Cristina De Middel is a photojournalist. Her series “Afronauts” captures the narrative of Zambia’s failed attempt to put man on the moon in a dignified, triumphant light. Her dossier reads:
“Afronauts’ is based on the documentation of an impossible dream that only lives in the pictures.”
Zambia didn’t put space boots on the moon, but these photographs show a quilted portrait of not shattered, unattained dreams, but nationalist hope and determination. There’s some published pieces out there that tries to paint Zambia’s space ambitions in the 1960’s as an absurdity. If you wish to see Zambia unattained goals in that light, I can only wonder want you think of Newt Ginrich’s ambitions for a moon colony while running for office in a country that isn’t funding lunar exploration either. We all have ambitions. Here’s to the dreamers.
I am fascinated with the domestic lifecycle of spacesuits. They’re born from the hands of women hunched over sewing machines custom fitting astronauts, and then, after a brief interlude in space, some haunt the halls of the National Air and Space Museum while most lie neatly folded somewhere deep in the Smithsonian’s archival tombs next to gowns worn by celebrities and dignitaries.
Spaceman by David Mach, like many of other sculptures, is made up of hundreds of the metal coat hangers, like the ones that come with your dry cleaning. The hangers are welded together, formed in a positive mold and then sliver nickel plated. Mach immortalizes the Apollo astronauts of soft, white plush with the same cold metal hangers that are usually kicked to the curb after their serve the purpose.
The earth is not a cold dead place, hopefully Mars isn’t either. I have seen a lot of prototype suits for manned exploration of Mars (some of them are pretty funky looking) and above is my favorite. The Austrian Airspace Forum Institute created this slick silver suit and put to the test in the ice tunnels beneath the Kaunertal glacier. Among the many complications of being on Martian soil, temperatures on Mars can drop well below -100 degrees. You can read more about this space suit and the advances they’re making by clicking here.
P.S. NASA’s new Mars Science Laboratory rover, also known as Curiosity, launched in late November and is scheduled to land on Mars in early August. It’s the Presidential Hummer of rovers. Its primary mission is to assess Mars’ habitability.
Emily Kane has created a conceptual space advocacy group called Project Moon which explores the relationship between space industry and graphic design. The project renders a new visual aesthetic for contemporary manned space exploration. While nodding to the aesthetic and humanistic contributions to the pursuit of space, she lays out the ambiguity of the terrain ahead. The design, detailed in a palette of black, red, and periwinkle, paints out the major contributions of the past and of areas still to be further explored.
Seeing Emily’s work made me begin obsessively considering/scheming what the aesthetic of space exploration will look like in the near future. 2011 was a pretty monumental year for space: the Shuttle era ended, the International Space Station was officially completed, Earth-like planets were uncovered, commercial space exploration took huge strides and the true stellar standout – 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of human space flight. Future of space exploration is undefined and new aesthetic of space exploration is needed.
During the 1970’s and 80’s, NASA used a red logotype nicknamed the “worm”. Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn created in their words, “a more useful new logotype” as part of the National Endowment of the Arts. It was an effort to design a more modern logo for a space agency that’s forward thinking. Then the Challenger accident happened and the agency was put on hold. In the early 90′s, administrator Daniel Goldin brought back the traditional NASA blue “meatball” with its red chevron and spattering of star in an attempt to herald back to the golden age of space exploration.
Soon manned space travel will not be limited to decorated patriots in uniform flight suits, commercial space exploration is charting new ground, including the aesthetic design of space. Virgin Galatic’s Spaceport America opened this past year; I can’t wait to see what Sir Richard Branson has up his sleeves.
Bon Voyage. Good luck. See ya later. Godspeed.
A spacesuit has 27 layers. Like the garments they bear, Adam Devarney’s travelers navigate through a layered patchwork of imagined narratives. Devarney’s pieces were first included in a 2010 exhibition entitled Godspeed, collaged portraits pieced together in a dream-like narrative of hallowed ghosts of aviators past, suited up for a prosperous journey ahead. The Fox is Black reader and Vermont native speaks of his process:
“I’m interested in how narratives arise from simply taking things out of context and thrusting them together,” Deverney says. “How the collage material relates depends on the associations we make with the content. They are almost like dreams to me… Vague fogs, with little snippets of information that allude to some sort of dialogue or story.”