordeal. 3 mutinies, 4 ships lost, Magellan dies before the completion of the expedition and the only ship that manages to get back to Seville is sailed by only 18 men. In fact, Magellan had not even intended to circumnavigate the world, but to find a secure way to the Spice Islands. Yet, we remember this episode as being a glorious page of history and we recognise it as an important stepping stone. But the men at the time probably thought that too high a cost had to be paid. To Fong, you can only love the exploration of a moment so that people of the future will vicariously enjoy it on your behalf later.

So is this the point when human exploration stops? When we come to realize that it is too expensive and comes at too high a human price?

The Moon is the furthest point we've ever been from the earth. How will history see project Apollo? We will either see it as we see Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe as an important step along a much longer journey or we will see it as we see the pyramids, an amazing achievement but "Why the hell did they do that?"

Image on the homepage from Moon, a 2009 British science fiction film about a man on a three-year solitary stint mining helium-3 on the far side of the Moon.

Previously: Should we colonize the Moon?

The new episode of #A.I.L - artists in laboratories, the weekly radio programme about art and science i present on ResonanceFM, London's favourite radio art station, is aired tomorrow Wednesday afternoon at 4pm.

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We Colonised The Moon, Enter at Own Risk

In this episode i'm going to catch up with the ever astute and cheerful Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser from WE COLONISED THE MOON.

Their installation, performance and graphic works seek to demonstrate that the future may indeed be frightening, but also highly entertaining. Previous projects have included creating solutions for space waste by disguising satellites as asteroids, building a solar powered solarium because 'the sun dies anyway', synthesising the smell of the moon and embedding it into scratch and sniff cards. So we're going to talk space colonisation, moon smell patent and their current residency at the Republic of the Moon.

The radio show will be aired this Wednesday 29 January at 16:00, London time. Early risers can catch the repeat next Tuesday at 6.30 am. If you don't live in London, you can listen to the online stream or wait till we upload the episodes on soundcloud one day.

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Agnes Meyer-Brandis: Moon Goose Colony, Pollinaria, 2011

On Saturday i went to The Arts Catalyst's Open Think Tank Late Breakfast, the round table discussion was part of a series of events that frame the exhibition Republic of the Moon. Both were very good. The exhibition and the panel, that is.

The round table, orchestrated by artists in residence Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser from We Colonised the Moon, explored the idea of moon colonisation from the perspective of science, politics, theology, philosophy, and art. The main question panelist were looking at was: Should We Colonise the Moon? What's the future for the Moon - theme park or quarry?

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Panel 'Should We Colonise the Moon? What's the future for the Moon - theme park or quarry?' on Saturday 11 at the Bargehouse. Photo by The Arts Catalyst

The first speaker was Ian Crawford, Professor of Planetary Science and Astrobiology at Birkbeck College, University of London. His research is mainly concerned with lunar science and exploration, and he has a significant interest in the future of space exploration.

Crawford started by answering the question Should We Colonise the Moon? with a simple "Yes, with caveat!"
Yes, because it would be good for the human race & for philosophy, to expand the horizons and the perspective on ourselves and on the universe.

The caveats are:
- The colonization should be an international endeavour (we don't want another Cold War space race);
- It should be regulated. Parts of the Moon and of Mars are scientifically valuable. It would be a pity if they fell into purely mercantile hands and/or became mere tourist destinations;
- The physical environment is obviously very different from the ones colons found in the US or in Australia. Genuine colonization will be difficult. It would probably start with scientific outposts, small groups of people would be sent to live on a base, like the ones currently sent for research in Antarctica. Other uses of the moon such as hotels for tourists or mining for mineral resources would have to be regulated.

The United Nations treaty about the moon currently states that no one legally owns the moon but there is a case for developing the law as private companies may want to exploit it for its minerals.

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Liliane Lijn, moonmeme

The other part of the question was What's the future for the Moon - theme park or quarry?

The moon's surface area is roughly 10% bigger than Africa.
Any space colonisation should be a unifying project for humanity. A step in that direction has been made when 12 of the main space agencies around the world have published the "Global Exploration Roadmap" (PDF) which declares the international group's intention to work together to mount robotic and human missions to the moon, nearby asteroids, and to Mars.

