• The Laboratory Planet issue no.6

    The Laboratory Planet issue no.6


    Issue N°6 / May 2024

    Soil Assembly special • Planetary Peasants

    Laboratories for habitable futures

    We're delighted to announce the publication of issue no. 6 of The Laboratory Planet. It will be distributed from June 17 at the World Biodiversity Forum in Davos, at Awareness in Art in Zurich as part of the More-Than-Planet exhibition, for the launch of the Planetary Peasants program at the Werkleitz festival in Halle, on the occasion of 500 years of peasant revolts in Germany, and at other distribution points across Europe among the More-Than-Planet network.

    The journal The Laboratory Planet was created in 2007, based on the intuition that from a “factory planet” it was necessary to move on to the analysis of a “laboratory planet” – where “acceptable risk” is the adjustment variable for experiments on a scale of 1. The newspapers postulated that 1945 was the symbolic date of this transition, with the atomic bomb as marker and symptom. At the time one were just beginning to hear talk of the “Great Acceleration” and the Anthropocene, but it was already clear that the construction of environmental monitoring, with its apparatus ranging from micro-sensors for terrestrial measurements to satellite observation, stemmed directly from the technologies and methodologies of Cold War nuclear deterrence.

    But as science historian Christophe Bonneuil points out, awareness of the “planetary turn” goes back much farther than the view of the Earth from the Moon, or the founding of the International Union for Conservation of Nature at the end of the Second World War. He reminds us that, while the historian community now concedes the existence of a “consciousness of globality” since at least the 16th century, “regimes of planetarity” remain largely unclear. And as Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak wrote in 1999, “The globe is on our computers. Nobody lives on it”. Since then, the Indian philosopher has been encouraging us to move away from the technicist vision of the “globe”, perceived as invading and controlling the planet, towards a “planetary” gaze that would encounter this other that we inhabit, as well as the othernesses with whom we cohabit on Earth.

    At a time when living conditions are deteriorating ever further, ecologically as well as socially and humanly, this is the direction we propose to take. In this issue, we imagine a peasant and neo-peasant future, invented by planetary peasants, organized in diverse territories, cultivating biotopes that are more heterogeneous, more democratic, and therefore more habitable than those of imperial cities. This issue opens up to a central section on the recent Soil Assembly initiative, and develops some of the experiences, reflections and surveys collected within this emerging network.

    The Soil Assembly “situated” section is included in the "planetary" section.

    We hope you’ll enjoy reading it!

    Ewen Chardronnet & Bureau d’études

    Editorial design: Ewen Chardronnet & Bureau d’études. Graphic design: François Robin & Bureau d’études + Ma Yuyuan. Original cartography : Bureau d’études. Coordination of English translations: Cherise Fong. Editorial administration: Ewen Chardronnet, Cherise Fong, Xavier Fourt, François Robin. Distribution: ART2M/Makery (Paris, FR), Ferme de la Mhotte (Bocage bourbonnais, FR), Awareness in Art (Zurich, CH), CREAM / Westminster University (London, UK), Spore Initiative (Berlin, DE), Werkleitz (Halle, DE), Ars Electronica (Linz, AT), Waag Future Labs (Amsterdam, NL), Projekt Atol (SL). Production: Anne-Cécile Worms & ART2M, as part of the More-Than-Planet (external section) and Rewilding Cultures (internal section) programs co-financed by the European Union. Co-production: Antre Peaux (Bourges, FR), as part of “Homo Photosyntheticus”, a research project coordinated by Ewen Chardronnet and Maya Minder and supported by the “Transition écologique et résilience : les acteurs culturels s’engagent” program of the Région Centre-Val-de-Loire; Awareness in Art (Zurich, CH), as part of the “Archipelago: Art and Science Investigations in Times of Unstable Knowledge” program co-financed by Pro Helvetia. Printing : Noticias de Navarra. Special thanks to the teams at Ferme de la Mhotte, Maria Ptqk, Antre Peaux and Awareness in Art; to the animators and active contributors to the Soil Assemblies network, including Maya Minder, Meena Vari, Vivek Vilasini, Neal White, Rustam Vania, Rob La Frenais, Vasanthi Dass, Pedro Soler; and to all the authors of this issue.

    Contact: lab@makery.info

    Website: https://laboratoryplanet.org

  • [videos] LASER Paris, Another Planet

    During this LASER Paris meeting (see the announcement of the event here), two artists - Michèle Boulogne and Antti Tenetz and two scientists, one in Humanities and the other in hard science - Luis Campos and Chloé Audas, shated their researches and knowledge, their approaches and results.

    Alltogether, we discussed what is, or what could be, another planet —another one than ours or ours but differently.

    Michèle Boulogne presentation is in French, the others in English.

    Annick Bureaud, Introduction, Une autre planète


    Luis Campos - Ascensions and Astrobotany: Islands in the Sky


    Discussion Luis Campos with Chloé Audas


    Michèle Boulogne - Mining the Sky, The Pursuit of Finitude


    Antti Tenetz - Into the Void - art in extreme environments? space, mine, research station in sub-arctic wilderness, analog astronaut missions


    Michèle Boulogne, Antti Tenetz, discussion



    Annick Bureaud

    Programme created by Leonardo/ISAST (www.leonardo.info), LASER (Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendez-vous, www.leonardo.info/laser) is a sharing of experiences around art-science projects in semi-formal meetings, outside the institutional framework.

    LASER Paris of March 14th 2024 has been organised by Leonardo/Olats in partnership with Matrice, centre for social and technological innovation (https://www.matrice.io/), with the support of Rice Global Paris Center (https://global.rice.edu/pariscenter).

  • Planetary Public Stack Research Residencies

    On 8th March 2023, Space Lab at Waag organised a transdisciplinary workshop with experts from different disciplines and artists to map out the following three questions: how do technologies impact the way imagine environmental and planetary interests, concerns, and injustices? What are their recommendations for those involved in the production of these environmental imaginaries? What are the first needed concrete actions so that planetary imaginaries can become more inclusive also for the creative and civil sectors?

    Afterwards, three Planetary Public Stack workshops organised by Waag took place at Old Observatory Leiden from April to May, engaging with around 30 artists and researchers. The first workshop focused on Planetary Public Stack (PPS) training, which was an introduction to the conceptual and technological layers of the PPS. The second one was a co-creation workshop, in which the Space Lab team and Space4Good collaborated with the participants to identify Dutch, European, or global environmental or technological cases in need of raised public awareness and what stories need to be told about these cases. The third one was about case prototyping—the Space Lab team and Space4Good supported the artists and researchers in working on their proposals that would make use of Earth Observation technologies in addressing their matters of concern and matters of care regarding the Earth and the environing technologies that shape it. During the last workshop, the groups presented their project proposals and four cases were selected for further development.

    Below are the four cases and their outcomes at the end of the summer of 2023.

    Terroir that Travels

    One Planetary Public Stack residency project that is driven by a planetary matter of concern is Terroir that Travels by Centre for Genomic Gastronomy. This project asked how humans could make room for the plants and people that will migrate to and within Europe due to climate change. This project demonstrated how artists used Earth observation data for matter-of-concern: migrating plants and people caused by climate change. The artist collective looked into the EU crop map and The Land Use/Cover Area Frame Survey (LUCAS), and within the framework of Planetary Public Stack, they tried to map the changing terroirs of crops and zoom in on the case of the pink garlic in Lautrec, France, looking into how drought has influenced it. They explored the dynamics between the moving terroir of the crop and the economical-cultural-political border of the crop that refuses to move.

    The project used legal documents, environmental data and satellite imagery to identify potential sites for pre-enacting disrupted tastes of place and asks: “What does local food taste like when climate changes everything?”, “Who and what belongs where?” and. “what will thrive and what will be left behind?” The collective has begun a process of visiting and meeting with impacted food communities to develop an ongoing conversation between remote sensing data and on-the-ground lived experience.

