Space Odyssey 2.0
Z33 House for contemporary art, Hasselt
17 February - 19 May 2013
Review by Annelies Thoelen
Can we mutate fruit flies to survive on Titan’ Is it possible to use the rotation speed of the earth to launch spaceships’ What would you send into space to represent life on earth’ Will there ever be astronaut geese flying to the moon’ Can we artificially create alien life by sending out body material’ How does the eternal nothing look like on a molecule scale’ And how does it sound’
Z33 in Hasselt presents the remarkable exhibition ‘Space Odyssey 2.0’ in which art, craft, science, technology, myths and dreams come together. Curator Ils Huygens invited thirteen contemporary artists who are inspired by the vast dimensions of outer space to exhibit. Fascination with the intergalactic is not new: even in the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci, the first man to design an aircraft, was interested in experiences above the surface of the earth. After World War II, when the Cold War and its interlinked space race dominated everyday life, space art and space design were responsible for some of the prevailing features of the period. Car and furniture design, fashion and art; in the fifties and sixties they all received an outer-space twist.
In today’s era not only national governments have the privilege of organising space trips, not only professional astronauts can experience the state of weightlessness and zero-gravity, and not only Americans and Russians participate in the galactic debate. The ‘out-there’ is democratised and nowadays more open and reachable than before. Artists worldwide are taking up the topic again, to contribute, to question, to dream, but mainly to induce boundless thinking.
When science fiction becomes reality. Inside the exhibition, pictures of eleven little goslings attract attention. Young Neil, Juri, Valentina, Buzz and their companions are shown in a row, fluffy and yellow. Agnes Meyer-Brandis (DE) trains them in Italy to become moon geese. Her work is inspired by the 1638 novel ‘The Man in the Moone’, in which the protagonist travels to the moon by geese. The birds in Meyer-Brandis’ project are being trained via imprinting, or conditioning from a young age, to become fully fledged astronauts. Just as in human simulation environments, they need a training habitat and a control room, all of which features in the exhibition.
When the endlessness becomes visible. In another room, images of a futuristic landscape are projected onto the wall. Standing in front of them, it seems like we are dragged into a computer game. SoN01R is a real-time artistic visualization of the quantum vacuum, the empty space-time that fills interstellar space. According to quantum field theory, the vacuum is not equal to absolute nothing, but contains energy too. This elusive and intangible energy is visualized by Frederik De Wilde (BE), to make us understand that space is anything but nothing. The artist also objectified some stills from his quantum vacuum videos in the form of 3D printed objects, resembling large white galactic forms.
When scientists become artists. Walking further, an overwhelming piece of opera fills a large space. Sitting on a bench, we see a projection of a performing NASA scientist’s choir. They play music and recite events that occurred in the control room during the Apollo 11 mission. With her International Space Orchestra, Nelly Ben Hayoun (FR/UK) creates a temporary social experiment in which she refers to both science and the arts as a Gesamtkunstwerk. Hayoun gives science a human face, not only by this opera project, but also by the making and display of artifacts throughout the exhibition space.
‘Space Odyssey 2.0’ is an interdisciplinary exhibition, balancing on the edges of aesthetic, social, technological and scientific experiments. The dialogue between the artists working with space-related topics generates a vibrant energy in the museum. Every artist has a very personal way of researching their part of the galactic clue. Some of them only dream, others seriously participate in scientific projects. It reminds us in every way of our own smallness in the eternal nothing, and our ability to explore at least a very tiny bit.