At this point, someone in the audience (probably Rob La Frenais) asked about the limited scientific equipment that can be taken to the moon because it seems that on board, priority is given to supplies that would enable human beings to actually survive in space.

Professor Crawford explained that the moon is a completely airless environment but that there might be ways to extract lunar water and oxygen. For water, we would first need to confirm the existence of ice craters on the surface of the moon. The presence of ice would greatly facilitate colonization. Oxygen could be extracted from the very dry lunar rocks. It would, however, be a very energy intensive process.

(More about the views of Ian Crawford on Moon exploitation in The Telegraph.)

Another brilliant contribution was from Rev Dr Jeremy Law, the Dean of Chapel for Canterbury Christ Church University, who had been invited to give a theological perspective on moon colonization.

He made 3 important observations:

The Earth is a nurturing realm, whereas the moon is a life-denying environment. A human colony on the moon would be a celebration of human achievement, another triumph of humanity over nature.

A lunar colony has nothing to do with the colonization of the New World, it would mostly serve the interests of the already successful.

Finally, the economic investment required means that the narrative of capitalism (with its notions of efficiency and competition) would simply continue. Scientific research on the moon, for example, would thus be determined by those who can finance it.

Law believes that the main contribution of a lunar colony is the way it could reshape human religion on earth.

The last speaker was Benedict Singleton, a strategist with a background in design and philosophy. He is the author of the forthcoming book The Long Con, an alternative history of design, and regularly writes on the politics and philosophy of technology.

Singleton believes that we need deeper narratives to understand what it means to achieve moon colonization.

Another interesting point was raised by Sue Corke who reminded us of Thomas Austin, the man responsible for introducing rabbits in Australia. As we know, he had no idea that a few rabbits released on his estate would lead to an invasion of the country. At the time he had declared, "The introduction of a few rabbits could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition to a spot of hunting."

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Could the equivalent happen on the moon with something human colons would bring along? Rob noted that actually in 1969, the NASA put everything that came back from the Moon - from rocks to hardware to the Apollo 12 crew - in quarantine and ran tests to make sure they didn't come back covered with new and potentially harmful microbes or bacteria. As you can see in the photo above, it must have been a hilariously pleasant experience.

Of course, it was about protecting the Earth from potential moon germs. Not the opposite.

That's it for my notes about the Saturday morning panel. As for the exhibition, just go! It has humour, intelligence and it's also really good art. You don't often get all these ingredients mixed in one show.

Agnes Meyer-Brandis is teaching geese how to fly to the moon, Leonid Tishkov never travels without his own personal moon, Katie Paterson has Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata reflected from the moon's surface via Earth, Liliane Lijn plans to write on the Moon using a laser beam, WE COLONISED THE MOON run a series of workshops and events as the Republic of the Moon's official art residents.

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Leonid Tishkov, Private Moon in Formosa

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Leonid Tishkov, Private Moon, 2009

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Leonid Tishkov, Private Moon Moscow studio of the artist

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Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Moon Goose Analogue

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WE COLONISED THE MOON, Live Moon Smelling by artists in residence in Republic of the Moon, London 2014

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Katie Paterson, Earth-Moon-Earth

There's only a few days left to listen to Nicola Triscott and Ian Crawford discussing Moon ownership on BBC radio 4.

Republic of the Moon is on view until 2 February 2014 at the temporary residence of The Arts Catalyst: Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf on London's South Bank.

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

I've finally gone through all the images and texts i made and received from the GAMERZ festival in Aix-en-Provence. There's a ridiculously high amount of new artists and works i'd like to blog about but let's start with what i think were the smartest and most elegant works in the festival. Both play with perception, both are by Luce Moreau, a member of the collective Otto-prod.

The first one is Constance, an installation set on the roof of one of the buildings of the School of Fine Arts in Aix-en-Provence and visible at night from a distance of several kilometers. Constance's 3 powerful laser axis were shining orthogonally from a box attached to a motorized equatorial frame (motorization by Patrick Reybaud). An equatorial frame is an instrument that astronomers attach to telescopes and cameras so that they can stay fixed on any object in the sky. The equatorial mount moves imperceptibly but steadily, thus canceling its own driving force by earth movement. The origin of the three axes remains with it in one point in space, as if in weightlesness.