    Planetary Public Stack research residency (within the More-than-Planet project) Title of Project: TERROIR THAT TRAVELS Artists: Genomic Gastronomy (Cathrine Kramer, Zack Denfeld, Emma Conley) Year: 2023 Additional Research and Farmer Interviews by Camille Pelissou. Image credit: Vilma Luostarinen Supported by Waag Futurelab | Space Lab’s Planetary Public Stack workshop series with Space4Good and Leiden Observatory.


    MushMap is another residency project that challenges the planetary mapping-environing technologies. It was a research project by a group of artists and researchers including Margherita Soldati, Florian Geerken, Wanda Von Bremen, Bálint Csanád Katona, and Chris Julien. They questioned what the surface, line, and borders in maps fail to capture, speculating on how to map biodiversity and its borders. As a planetary matter of care, they wondered how we can collaborate with other species to hold liveable spaces for more-than-human and human. They question the limitations of maps, the rigidity of the defining lines of maps, and why ecotones: the transitions of two biological communities such as the in-between space of a park and urban space are not represented in maps. What would maps look like from the point of view of living organisms such as fungi and underground root systems? Biodiversity, how are the species using the environment, who is making the map? Whose agencies are represented on the maps? What if it's from the perspective of living organisms like fungi? Does the political border in the middle of a desert make sense?

    Planetary Public Stack research residency (within the More-than-Planet project) Title of Project: MushMap Artists: Margherita Soldati, Florian Geerken, Wanda Von Bremen, Bálint Csanád, Katona, Chris Julien. Year: 2023 Videomaker & editor: Julia Sterre Schmitz Supported by Waag Futurelab | Space Lab’s Planetary Public Stack workshop series with Space4Good and Leiden Observatory.

    Dense Dark Vegetation

    Dense Dark Vegetation was the research residency by Lili Carr and Matthew Harvey, in which they asked: what is the most surveyed pixel in the Netherlands? As the artists put it, remote sensing is a tool that records and displays every place on the planet the same way, all the way to the colours being chosen by analysts to indicate their categorising impulse (red = bad; green = good, etc). This project invited ways of unflattening this difference by bringing to the fore and celebrating the fuzziness and contingencies and complexity of the pixel, as defined by its edge.

    What began as an investigation into the process of producing data at the level of satellite multispectral sensors, through to their post-processing into a geographic-visual language expressed in pixels, led the artists to an exploration of on-the-ground validation and calibration practices that inform (and are informed by) those models of the Earth. They found the Cabauw atmospheric research facility, located west of the town of Lopik in the province of Utrecht (NL), as a site where the groundwork of atmospheric science intersects with in-situ measurements that inform how remotely sensed data is processed. They proposed that this site makes up some of the most surveyed pixels in the Netherlands, the density of observations upon it and the volume of data produced from it informing expectations of how and what we interpret from afar.

    Planetary Public Stack research residency (within the More-than-Planet project) Title of Project: Dense Dark Vegetation Artist/Partner Name: Lili Carr & Matthew HarveyYear: 2023 Mentoring & Advising from: Miha Turšič (Waag | Space Lab) Zoénie Deng (Waag | Space Lab) Federico Franciamore (Space4Good) Sujata Majumdar (Space4Good) With special thanks to: Frans Snik (University of Leiden) Jessica Strickland (KNMI | Cabauw atmospheric research facility) Earth Observation images produced from ESA-European Space Agency remote sensing data. AERONET data from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Supported by Waag Futurelab | Space Lab’s Planetary Public Stack workshop series with Space4Good and Leiden Observatory.

    The Space Between

    One of the residency projects The Space Between by Michèle Boulogne, Alice Ladenburg, Zoénie Liwen Deng looks into the space between Earth Observation and ground observation. As the artists-researchers have written: "There is an urgent need to recognise the value of the knowledge that an individual or community has of their locality, to consider it alongside Earth Observation, and generate a more nuanced understanding of environmental concerns". Therefore, the group has brought three ground observers from different locations in conversation with Iain Woodhouse, a professor of applied Earth Observation at the University of Edinburg. This project explores these two questions: Can the knowledge and stories of individuals on the ground instigate a paradigmatic shift in technological and scientific environmental research? Can the knowledge of Earth Observation contribute to actions on the ground driven by matters of concern and matters of care?

    Three ground observers who are situated in three sites have joined this two-way dialogue: Hackney Tree Nursery and Garden Forest, London, the UK; Cassius Darroux, Dominican Minister of Agriculture at Kalinago Territory, Waitukubuli, Dominica (mediated by Martinique artist Michèle Boulogne who has conducted her research in Dominica); herbalist Lynn Shore at Tuinpark Rust & Vreugd, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The different perspectives from above and from the ground led to an interesting conversation about the site, but the group considered that the potential of the project could be further explored in these two interrelated directions: Can Earth Observation knowledge contribute to on-ground activism? Can a case be built by the Earth / Ground Observation dialogue that ultimately influences decision making impacting a matter of environmental concern?

    Planetary Public Stack research residency (within the More-than-Planet project) Title of Project: The Space Between Artists: Alice Ladenburg, Michèle Boulogne, Zoénie Liwen Deng Year: 2023Credits: Annie Chipchase (co-ordinator, Hackney Community Tree Nursery and Forest Garden, London) and Professor Iain Woodhouse (Personal Chair in Applied Earth Observation, University of Edinburgh), Cassius Darroux (Minister for Kalinago Affairs, Dominica), Lynn Shore (Urban Herbologist, Amsterdam) Supported by Waag Futurelab | Space Lab’s Planetary Public Stack workshop series with Space4Good and Leiden Observatory.


    Waag works with artists as researchers. Planetary Public Stack has learned from the research residencies in terms of how cultural, creative or critical practitioners can collaborate meaningfully with Earth Observation professionals, how they can use Earth Observation technologies and data to investigate their matters of concern and matters of care regarding the Earth, and how they open the black box of these technologies that not only make the visual representations of the environment but also make the environments. These research projects and outcomes are efforts to make Earth Observation technologies more public—more available and accessible for the public to use. They are integrated into the Planetary Public Stack mapping, which is a new kind of cartography, one that combines environmental, planetary, and technological concerns.

    n.b. This text has drawn on the research texts of these four groups.

  • Essay: Radical re-imagining: why we need planetary imagination (Bonnie van Vugt, 2023)

    Essay: Radical re-imagining: why we need planetary imagination (Bonnie van Vugt, 2023)

    Credits: Mushmap

    What do we mean when we talk about images of the planet, why are they so important and how does this relate to the climate and ecological crisis? Bonnie van Vugt explains in this essay on planetary imaginaries.

    Radical re-imagining: why we need planetary imagination

    What is the earth?

    Perhaps this seems like an obvious question. It is the world, the planet that you and I live on.

    But what planet do you actually live on? If you were to ask that question to Elon Musk, he might say, “the planet we're going to leave in the future, because I want to go to Mars.” You, on the other hand, may have a very different picture of Earth. The answer might be even different if you ask the same question to a farmer from Southern Europe, who has just endured the heat and drought of this summer. The answer to this question depends on whom you ask it to, and from what visual and philosophical culture that person comes from.

    The philosopher Bruno Latour stated that we often jokingly say that it seems "as if we do not live on the same planet" when people do not understand or agree with each other; however, we could also take this expression literally, because people's definition of the earth depends on so many different factors. And those "planetary imaginaries," the ways in which we represent and portray the planet, are important. They affect the way we interact with the earth, for example, when policy choices have to be made.

    We use terms such as ‘carbon footprint’ and data about how the earth is changing in our day-to-day conversations about current climate issues. Climate change is understood through planetary computation, which means that computers, connected by the Internet, work together to process vast amounts of data. This data helps us understand climate patterns and make future predictions about the environment.

