Art in Space
Space art serves the most basic function of fine arts, that of inspiration. It directs human focus toward the frontiers of space, where its destiny inevitably lies. Artists are stepping off ancestral earth and learning what wonders and resources are scattered throughout the starlit blackness of space. It is an adventure for artists, scientists and the entire human race. Since the eighties, as the first artists exploited the last unexplored realm ("Deep Hole", the first project, that made use of space technology occurred in 1978), the technological possibilities and consequently the financial requirements have changed. It is now possible for an art institution to raise enough funds to finance a space expedition. This does not only happen only in powerful states that dominate space travel - like the U.S.A. or Russia. An art expedition to space might well be coordinated from a small country - for instance from Slovenia. Noordung Zero Gravity Biomechanical Theater The most ambitious Slovenian attempt to conquer space is connected with theatre director Dragan Zivadinov's project Noordung Zero Gravity Biomechanical Theatre. This project, led by the London-based art-science agency Arts Catalyst and the Slovenian-based Projekt Atol, was a result of a collaboration between several art organizations that formed, in 2000, the MIR Consortium (MIR stands for "Microgravity Interdisciplinary Research"). Zivadinov's fascination with space technology and avant-garde theatre led him to undertake various space-connected projects. Amongst others, he was the co-founder of the Slovenian Space agency and initiated the first Slovenian performance in zero gravity conditions. His last performance, so he says, will take place after he dies. He and other members of his group plan to send their remains in satellites to orbit the Earth after their deaths. The Noordung Zero Gravity Biomechanical Theatre project started in April 2003, when a group of artists, scientists, theoreticians and producers from various European countries - the UK, Slovenia, Russia, France and Spain - spent one week in Star City near Moscow, at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, to undertake parabolic flights for artistic purposes. As having artists in the Space Station is still a utopian dream, the only way to experience weightlessness is through such parabolic flights, in which each parabola offers 25 seconds of zero-g (zero-gravity), "framed" by 25 seconds of 2-g. The first of the planned series of such flights took place on 15th December 1999. A massive high-winged Ilyushin-76 aircraft, which normally serves as a training plane for Russian cosmonauts, took off from an airfield in Star City near Moscow with a passenger list comprising 15 Slovenians, and about the same number of Russian trainers and flight crew. Towards the rear of the plane, an intricately designed set had been constructed - one component of what director Dragan Zivadinov calls an "inhabited sculpture". On each wall of the aircraft, four strangely designed seats - more like slings with back-rests and bizarre, padded folding tables that doubled as seat-belts - were provided for the audience of eight, which consisted of people mainly from Ljubljana capable of recording or documenting the event. At the back of the plane seven actors, all wearing bizarre, brightly-coloured constructivist-style flight suits designed for the occasion, prepared for the onset of zero gravity. The audience also wore costumes, in this case yellow flight jackets and a type of enveloping wrap-around headpiece - not a hat as such, but something more akin to what cosmonauts or astronauts wear under the fishbowl helmet. This ensemble was topped off with a pair of headphones that were secured firmly to the head by a chinstrap to avoid floating off during the zero-gravity episodes. Future? Despite the almost total lack of technological equipment and resources, Slovene artists are managing to collaborate in European space projects. Their contribution is not of a material nature. They bring creativity. This applies to Marko Peljhan's project "S-77CCR" that was first presented at this year's Berlinale. The aim of the project is to make use of contemporary surveillance technology - such as that used by the police and the military - for the benefit of the civil society. It uses a reconnaissance plane to spy on and observe public spaces and offers the information to the general public. The "S-77CCR" or "Eye in the sky, democracy in the street" project as the artists call it, is a collaboration of French, German, English and Slovenian organisations. Slovenian artists are keen on technology and space and it seems that they are able to sell their ideas well. It is a characteristic of Slovenia to compensate for its shortages in political, technological and economic arenas with culture. This has been the case in the past, and it seems that it will continue to be so in the future.