Luce Moreau, Pulsar, 2012

The second work she was showing is Pulsar which also makes use of the equatorial mount. This time the artist filmed a perfectly immobile sun. She used an old camera which -see explanations below- is protecting itself from the powerful light of the sun by opening and closing its diaphragm.

Luce has otherwise a pretty spectacular portfolio. Have a look at Landmarks. She interrupted otherwise mundane landscapes with a system of mirrors that reflect sun rays in the direction of the camera lens.

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Jazbine, from the series Landmarks, 2010

But back to Constance and Pulsar. I asked Luce if she could give us more details about the works. The Q&A is below and if you scroll down you can also read her answers in french. Here we go...

Hi Luce! The lasers of Constance are visible from afar. How far away exactly? Why is it important that the rays can be seen from such a distance?

This is the first version of the Constance installation, it's a beta version for which I worked with a Slovakian workshop which specializes in renting lasers. We worked on making this special box containing three lasers oriented orthogonally to each other. We opted for the most powerful model they had (10 to 12 W), so that the lasers can reach as far as possible. Currently the laser rays can be seen from a distance of a few kilometers, but I can not measure exactly the distance at which we "lose sight" of them. The installation aims to disrupt our daily and familiar landscapes, punctuate our environment with this colorful landmark so that we start considering our relationship to time and space. It acts as a kind of clock at the scale of the landscape, it's a mechanism that we must decipher.

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

And how do people who know nothing about this art installation interpret them when they see them in the sky?

I think that it depends on the context. During GAMERZ, Constance was central, located in the heart of the festival, in the city center. In this case, the global three rays were only visible from the outside of the city, and from a certain height. Festival goers and residents of the city center might have been intrigued and even perhaps attracted by these strings of light which 'hung' above their heads and led to the festival. It became more interesting when the public was in close proximity of work (less than 10 m.) The curious could walk around the installation and see the rays at their maximum strength. The proximity doesn't really allow you to understand the lasers movement, on the other hand, it offers an excellent visibility of the 3D effect.

When Constance is presented in Pau (13, 15 and 16 November at the festival Accès-s Cultures Électroniques), it will be in a completely different context. Installed on top of a hill outside the city, the work should offer the residents of Pau and its environs a more mysterious, distant vision. The imperceptible movement of lasers will be more apprehensible for visitors and locals. They see more clearly the path traveled over a few hours, but it will be less easy for them to observe the work from up close.

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

Can exhibition visitors ever perceive what is happening?

I think visitors are first impressed by the power and finesse of the rays, the colors vibrate in a very particular way, and represent many threads stretched between them and the universe. Then they understand the immobility of the green ray, and see that its extremity points to a star, Polaris. From that moment, and with the help of some explanations if needed, everything falls into place and the installation awakens what lies dormant in a corner of the brain: our understanding of the world, our planet in its system, its infinity, and all the vertigo that it implies! Two visitors gave me their diametrically opposed impressions. The first experienced a sense of vertiginous emptiness, the installation embodying the oblique axis of our position on earth. The second person talked about being reassured by having a beacon, a landmark in this enormous universe.

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

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Installation of Constance for the GAMERZ festival. Photo by Luce Moreau

The installation uses a motorized equatorial mount. Could you explain how it works and where/how you discovered about it?

I've discovered this system while I was working at the Observatory of Provence (OHP-CNRS) in the Summer of 2011.

I had the idea of ​​photographing or filming a landscape, freed from the movement of the Earth and I was curious to see how that would turn up. So I started thinking about a traveling rail system, calculating the speed of the rotation of the earth, obsessing over many practical details... Then one day while chatting with an amateur astronomer (Olivier Labrevoir), I found out about the equatorial mount, a very simple tool that sky watchers have used for decades to follow sidereal objects (stars, planets, etc. ) and that would allow me to get the effect i was looking for. The principle of this tripod is to rotate the visualization object (telescope, or photo and video cameras in my case) around a central axis, the axis being parallel to the axis of rotation of the Earth. To do this, the axis must point to the Pole Star, which happens to be very close to the geographic north of our planet and is therefore the only one that stand still when the earth rotates on its axis. This movement is motorized, the motors follow the exact same speed as the earth, but in the opposite direction. The camera is thus 'immobile'. It floats in weightlessness! And so is our point of view...

You used the equatorial mount in several of your work. Why do you find this point of view on our surrounding so fascinating?