    Visualizations of climate, such as the depiction of rising temperatures in Europe, make data that can often feel abstract into something more concrete; this concretization then allows us to utilize data to further political action. These visualizations of climate data give us a realistic and fact-based prediction of our future. Paradoxically, however, climate visualizations can also cause our imagination of the future of the earth to be limited.

    Philosopher Chiara Bottici explains that this is because, on the one hand, there is an overflow of images present in our lives through digital technology and social media, as well as on TV and in newspapers. On the other hand, it seems that there is a lack of imagination in politics because all these climate images get in the way of us imagining new, radically different futures of climate. Bottici is not the only one talking about this "crisis of imagination”. Authors like Amitav Ghosh call the climate crisis "a crisis of culture and therefore of imagination”. If we really are in a crisis of imagination, we need to ask ourselves what we can do about it. Right now it seems as if we are simply unable to imagine a different world. So, in addition to environmental concepts understood as a result of planetary computation, our planetary imaginaries are important in our perception of the planet.

    Essay: Radical re-imagining: why we need planetary imagination (Bonnie van Vugt, 2023)

    Sistema Cinco. Credits: vog.photo

    Planetary imagination

    The term ‘planetary imaginaries’ refers to the ways in which societies represent and understand their relationship to the planet. The concept "imaginary" is used in various disciplines, such as sociology, anthropology and philosophy, to denote the collective imagination of societies.

    In his work, the philosopher Charles Taylor speaks of "modern social imagery". Taylor is interested in "the way people 'imagine' their social environment." This social imagery is often not expressed in theoretical terms: rather it is transmitted through images, stories, pictures, legends, myths, metaphors and memes. "All too often we see that specific, theoretical knowledge is reserved for a small minority, whereas what is interesting about social imagery is that it is shared by large groups of people, if not all of society," says Taylor.

    Taylor is interested in imaginaries rather than knowledge, because this involves the cultural structure of a society as well as its norms and values. In our everyday language, we usually do not distinguish strictly between ‘the imaginary’ and ‘culture’. But social imaginaries are not a synonym for culture. It is rather the background or mental territory we need to construct concepts such as 'culture,' 'politics,' and 'art.' This nuance in the distinction between only becomes important if we want to understand how societies undergo major changes, such as the transition from hunter-gatherer society to agrarian society, or from a modern and industrial to an information society.

    In pre-modern society, for example, the dominant social imagery assumed a ‘divine order’ in which God and the king were the rulers over everyone. The worldview at this time was entirely dominated by religion. This began to change during the Enlightenment, when the world was no longer viewed from the perspective of "divine order," but from scientific rationalism. Today we may hardly be able to imagine what society would be like without scientific methods and rationalism, but the transition from pre-modern to modern required a radical reimagining of the whole society in which new concepts were created that completely transcended concepts such as ‘the divine order’.

    A transition to a sustainable future therefore requires a radical reimagning of the earth, because we need new images, stories and concepts that transcend the current ones. If the ecological crisis is simultaneously a crisis of imagination, then it is our imagery that we should pay attention to.

    Before we radically reimagine the entire world, let’s take a step back and look at how we imagine earth today: what is the image of the earth as we know it based on? The space expeditions of the 1960s brought us new ways of looking at Earth. Iconic photographs of the earth, such as Earthrise and The Blue Marble, depict an image of the planet as unified and simplified whole; in reality, the earth consists of many systems, often overlapping and conflicting one another. Consequently, it was images like these that caused the overall picture of the earth as a single system to become the dominant framework for thinking about the world.

    The conceptions we have of the earth within this context are based on a number of underlying concepts, value systems and technologies used to picture the plane. The overall image of earth as seen from space - distant and far away- suggests the interconnectedness of human beings: we are all together on that little blue marble. But this image of earth also involves a form of colonial domination, as if we have an objective perspective over the entire earth which would allow us to govern it completely. This is not true, of course: we can merely model the climate, but we cannot prevent an extreme heat wave or a storm. At the same time, this overall view of the earth can be helpful, especially when we are visualizing and addressing a problem like climate change.

    From Globe to Planetary

    The term ‘Planetary’ was coined as a concept by literary critic Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. She used the word in the 1990s as an alternative to the word globe, because the globe is associated with hierarchy and the universalism that underpinned today's global neoliberal capitalism. For example, the continent of Africa is often depicted much smaller than it relatively is on globes or maps. The use of the so-called Mercator projection depicts that Africa and Greenland are almost the same size on some globes or maps, when in reality Africa is 14 times larger. This has to do with making choices about elements like scale and orientation when representing a three-dimensional earth on a two-dimensional surface.

    But these choices can be influenced by power relations and prejudices. Thus, according to historian Thomas Smits, it is no coincidence that Europe, Russia and the United States appear relatively large on today's globe, while the continent of Africa and countries such as India, Mexico and Saudi Arabia are depicted as much smaller.

    With her statement "the globe is on our computers," Spivak suggested that what we call "the world" is maintained by our exchanges, representations and calculations of it. The globe, like the icons for the World Wide Web and the World Bank, is a place where no one lives. Therefore, Spivak suggested replacing the idea of the globe with the concept of ‘planetary’. Planetary is an attempt to conceptualize the earth in a different way, a way in which we can live and not exist only "on our computers”. What we mean by planetary imaginaries are the wide variety of visions of what the earth looks like and could look like. In that sense, the earth of Elon Musk, the farmer from Southern Europe, and your earth all coexist.

    Out of the Planetarium, in to the forests

    It is not enough, however, to only philosophize about what the future should or could look like. The planetary imaginary is more than a theory: it has an active component. Imaging is an active and performative process: it is not only about thinking in different ways, but also about being in different ways, explains Professor of Environmental Humanities Jennifer Gabrys. She explains planetary as a "praxis": a myriad of exercises and actions.

    To illustrate this, Gabrys cites philosopher Walter Benjamin in her essay ‘Becoming Planetary’. He argued that modern humans are becoming increasingly distant from heaven. In the poetic 1928 text ‘To the Planetarium’, he argues that our cosmic experience has changed now that we no longer experience the starry sky through collective rituals, as in ancient times, but view nature only through the tele- and microscope. With the advent of modern technology, our cosmic experience has changed.

    Whereas Benjamin's message was to ‘go to the planetarium’, Gabrys instead calls for us to ‘leave the planetarium’. She argues that we should move away from the overall view of the earth as one system, as it appears in the Earthrise picture. Instead of looking from the planetarium, we should go to the forest: here we can really see what the planet is. The forest is an example of a place where we can rethink our ways of being human and our technological and cultural actions in relation to the planet. In a place like this we could practice planetary thinking and action.

    Gabrys cites concrete examples of ways to explore the relationship between humans and the forest, such as "mapping and monitoring with remote sensing platforms, toolkits for forest guards and sensing technologies." These are examples of ways that could help us to better understand our relationship with the planet. Practicing ‘being planetary’ almost literally requires us to put our hands and feet in the earth. Bruno Latour articulates this as "going back to earth": we have to be able to land somewhere in order to let go of the so-called objective perspective.

    Essay: Radical re-imagining: why we need planetary imagination (Bonnie van Vugt, 2023)

    Still from 'Feral Atlas’

    How to recalibrate?

    From the techno-utopian and capitalist imagination of someone like Elon Musk, human beings are still the main rulers of the earth. This perspective is still dominant in our society’s thinking and acting. There is a need to rethink the human relationship to the planet for a sustainable future, because the way we imagine the earth itself and our relationship to it has a substantial impact on the environment.

    But imagining alternatives and bringing them to life turns out to be not so easy.

    According to philosophers Slavoj Žižek and Mark Fisher, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. A more hopeful note came from science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin during her speech at the National Book Awards: “We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.” Le Guin explains that transformation is only possible if we use our imagination and create alternative visions of the future, as she does in her science fiction.

    And there are many more ways, media and storylines we can create about a 'new' earth. An example of a project where new planetary imaginaries become visible is 'Feral Atlas', a digital atlas that tries to explain the mechanisms behind the Anthropocene. The project is an attempt to explain the era we live in now as a fragmented time, rather than a unified whole. On the Feral Atlas website, you can read different stories from the perspective of a protagonist of your choice. You can read about radioactive insects, plastic bags or underwater sounds. Through this mosaic of different stories, Feral Atlas tries to make you look at the world from a new, more-than-human perspective. In this way it hopes to inform people in a new manner, and to make them aware of the world around us.

    These new narratives about the planet are also being explored, researched and created in Waag’s Space Lab. The project "Mushmap", that came out of an artist workshop series organized by the lab, is re-thinking the way in which new (urban) borders are designed based on the biodiversity of the area, rather than on political, capitalist or other interests. The aim of the group of researchers and artists was to challenge the neocolonial perception of borders. Boundaries as depicted on a map are often determined on the basis of, for example, socio-economic considerations. A border is drawn because a road is being built or the land belongs to an owner. Maps would look very different if they were made from the perspective of trees or fungi, but these are often not included in the way the space is defined.

    Radical re-imagination

    There is not one right answer to the question of what the earth is, just as there is not one right answer to the question of what kind of planet you would like to live on. Elon Musk, the farmer from Southern Europe and you probably all have different answers to this question, which means that you all hold onto different planetary imaginaries.

    Planetary imaginaries are a bit like dark matter: it is invisible to us, but it has a tremendous impact. It holds everything together. Our imaginary is usually not expressed explicitly because it often cannot be put into words. It becomes visible only in our images: in art, culture and stories. Environmental concepts and data on global warming alone are not effective enough to make us sensitive to the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis. They do not motivate us enough to take action and in any case, as we have seen in recent years, they do not drastically affect policymaking. It is therefore necessary to recognize the need to develop new ways of engaging the public's imagination in the search for hopeful perspectives in times of crisis.

    To make all of society sensitive to climate issues, it is increasingly important that we mobilize not only science, but also the arts. We need new ideas, stories and concepts that go beyond what we know today. Initiatives such as Feral Atlas and Mushmap offer a radical reimagining of the earth: what if, for once, the human is not the protagonist, but the sea? What kind of perspective of the planet will that offer us? And how would maps look like if trees and fungi define the boundaries? To make a transition to a sustainable future, we need to completely rethink our view of the earth through the creation of new imaginaries. And for this we need radical re-imagination of the planet.

    Waag Futurelab is the leader of the More-than-Planet project, in which we are working with research institutes and artists on new images and imaginaries of the planet. This essay was originally published in Dutch on Waag's website, which you can read via the link below.

  • [video] More-Than-Planet @ ISEA 2023: Aquatic Devolutions. A bio-food dinner in contrapunctual speculations

  • [Videos] More-Than-Planet symposium: the Ocean-Space-Ocean edition at ISEA 2023 - Symbiosis

  • Unfolding the Algo-Rhythmic Ideation Assembly (Klara Debeljak, September 2023)

    From the 21st to the 25th of August, Projekt Atol hosted the Omsk Social Club and a program of workshops and lectures for the 18 participants who came together in Ljubljana to role-play, aiming to build and inhabit an alternative world in the context of a changing planetary ecology.

    Unfolding the Algo-Rhythmic Ideation Assembly (Klara Debeljak, September 2023)

    Participant holding ARIA, photo by Aleksandra Vajd

    Welcome to ARIA, a world that is layered on top and unfolds in parallel with our base reality, in an unspecified and alternative future. It is a possibility space and an ambiance, one that has existed before we arrived but that is adapted to our input and needs and has a malleable ideological and architectural potential. ARIA stands for Algo-Rhythmic Ideation Assembly. A more graspable description was developed during a one-week summer school program that took place in Ljubljana, during the heatwave in the last week of August, 2023 facilitated by Projekt Atol and developed by Tjaša Pogačar and Brandon Rosenbluth.

    Both descriptions stand correct. ARIA consisted of a closed-door workshop, and a publicly accessible program in the form of a two-day series of lectures and panels which took place in Cukrarna, a repurposed sugar factory and leading contemporary art space in Ljubljana. The public program was a theoretical dive into the possibility of world-building and anthropoforming, through the presentation of the artistic practices and research of the invited lecturers. The projects presented were diverse with an overarching theme of adjusting the anthropocentric narrative of artistic expression via speculative world-building and performative science fiction. Most of the artists present took cues and inspiration from the organizational logics of contemporary network technologies often in dialogue with plant species or natural environments, integrating alternative perspectives in their world crafting strategies.

    Unfolding the Algo-Rhythmic Ideation Assembly (Klara Debeljak, September 2023)

    Question by participant of ARIA during the public program in Cukrarna, photo by Zupanov

    Perhaps the most obvious example was the sole Slovenian representative Špela Petrič, a new media artist with a background in the natural sciences and a focus on organic matter. She spoke of her performative ethnographies and work with multi-species relations, introducing the audience to the term »multi-body perspective«. Her practice is based on making art that caters to either plant species or a speculative future population, re-appropriating scientific methodology and exiting the notion of “generative art” where “nothing is actually questioned”. Her works speak of the “desire for transformation, for continuing the act of play as transformation of the real – a desire for becoming with and becoming otherwise.

    Petričes methodology happened to be questioned by the Romanian performance artist and activist Florin Flueras, an ARIA mentor and essential speaker yet outlier in the lack of a digital dimension to his work. He wondered if Petričes projects, that use AI to play with plants, that integrate and cater to plant matter rather than human bodies, were not torturing the plants displayed and harvested for biometric data. Using software lifted from precision agriculture seems to subvert the very “multi-body perspective” Petrič was addressing, potentially distancing from the original notion of cultivating empathy and kinship for the multitude of non-human bodies but rather focusing on the part that re-contextualizes scientific methodologies. Despite the doubt cast over the effects on the subjects in focus, the “curiosity-driven AI” which pivots towards unusual plant dancing rather than quantitative surveillence-driven AI transcends semantic reframing.

    Lívia Nolasco-Rózsás, a curator of digitally mediated spatial exhibitions and researcher of the “virtual condition”, would certainly agree as she described the sticky algorithms that co-curate the adapting online exhibitions according to what art pieces would most please and intrigue the individual visitors. In this case, a heavily criticized personalization algorithm is applied differently, refreshing its possible uses. These projects show the reappropriation of algorithms and recontextualizing of bodies as “an ontological play, escaping a fixed set of rules.”

    Unfolding the Algo-Rhythmic Ideation Assembly (Klara Debeljak, September 2023)

    Bodies during the screening of Ningwasum, photo by Zupanov

    In the spirit of recontextualizing bodies, let’s return to Flueras and a concept and practice that was also developed with the purpose of freeing the body from cliches and automatisms enabling a different type of world-building and a floating set of rules. It is called the “dreaming body” or the “second body”, a hypothetical duplicate of the physical body, one that cultivates a different type of experiencing. Opening an alternative set of eyes and questioning the “hierarchy of realities” is not far from Špela and Lívias aim, regardless of medium. He spoke of a series of performances developed alongside the late Alina Popa titled Unsorcery, with the goal of unworlding and detaching from the preconceived notion of the art space, performance art, the base body, and the senses. According to Flueras though, whether the body you experience and affect reality through is your primary one or your “dream body”, it is still very much a human body.

    Flueras himself was criticized as a mentor for not transcending the anthropocentric view; in a closed-door discussion, he was unable to affirm that humans can ultimately perceive through a non-human cognitive model or umwelt, no matter how many projects dedicated to art for fish eyes, algae or bean stalks are developed. Which ideologically clashes with most of the participants who were interested in ARIA in the first place. But here we are, immediately faced with the classic question when trying to warp reality through bodily practices (the performance) and cognitive practices (the speculative theory and science fiction) – the question of complete immersion up to the point of transcendence and the bleed that inhibits this potentiality.