I find this tool fascinating as for me, it represents a shift in meaning, the power to be in a state of weightlessness without leaving the ground ... a unique perspective that I had never experienced before, which is one of perfectly precise static condition. In order to explain the process, I often compare it to a jump that stays frozen in the air and that allows you to observe the planet that continues revolving. But without us. This is a levitation, a slow and gradual flying process, an experience and perspective I wanted to share.

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Pulsar, 2012 (view at the GAMERZ festival 2013)

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Pulsar, 2012 (view at the GAMERZ festival 2013)

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Shooting Pulsar

Do you have drawings or other image that would show visually the process used to make Pulsar? (mostly because i cannot understand very well how it was made)

Unfortunately I don't :) but i can explain:

Pulsar is filmed using the same tripod but this time the sole purpose is to focus on the sun and keep it stationary in the frame. The camera is an old, obsolete and fragile camera which "prints" momentarily the bright lights onto its sensor. In an effort to draw an analogy between the human eye and the camera sensor, I wanted to take advantage of this flaw and obtain a set of persistence of vision. The intermittent closure of the diaphragm is an automatic protection of the camera, which closes its "lid" when it feels assaulted by too much light. If you were standing next to the camera, you would see the diaphragm ring oscillating from 16 (minimum aperture) to C (total closure.) The camera is protecting itself from the offensive and destructive sun.

Merci Luce!

Constance is a co-production M2FCréations, Accès-s Cultures Électroniques and Otto-Prod. Check out Luce's work at the Soleils Numériques festival ACCES(S), from 10 to 23 November in Pau and around, France.

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And now for the version in french:

The lasers of Constance are visible from afar. How far away exactly? Why is it important that the rays can be seen from such a distance?

L'installation Constance en est à sa première version, une version bêta pour laquelle j'ai travaillé avec un atelier slovaque de location lasers. On a collaboré sur la fabrication de ce boîtier spécial renfermant trois lasers orientés de façon orthogonale les uns par rapport aux autres ; nous avons choisi ce qu'ils avaient de plus puissants (de 10 à 12 W), afin que les lasers se voient du plus loin possible. Actuellement nous pouvons voir les rayons lasers jusqu'à quelques kilomètres, mais je ne peux pas savoir exactement à quelle distance nous les "perdons de vue". L'installation a pour but de perturber nos paysages familiers et quotidiens, d'annoter notre environnement de ce repère coloré afin d'être amené à considérer notre rapport au temps et à l'espace. Une sorte d'horloge à l'échelle du paysage, un mécanisme qu'il nous faut déchiffrer.

And how do people who know nothing about this art installation interpret them when they see them in the sky?

Je pense que cela dépend du contexte ; lors du Fetsival GAMERZ, Constance était centrale, installée au coeur du festival, dans le centre ville. Dans ce cas précis, les trois rayons n'étaient visibles ensemble que de l'extérieur de la ville, d'un point de vue en hauteur ; les festivaliers et habitants du centre ont pu être ntrigués, peut-être attirés par ces fils de lumière au-dessus de leurs têtes, qui menaient au festival. L'intérêt que j'y ai trouvé était la proximité du public face à l'oeuvre : les plus curieux pouvaient graviter autour de l'installation à moins de 20 mètres et voir les faisceux dans leur puissance maximum. La proximité permet moins de comprendre le mouvement iopéré par les lasers, mais offre une visibilité privilégiée de l'effet de 3D.

Lorsque que Constance sera présentée à Pau (les 13, 15 et 16 novembre au festival Accès-s Cultures Électroniques), ce sera dans un tout autre contexte ; installée sur les hauteurs d'une colline, à l'extérieur de la ville, elle devrait offrir aux habitants de Pau et de ses environs une vision plus mystérieuse, lointaine. Le mouvement imperceptible des lasers sera ainsi plus compréhensible par les visiteurs et les habitants. Ils verront mieux la trajectoire opérée en quelques heures, mais pourront moins facilement l'observer de près.

How about the exhibition visitors. Can they ever perceive what is happening?