    Unfolding the Algo-Rhythmic Ideation Assembly (Klara Debeljak, September 2023)

    Pal, photo by Aleksandra Vajd

    Bleed is a term that refers to the spillover of traits, physicality, and values from the player or base body to the avatar character and vice versa. Bleed is usually defined and used very literally in the context of gameplay, but I think it can also be used more abstractly, as an obstacle to the possibility of moving beyond our human materiality and perceptions. Can we eliminate anthropocentric bleed in forming a society that integrates a variety of more-than-human consciousness, including technological, in the understanding of future cosmology?

    During the private program of ARIA the literal bleed proved more of an issue, as an abstract future zoomed out was easier to embody than the avatars of our choice. The private program and closed-door workshop were the flip side of the theoretical presentations, the actual world-building process breathing life into ARIA, anchored in live-action roleplaying, experiential immersion, and collaboration: LARPing. Why someone might want to be part of such an experience was difficult for me to explain to my friends and family; in our base reality, engaging in such performative exercises is considered absurd, unnecessary and perhaps even self-indulgent. In practice, the activity of Real Game Play should transcend the label of a hobby or experimental contemporary art practice insofar as it works towards solving the “crisis of imagination and ecology”. Or solving the crisis of imagination first, potentially followed by the crisis of ecology. Unwordling and world-building are thus necessary phases of the same process. The construction of ARIA was based in unlearning and unbinding the entrenched structures of our current cognitive perceptions of the reality in which this article is being written to clear space for something different.

    We – the 18 participants of the live-action role-play or Real Game Play – originated from diverse localities and backgrounds, the details of which were unknown to the characters that lived during ARIA. The participants came to ARIA in the role of our intuitively preconceived characters, ideally with objects, accessories, and memories that rooted our character’s existence. Our experience was facilitated by the Berlin-based Omsk Social Club collective, whose work is creating spaces where immersive and durational Real Game Play takes place, sometimes on a massive format. Real Game Play is a methodology developed by the Berlin-based Omsk Collective as a process of speculative worlding through collective immersion. Through this activity a portal is built into a fictional reality or a yet unlived future, with the purpose of inhabiting the world on the other side.

    Unfolding the Algo-Rhythmic Ideation Assembly (Klara Debeljak, September 2023)
    Unfolding the Algo-Rhythmic Ideation Assembly (Klara Debeljak, September 2023)

    Participants in play, ARIA, photo by Marijn Degenaar

    Unfolding the Algo-Rhythmic Ideation Assembly (Klara Debeljak, September 2023)

    Participants in play, ARIA, photo by Aleksandra Vajd

    The members of ARIA came up with rituals, traditions, a history and ways of relating to each other that existed beyond archetypes and learned habits, attempts our characters gently enabled and encouraged. Many of the rituals were physical, based on proximity, touch, and sonic expression, with some players propelled out of our regular comfort zones but quickly finding our way in this new land. ARIA members ranged from a blueberry trapped in a white woman trapped in an arab mans body called Myrrh or sometimes Blue Berrymore, the volcano Tunupa who got unjustly pinned to the earth and became a lake of her own unconsumed breast milk and tears, Vora who has a damaged memory alongside unrequited cannibalistic tendencies, and a creature made of soil, blood, sweat, rare-earth minerals, silicone, and light called simply M. There were hardly any humans in ARIA, a remarkable and unexpected fact, said one of the initiators of the program. But that is what I mean by saying the abstract future is much easier to embody and the problems arise when trying to eliminate the bleed with our base realities of the now. To deepen our experience and life as a member of ARIA, we tried to unlearn our base body expectations, projections, and senses by interacting as these other-than-human consciousnesses, wanting (and failing) to stay so deeply in character and immersed that the bleed is no more, to become one with our new mind feeling the body following in sync. Some of the artists who presented their practice in Cukrarna also led workshops during the closed-door program of ARIA, guiding us through different exercises to further the ARIA project.

    One of these mentors, an artist who fully incorporates bleed, is JP Raether and the project of aLifveForms, a more than decade-long ongoing performance consisting of three currently active alter identities or self-sisters weaving research, language, and “techno-alchemy”. The tribe of witches he lends his body to form a genealogical tree that can be tracked on a smooth website, an archival feat that is an integral part of the performance, complete with geolocations and photographs documenting the avatars appearances. The avatars appear in spaces like an Ikea in Germany, a mountain top in Scotland or a street in Johannesburg, in the act of “comuneering”; engineering a community while showing how in any common reality another reality is always present. The term “surrogate witch” resonates with the idea of the “dream body”. The appearance of the “surrogate witch”, in this case, Protectorama toxica, the SelfSister who graced ARIA, and her integration into our common perception of reality is a seamless experience. JP Raether can discuss Protectorama toxica, and Protectorama toxica can reffer to JP Reather and the other SelfSisters. There doesn’t seem to be much acting involved, channeling might be a better description, and there is obvious bleed on a literal as well as abstract level, which contrary to expectations makes the ongoing rotation of performances real and effective. Makeup, accessories and avatars as technologies of social transformation achieving a potent conceptual and optical daydream, or rather “daydreaming while accounting for materiality”. Base reality and this other speculative reality are equally present, enmeshing and even accentuating each other.

    Unfolding the Algo-Rhythmic Ideation Assembly (Klara Debeljak, September 2023)

    Protectorama toxica during the closed-door workshop in ARIA, photo by Marijn

    Unfolding the Algo-Rhythmic Ideation Assembly (Klara Debeljak, September 2023)

    Blue Berrymore and two ritual objects, photo by Aleksandra Vajd

    This loops us back to the most effective and pleasurable part of ARIA worlding, the action of the ritual. All the rituals we conceived brought us together and made ARIA seem real, and our community tangible. The ritual might be drinking from a special ARIA concoction, linking pinkies and melting into a mass of bodies, buzzing so close together we could sense our collective vibrations. Finally, the most potent ritual of reading our secret blessings, dedicated to ourselves, our character, our base body or someone we love. The blessing part was presented to us as a “psycho-social ritual” and initiated by our mentor and public program speaker, the video artist Subash Thebe Limbu. He presented his science-fiction documentary Ningwasum in Cukrarna, and then a part of it again to us privately. The film speaks of time travel, the interlacing of multiple temporalities, resistance and ritual. He mingled ancestral knowledge with future technologies, forming a weirdly relatable way of meshing the past, the future and the now, so unstable and distant and unbelievably bizarre. His talk and the casting of blessings we did, first writing them down and then reading them aloud to a fully silent and focused room of fellow ARIA members, illuminated how essential it is to conceive of new rituals, aimed to set the ground for a world we want to build — no matter how untidy and confounding this process may be.

    Unfolding the Algo-Rhythmic Ideation Assembly (Klara Debeljak, September 2023)

    A moment during Simon Speisers AR workshop, photo by Marijn Degenaar

  • Podcasts Global Periphery / Ocean-Space-Ocean

    Podcasts Global Periphery / Ocean-Space-Ocean

    Cards Graphic Design: Perrine Serre

    Two series of podcasts were recorded and produced, one during the Global Periphery symposium organised by Leonardo/Olats in September 2022 and one during the Ocean-Space-Ocean symposium organised by Makery/Art2M in May 2023, both in Paris.

    Each is based on a specific card deck. For each event, the participants were asked to answer one same question from the deck (what is attracting you to space / what attracts you to space) and then two others that they picked up blindly. Here their answers in those choral podcasts.

    Deck of Cards Proposition & Questions: Annick Bureaud
    Cards Graphic Design: Perrine Serre
    Podcasts Sound Design: Jean-Yves Leloup

  • The Aerocene community gathers at Hangar Y and reclaims the air (Ewen Chardronnet, July 2023)

    On Friday 14 July, the Hangar Y in Meudon near Paris opened its doors and its skies to the public in order to host Aerocene for a unique collaborative and artistic experience. In the programme for this festive, ecologically-minded day: solar sculpture performances, an Aerocene exhibition, a participatory historical timeline on the history of low-carbon flight, a mask-making workshop for children, a retro photocall and parade through the park, solar music, and a conversation to free the water and the air. Snapshot of the day’s events.