Les visiteurs sont je pense tout d'abord impressionnés par la puissance et la finesse des rayons, dont les couleurs vibrent de façon très particulière, et qui représentent autant de fils tendu entre eux et l'univers. Puis ils comprennent l'immobilité du rayon vert, et voient que son extrémité pointe une étoile, la Polaris ; à partir de ce moment-là; et avec l'aide de quelques explications si besoin, tout se met en place et cette installation excite ce qui vit dans un coin de chaque cerveau : notre appréhension du monde, de notre planète dans son système, son infinité, et tout le vertige que ça sous-entend! Deux visiteurs m'ont ainsi donné leurs impressions contraires : la première avait un sentiment de vide vertigineux, l'installation matérialisant l'oblique de notre position sur terre, quant à la seconde elle était rassurée par le fait d'avoir une balise, un repère dans cet ensemble démesuré.

The installation uses a motorized equatorial mount. Could you explain how it works and where/how you discovered about it?

I've discovered this system while I was working at the Observatory of Provence (OHP-CNRS) in summer 2011. J'avais eu l'idée de photographier, ou filmer un paysage, affranchi du mouvement de la Terre ; j'étais curieuse de voir ce que ça pouvait donner. J'ai donc commencé à réfléchir à un système de rail de travelling, calculer la vitesse de rotation de la terre, me prendre la tête sur beaucoup de points pratiques... Quand au cours d'une conversation avec un astronaume amateur (Olivier Labrevoir) j'appris l'existence de la monture équatoriale, outil très simple dont les observateurs du ciel se servent depuis plusieurs dizaines d'années pour suivre des objets sidéraux (étoiles, planètes, etc) et qui me permettrait d'obtenir le résultat recherché. Le principe de ce trépied est de faire pivoter l'objet de captation (téléscope, ou appareil photo et caméra dans mon cas) autour d'un axe central, cet axe étant parallèle à l'axe de rotation de la Terre. Pour ce faire, l'axe doit pointer l'étoile polaire, qui se trouve être très proche du Nord Géographique de notre planète ; elle est donc la seule à rester immobile lorsque la terre tourne sur son axe. Ce mouvement est motorisé, les moteurs pas à pas vont à l'exacte vitesse de rotation de la terre, en sens inverse ; la caméra fait ainsi du "surplace". Elle est en apesanteur! Et notre point de vue avec elle...

You used the equatorial mount in several of your work. Why do you find this point of view on our surrounding so fascinating?

Je trouve cet outil fascinant car il représente pour moi, par glissement de sens, le pouvoir d'être en état d'apesanteur sans quitter le sol...un point de vue inédit, que je n'avais jamais pu observer auparavant, qui est celui du statisme le plus exact ; souvent pour expliquer le procédé, je parle d'un saut surplace, mais durant lequel on reste figé dans les airs, et durant lequel on peut observer notre planète continuer à tourner, sans nous. C'est une lévitation, un procédé d'envol lent et progressif, et dont je voulais partager le témoignage et le point de vue.

Do you have drawings or other image that would show visually the process used to make Pulsar? (mostly because i cannot understand very well how it was made)

Unfortunately I don't :) mais je peux expliquer :
Pulsar est filmée depuis ce même trépied qui est ici utilisé dans le seul but de centrer le soleil et de le garder immobile dans le cadre. La caméra est une vieille caméra, obsolète et fragile, qui "imprime" momentanément les fortes lumières sur son capteur. Dans une volonté d'analogie entre l'oeil humain et le capteur de la caméra, j'ai voulu profiter de cette lacune et obtenir un jeu de persistance "rétinienne" ; la fermeture intermittente du diaphragme est une protection automatique de la caméra, qui ferme sa "paupière" lorsqu'elle se sent agressée par trop de lumière. Si tu étais surplace aux côtés de la caméra, tu verrais osciller la bague du diaphragme de 16 (ouverture minimum) à C (fermeture totale) ; la caméra se protège de ce soleil offensif et destructeur.

Merci Luce!

Constance est une co-production M2FCréations, Accès-s Cultures Électroniques et Otto-Prod. Le travail de Luce sera au festival Soleils Numériques - ACCES(S), du 10 au 23 Novembre, Pau et agglo, France.

Last Launch. Discovery, Endeavour, Atlantis, by photographer Dan Winters.