    Aerocene is an interdisciplinary community that brings together diverse artists, activists, geographers, philosophers, speculative scientists, balloonists, technologists, thinkers, and dreamers from around the world for collective performances towards eco-social justice. Its members seek to devise collaborative modes of ecological sensitivity increasing public awareness of global resource circulation, and reactivating a common imaginary towards an ethical collaboration with the environment and the atmosphere. Through a DITO (Do-It-Together) and open-source ethos, the community attempts to overcome abusive extractive practices, like oil, gas, and lithium mining among many others, that some humans have imposed on landscapes, ecosystems, communities, and other species.

    Launched in Paris in 2015 at the 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference, the Aerocene Foundation emphasizes the interconnectedness of environmental issues, social justice, and the well-being of all species. It opposes environmental racism, acknowledges the impacts of climate crises, and strives for climate justice through collective action and the empowerment of grassroots movements. Conceived in 2004, the idea of an international Aerocene community has taken shape over the years through a series of meetings, experiments and presentations. Aerocene is an atmosphere, in the air and on the ground, with an ever expanding practice for impractical and practical purposes. It is an environment and ethical collaboration, an interdisciplinary, undisciplined community, an ecosocial movement that brings together artists, activists, philosophers, balloonists, dreamers, birds and spiders, Aerocene is active in the airspace of 146 locations worldwide, 33 countries, 6 continents: The Aerocene community remains borderless.

    In France, Aerocene events have taken place at the Atelier Calder in Saché in 2010; with the philosopher Bruno Latour during the Anthropocene Monument project in Toulouse in 2012; in residence at the CNES around infra-red hot-air balloons; at the Grand Palais in 2015 for COP21; in 2018 at the Palais de Tokyo and La Villette for the Fab City Summit, to name just the biggest events. From this momentum, a French association was born to support the international effort. On July 14, with the support of the Mondes Nouveaux programme, the Aerocene community met at Hangar Y, a historic aerostation site.

    Hangar Y is a former airship hangar located in Meudon, south-west of Paris. Hangar Y was built for the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1878 (Galerie des Machines) by Henri de Dion. It was then completely dismantled and reassembled brick by brick on its current site in 1879. It was so named because the plot of land was marked with the letter Y on military plans. It was the first airship hangar, as well as one of the largest in the world, and one of the only ones still standing. Classified as a historic monument in 2000 and included on France’s tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, it has been restored and has become a cultural centre in 2023.

    The Aerocene community gathers at Hangar Y and reclaims the air (Ewen Chardronnet, July 2023)

    Aerosolar sculptures in front of the Hangar Y on July 14.

    The Aerocene community gathers at Hangar Y and reclaims the air (Ewen Chardronnet, July 2023)

    On the 25th of January 2020, 32 world records, recognised by Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) were set by Aerocene with Leticia Noemi Marques, flying with the message “Water and Life are Worth More than Lithium” written with the communities of Salinas Grandes, Jujuy, Argentina. This marks the most sustainable flight in human history. Fly with Aerocene Pacha, a project by Tomás Saraceno for an Aerocene era, was produced by the Aerocene Foundation and Studio Tomás Saraceno. Supported by Connect, BTS, curated by DaeHyung Lee. Courtesy of the Aerocene Foundation. Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno.

    Fly with Pacha, into the Aerocene

    The exhibition at the Atelier of the site was presenting, for the first time in France, the newly produced film Fly with Pacha, into the Aerocene, in the presence of Argentinian artist and activist Maximiliano Laina, co-director of the film with his comrade Tomás Saraceno. The film is co-produced by the Serpentine Gallery in London and currently in view in Saraceno’s exhibition.

    In January 2020, Aerocene Pacha, a fuel-free hot air balloon, safely lifted Argentinian Aerocene pilot, Leticia Noemi Marques, into the sky and landed back on Earth, using only the power of sun and air. This moment was organized by Aerocene Foundation in collaboration with representatives from the 33 Indigenous communities of the Salinas Grandes and Laguna de Guayatayoc basin, in Northern Argentina. Aerocene Pacha’s launch drew attention to the devastating impacts of lithium extraction on the region’s human and more-than-human eco- systems, while proposing environmental and ethical commitments to the planet and its inhabitants. A culmination of more than 20 years of experimental and collaborative work, Fly with Aerocene Pacha set 32 world records for the first human solar free flight, certified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

    The Aerocene community gathers at Hangar Y and reclaims the air (Ewen Chardronnet, July 2023)

    Screening of “Aerocene launches at White Sands”, courtesy Studio Tomas Saraceno (2015).

    The Aerocene community gathers at Hangar Y and reclaims the air (Ewen Chardronnet, July 2023)

    Screening of “Fly with Pacha, into the Aerocene”, courtesy Studio Tomas Saraceno (2023).

    With the participation of a varied group of artists, lawyers, writers, musicians and poets, Verónica Chávez, Maristella Svampa, Claudia Aboaf, Melisa Argento, Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, Alicia Chalabe, Bruno Fornillo, Inés Katzenstein, Pía Marchegiani, Graciela Speranza, Joaquín Ezcurra, Gastón Chillier, Lucas Quipildor and Enrique Viale came together in the birth of this new audiovisual piece that incorporates some of the most important discussions regarding how to ensure human and environmental rights in the region. As part of this encounter, the communities declared their Territory as a Subject of Rights, and elevated a public online petition asking for their voice to be heard, and their ancestral territories to be recognised by the Interamerican Court for Human Rights.

    The Aerocene community gathers at Hangar Y and reclaims the air (Ewen Chardronnet, July 2023)

    Aerocene journal, issue 2 (2023).

    Also on display was Aerocene II, the latest newspaper, recently published in May this year, which brings together a multitude of voices to discuss vital, socio-ecological questions. Through this publication, readers can learn more about the Aerocene community and read several critical essays which engage with the ongoing struggles of the Indigenous Communities of Salinas Grandes and Laguna de Guayatatoc, who bravely continue to fight their ancestral rights and unique ecologies against the advance of extractive industrial lithium mining.

    Aerocene supports implementing the communities’ right to prior, free, informed, and consensual consultation in their territories, utilizing legal processes, artistic activations, and declarations to raise awareness and advocate for the rights of these communities. Aerocene emphasizes the interconnectedness of environmental issues, social justice, and the well-being of all species. It opposes environmental racism, acknowledges the impacts of climate crises, and strives for climate justice through collective action and the empowerment of grassroots movements.

    Discover the paleo heroes

    Supported by Hangar Y, Makery and More-Than-Planet, the Atelier of the Hangar Y was also hosting a Paléo-aero exhibition by the Paleo-énergétique collective on the history of low-carbon aeronautics and aerospace.

    The Aerocene community gathers at Hangar Y and reclaims the air (Ewen Chardronnet, July 2023)
    The Aerocene community gathers at Hangar Y and reclaims the air (Ewen Chardronnet, July 2023)

    Paléo-aéro chronology.

    This participatory research programme dig into the stories of the forgotten pioneers of low-carbon aeronautics. The research has been translated into a website, a traveling exhibition and a timeline of events. To inspire the aeronautics of tomorrow, Paléo-aero is drawing on the collective intelligence of the public domain.

    The Aerocene community gathers at Hangar Y and reclaims the air (Ewen Chardronnet, July 2023)
    The Aerocene community gathers at Hangar Y and reclaims the air (Ewen Chardronnet, July 2023)

    Masks workshop.

    Children and grown-ups could cut out their masks, choose retro objects and stand in front of the mural designed by Atelier 21 as a tribute to Hangar Y, the pioneers of airships and aeronautics and the imagination of the great universal exhibitions of the 19th century.