Available on Amazon USA and UK

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Publisher University of Texas Press writes: Americans have been driven to explore beyond the horizon ever since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. In the twentieth century, that drive took us to the moon and inspired dreams of setting foot on other planets and voyaging among the stars. The vehicle we built to launch those far journeys was the space shuttle--Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. This fleet of reusable spacecraft was designed to be our taxi to earth orbit, where we would board spaceships heading for strange new worlds. While the shuttle program never accomplished that goal, its 135 missions sent more than 350 people on a courageous journey into the unknown.

Last Launch is a stunning photographic tribute to America's space shuttle program. Dan Winters was one of only a handful of photographers to whom NASA gave close-range access to photograph the last launches of Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. Positioning automatically controlled cameras at strategic points around the launch pad--some as close as seven hundred feet--he recorded images of take-offs that capture the incredible power and transcendent beauty of the blast that sends the shuttle hurtling into space. Winters also takes us on a visual tour of the shuttle as a marvel of technology--from the crew spaces with their complex instrumentation, to the massive engines that propelled the shuttle, to the enormous vehicle assembly building where the shuttles were prepared for flight.

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Space Shuttle main engine (SSME) on engine stand, forward view

Dan Winters has a passion that's completely alien to me: he is fascinated by the NASA space program. U.S. space exploration never made me dream nor even bat an eyelid. Yet, when i read a 3 line-long review of his book in a free men's magazine in London, i knew i needed to get a review copy. Because i might not be into astronauts and giant leaps for mankind but photography is something i respond to. And Last Launch is all about that: jaw dropping images of engineering marvels and explosive lift off. Even the black and sepia archive photos (not by Winters) that illustrate the introduction texts are magnificent.

Speaking of introduction! The photo book starts with a series of essays. One by the photographer who tells of a long love for space adventures that started as a kid watching the Apollo 11 launch broacast live on the family's new tv set on July 16, 1969. The second essay was written by Al Reinert, director and producer of For All Mankind, a 1989 Award-winning documentary about NASA's Apollo program. The film maker charts the successful and unsuccessful episodes that make the history of the transport system that propels Earth-bound humans into low orbit. Some of the anecdotes he shares are dramatic, others are slightly laughable such as the Coke-Pepsi taste test that took place on board of the Challenger in 1985 to determine which beverage taste more like itself in zero gravity. Coke won, Reinert explains, because they manufactured a zero-gravity soda can. Pepsi didn't bother.

A third text is the rather short and moving account by former astronaut Mark Kelly of the few moments before the take off of STS-134 (one of the very last missions of NASA's Space Shuttle program) on May 16, 2011.

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Production photo: Dan Winters checking camera settings, focus, exposure, etc. (image via SPD)

A final text at the back of the book brings an answer to the question i've been asking myself while flipping through the pages. How does he make it? How can he get so close to the spectacular liftoffs?

Dan Winters was one of only a handful of photographers to whom NASA gave close-range access to photograph the last launches of Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. "Close-range" shouldn't be taken too literally though. When they launch, space shuttles are surrounded by an evacuation zone that stretched up to three miles (almost 5 km) in all directions.

The cameras had to be remotely activated. The day before lift-off, Winters places them, up to 9 at a time, around the launchpad, the closest located 700 feet (213 m) from the shuttle itself. Winters calculates the type of photo to shoot according to shuttle's path, he sets the frame, checks the focus point, attaches to the cameras custom-made electronic triggers that are sensitive to sound and fire at five frames per second in response to the rockets igniting. He also has to use sandbags to minimize camera shake, and cover the equipment with plastic to protect it from the rain.

If there's one person who might finally get me interested in the NASA adventures, it's Dan Winters. Pity the Space Shuttle was retired from service two years ago.

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Endeavour on her pad. May 15, 2011

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Endeavour SRB start

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Fire cloud generated by Discovery solid rocket boosters (SRB)

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Discovery SRB exhaust trail at ground elapsed time (GET) 2:00

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Discovery airlock with view into payload bay

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Discovery main engine start. February 24, 2011, 4:53:24 PM EST

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Discovery Flight Deck, (aft view with robotic arm controls), Cape Canaveral, 2011

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Space Shuttle main engine (SSME) nozzle interior

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Atlantis goes into her roll program

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Atlantis being moved from her hangar to the VAB. May 17, 2011

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Atlantis forward section detail

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Vacuum-packed M&Ms

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Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES)

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Control console, Mission Control, Houston

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Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center

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Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) glove liner

More photos on Dan WInters' website, at My Modern Met and Time.

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