    The Aerocene community gathers at Hangar Y and reclaims the air (Ewen Chardronnet, July 2023)
    The Aerocene community gathers at Hangar Y and reclaims the air (Ewen Chardronnet, July 2023)

    © Bruzklyn Labz

    Visitors could go home with their own 10x15cm photo taken by a retro-futuristic version of the 1900s-style wooden bellows camera. Bruzklyn Labz‘s (Thibaut Piel) approach is akin to that of a magician, an alchemist traveling around with his old cameras and an ancient technique of representation.

    The Aerocene community gathers at Hangar Y and reclaims the air (Ewen Chardronnet, July 2023)

    The Solar Sound System goes around the bassin.

    The Aerocene community gathers at Hangar Y and reclaims the air (Ewen Chardronnet, July 2023)

    Parade near the guinguette.

    A parade went through the park with some of the participants of the Paleo-Heroes workshop. Participants and spectators could enjoy the Parade to the sound of the SolarSoundSystem.

    The Aerocene community gathers at Hangar Y and reclaims the air (Ewen Chardronnet, July 2023)

    Sasha Engelmann.

    The Aerocene community gathers at Hangar Y and reclaims the air (Ewen Chardronnet, July 2023)

    Maximiliano Laina.

    The Aerocene community gathers at Hangar Y and reclaims the air (Ewen Chardronnet, July 2023)

    A receptive audience.

    After the parade a discussion was organised on the Solar Sound System, set in front of the main Hangar and with Sasha Engelmann, geographer, author of Sensing Art in the Atmosphere: Elemental Lures and Aerosolar Practices (Routledge, 2021); Maximiliano Laina, filmmaker, activist, author of Fly with Pacha, Into the Aerocene (2017 – in progress); Cédric Carles, designer, director of Atelier 21, co-author of Retrofutur (Buchet-Chastel, 2018); Ewen Chardronnet, editor-in-chief of Makery.info, author of Mojave Epiphanie (Inculte, 2016), co-editor of Space Without Rockets (UV Editions, 2022).

    Sasha Engelmann described her many years adventures with the Aerocene community while preparing her geography thesis. Sasha Engelmann also works with the Argentinian community on open source projects to measure air pollution in problematic areas of the country. She then presented her Open Weather project, a feminist experiment in imaging and imagining the Earth and its weather systems using DIY community tools. Co-led by Sophie Dyer and Sasha Engelmann, open-weather encompasses a series of how-to guides, critical frameworks and public workshops on the reception of satellite images using free or inexpensive amateur radio technologies. Sasha Engelmann warned that 2024 could be the first year to cross the 1.5°C global warming threshold, and that these projects were even more necessary.

    Ewen Chardronnet presented Space Without Rockets, a collective publication on the environmental impact of the rocket industry and alternative ways of getting into space. This publication, supported by the More Than Planet program, had already been launched at Hangar Y in September 2022. Maximiliano Laina talked about his film and elaborated on the current intense struggles against Lithium extraction in Jujuy, Argentina, an extraction that is draining the water of local communities. Cédric Carles concluded by presenting the Paleo-aero research and their Paleo-énergétique collective.

    To conclude, the Aerocene Foundation asks these questions: “In the context of the environmental crisis and the need for a just, eco-social, energy transition, can techno-diversity and biodiversity interact differently? Can systems of power move beyond the inequalities of capitalism and the reproduction of neocolonial extractivism of minerals and data? Can the privilege of digital memories over ancestral memories be overcome? How can we fly free from fossil fuels? The Aerocene community expresses the environmental and social importance of our relationship with the air and the living beings that share it, through open, participatory and artistic community initiatives that give meaning to this name calling for change: an era in which to live, breathe and move, free from fossil fuels.”

    (Photos: Malo Chardronnet)

  • More-Than-Planet symposium at ISEA 2023: On the same planet (Rob La Frenais, June 2023)

    The "Ocean-Space-Ocean" edition of the "More-Than-Planet" symposium series brought together artists and researchers to question the role of the oceans in planetary balances and the perspectives offered by marine biodiversity in the ecological transition. The event took place on 16-17 May 2023 at Délégation Wallonie Bruxelles (Paris) in the frame of ISEA 2023.

    An event by Makery / Art2M in partnership and with the support of : European Union, Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles / Paris – Délégation Wallonie-Bruxelles à Paris, Pro Helvetia, Centre Culturel Suisse - On Tour and l’Ambassade de Suisse en France.
    A partner event of ISEA2023, 28th International Symposium on Electronic Art.

    See the event page and programme

    More-Than-Planet symposium at ISEA 2023: On the same planet (Rob La Frenais, June 2023)

    “The world-transforming powers of human social life have always depended on the forging of relations with the inhuman potentialities of our home planet.” (Clark and Szerszynski – Planetary Social Thought)

    The More-Than-Planet symposium at ISEA 2023 in Paris at the Délégation générale Wallonie-Bruxelles in Paris, while a partner event to ISEA, provided almost a mirror-image version of that conference, with many delegates escaping the neon-lit subterranean Forum Des Images in Les Halles to the classic architecture of this embassy building to hear an impressive range of speakers on the way we view our changing planet.

    See the videos of the symposium and the diner performance

    More-Than-Planet symposium at ISEA 2023: On the same planet (Rob La Frenais, June 2023)

    At the delégation with Anne-Marie Maes and Rob La Frenais moderating. Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    The symposium focused on the planetary layers between the oceans and outer space and stated in the introduction ‘The ocean is not a solid, flat and extended surface where supertankers are moving around, burning oil to transport oil, food or manufactured goods’. However the TETI group’s Gabriel Gee kicked off the symposium with an image of exactly that, citing Christoph Swarze’s 2010 project ‘Supercargo’, where the young Austrian artist is apparently the only person on board a semi-automated container ship, heading for Shanghai, on an ‘oceanic motorway’. He is there, it seems, for insurance purposes only and as the ship heads through the Suez Canal and into the Red Sea, he is also immune to capture by pirates, as he would be the only hostage and nearly all the containers are empty. He slowly goes crazy, giving all the containers names, and eventually moves himself and his backpack into one, until he is carried off the ship semi-conscious by ship-workers in Shanghai. As a recent interview with him is called ‘Faking The Truth’ it may be stating the obvious that this could be fiction, but it is a very cleverly constructed one. It was a powerful image to start the symposium and recalls our confusion about exactly which planet we are on. As Gee says “the standardisation of containers in maritime transportation induced a distancing between ever-modernising globalised societies and the seas”.

    Gee also introduced the work of fellow Teti Group member David Jacques, whose work ‘Oil Is The Devil’s Excrement’ I was familiar with. The term comes from the founder of OPEC, the Venezuelan politician Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo who said: “Ten years from now, twenty years from now, you will see; oil will bring us ruin. Oil is the Devil’s excrement”. The artist mentioned: “The description of oil as Capitalism’s infernal obscenity ‘the Devil’s excrement’ also saw Alfonzo reaching back into the depths of time, invoking the Pre-Columbian peoples to whom the term was first attributed”.

    Gee cited a number of important works including the Singaporean artist/olympic sailor Charles Lim, whose influential series ‘Sea State‘ which was an an “in-depth inquiry by an artist that scrutinises both man-made systems, opening new perspectives on our everyday surroundings, from unseen landscapes and disappearing islands to the imaginary boundaries of a future landmass”. In the discussion afterwards we also mentioned Lim’s more recent work on the massive purchase and shifting of sands by the Singapore government to create new, valuable, land. He also referenced the fictive marine works of Ursula Biemann,‘Acoustic Ocean’, featuring a Sami biologist-diver (indigenous of northern Scandinavia) who deploys all sorts of hydrophones, parabolic mics and recording devices to sense the submarine space for acoustic andother biological forms of expression and ‘Subatlantic’ which juxtaposes the science of geology and climatology with human history. Such works are cited in his book ‘Maritime Poetics, which “engages with contemporary artistic practices and critical poetics that trace an alternate construction of the imaginaries and aspirations of our present societies at the crossroads of sea and land – taking into account complex pasts and interconnected histories, transnational flux, as well as material and immaterial borders”. Finally he mentioned the collaborative remote work, adapted because of the pandemic, ‘Ghost Ship’ which asked ‘what forms do spectres emerging from the past, take in our industrialised present?’

    Ghostship by TETI Group on Vimeo

    Maya Minder, the first of the ‘Cyanobacterians’ (as an audience member later coined them) showed us satellite pictures of green algae from space. She also pointed out the massive meat industries, the farming of cows, pigs and chickens were also a major factor in promoting climate change, as well as human activity. Instead, seaweed and other marine food sources and pointed to her ‘Micul Micul’ project, which collects knowledge from Japanese people. She mentioned that by eating seaweed over many centuries, scientists think a lateral gene transfer occurred within the Japanese microbiome, the so-called ‘Sushi effect. More radically she proposes a ‘Green Open Food Evolution – dietetics and endosymbiotic co-evolution to become Homo Photosyntheticus ‘. In other words she speculates that the eating of seaweed and other marine products could revolutionise the human body so that nourishment could enter through the skin with sunlight in the same way as plants. On hearing this, in the discussion, I recalled the cult of ‘Breatharianism‘ in which members literally tried to ‘live on air’. Another interesting aspect of her talk was the role of seaweed, or spirulina, as not only potential space food but as ‘nostalgic food’ sent to the ISS by JAXA, the Japanese Space Agency. Maya Minder and her team later presented ‘AQUATIC DEVOLUTIONS : A bio-food dinner in contrapuntal speculations’, with the TETI Group and sound composition by Matthieu Philippe de l‘Isle, at the Swiss embassy for the delegates in an ambitious and visually spectacular performative cooking performance. Perhaps we were all able to evolve a bit during the meal that evening.

    More-Than-Planet symposium at ISEA 2023: On the same planet (Rob La Frenais, June 2023)

    The performative dinner at the Swiss embassy with Maya Minder and collaborators with the Teti Group. Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    Author Sébastien Dutreuil, research director at CNRS Marseille, is one of the world’s leading authorities on the complex relationship between microbiologist Lyn Margulis and chemist James Lovelock in developing the Gaia hypothesis. He has traced the history of Gaia, from its initial rejection by evolutionary biologists such as Richard Dawkins and its adoption by the neo-pagan movement, to the more evolved thinking of Earth Systems Science, a combination of geology, chemistry, biology and physics that is now vital to the understanding of climate change here on earth, which is what the More-Than-Planet project seeks to understand in a multi-disciplinary, cultural level. Rejecting Buckminster Fuller’s famous dictum: “We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship…” Lovelock wrote “(Gaia) is an alternative to that pessimistic view which sees nature as a primitive force to be subdued and conquered. It is also an alternative to that equally depressing picture of our planet as a demented spaceship, forever travelling, driverless and purposeless, around an inner circle of the sun”. (From Dutreuil’s essay on Margulis and Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis: ‘A New Look at Life on Earth’.

    Dutreuil’s talk, and the discussion which followed focussed on Lovelock’s controversial views on everything from nuclear power to geo-engineering, the latter being relevant to the day’s topic in that itwas asked if the giant algae seen in today’s oceans could be activated to ingest carbon and thus regulate climate change. Lovelock in 2007 said “If we can’t heal the planet directly, we may be able to help the planet heal itself”, proposing a series of giant pipes in the ocean which would fertilise the algae. There have been many scientists warning about geo-engineering, one scientist himself publishing a dystopic novel about cloud-seeding, Professor Bill McGuire’s ‘Skyseed (Hacking The Earth Might Be The Last thing We Do)‘ and Lovelock himself later came out against this approach in 2009, writing in The Guardian “Geo-engineering implies that we have an ailing planet that needs a cure. But our ignorance of the Earth system is great; we know little more than an early 19th-century physician knew about the body. Geo-engineering is like trying to cure pneumonia by immersing the patient in a bath of icy water; the fever would be cured but not the disease.” Dutreuil gave us a useful historical context for the understanding of Earth’s systems, citing the rise of geophysics during the cold war and the subsequent development of meteorology.

    Continuing with algae, artist and photographer Alice Pallot described her ‘Algues Maudites‘, or ‘cursed algae’ project about the proliferation of green algae that has invaded the Brittany coast. In describing her project she says “This phenomenon is the result of a process called eutrophication, linked to an overabundance of organic matter, it leads to the asphyxiation of the environment. The multiplication of green algae is induced by the excessive presence of chemical nutrients (nitrate and phosphate) in coastal waters. This results from the discharge of sewage, agricultural runoff, industrial waste and massive releases of nitrogen fertilisers from livestock and intensive agriculture”. The photographic image she
    showed of an unnamed ecologist studying this algae was disturbing in that it showed an utter alienation between the scientist and the distressed environment. From the essay on her work by Constance Nyugen, her metaphors include “behind the green, there is black”, “Oil tides are the new green tides…”, the “sterile” beach. Alice Pallot gleans waste, seaweed recovered from Breton beaches in order to use them as photographic filters. We then view the scene through the prism of pollution”. She went on to collaborate with scientists at CNRS Toulouse to create an artificial aquarium to reproduce this phenomenon.

    More-Than-Planet symposium at ISEA 2023: On the same planet (Rob La Frenais, June 2023)

    Bee-keeper and artist Anne-Marie Maes. Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    I first came across the work of Anne-Marie Maes and her ‘Bee agency’ in the exhibition ‘Beehave‘ curated by Martina Millà at the The Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona in 2018 which was entirely about…bees. She has built an impressive roof-garden in the centre of Brussels, where she not only keeps bees but also encourages other colonies of insects and plant life. : “My rooftop garden is my laboratory. It is my training ground to develop my creativity. It is a space where thinking and manual work go hand in hand” At More-Than-Planet she presented her Theatrum Algaerium, a large scale durational performance on the beach at Ostend working with the tides, with the performers collecting samples of algae in petri dishes and handing them to passers by. “Early in the morning and late in the evening, between low and high tide, the Theatrum Algarium rises from the sea. Metal frames hold the fluttering weeds. Glass jars fill up with seawater, their round shapes are acting like a lens and focus on the morphology of the floating algae”.

    More-Than-Planet symposium at ISEA 2023: On the same planet (Rob La Frenais, June 2023)

    Biologist and artist Hideo Iwasaki. Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    Hideo Iwasaki is a research biologist who is responsible for the discovery of internal clock genes in cyanobacteria and in-vitro reconstitution of their circadian rhythms as well as the founder of the art-science bioaesthetics space Metaphorest. His talk was about the way these biological clocks in both humans and cyanobacteria incorporate the earth’s rotation cycles in both sleep patterns and also cell behaviour. An interesting example of his art-science work was the project ‘aPrayer’: a memorial service for micro-organisms and artificial cells and lives. He also described his ‘CyanoBonsai project creating three-dimensional bubble architecture with cyanobacteria. Iwasaki is a very good example of a top-level research scientist who has also throughly immersed himself in the artistic process.

    More-Than-Planet symposium at ISEA 2023: On the same planet (Rob La Frenais, June 2023)

    Artist-diver Anthea Oestreicher. Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    The first day was concluded by Anthea Oestreicher, who not only views the ocean as a sensorium, but dives into the phytoplankton directly, both with conventional diving equipment, but also using the free-diving breath techniques used by marine indigenous communities, what divers call apnoea diving, an ancient technique going back millennia, examples being the Ama pearl divers from Japan or the Haeneyo sponge divers from Korea. Using diving to develop a sensitive relationship with the breathing phytoplankton she intends to “help to better understand and appreciate the intricacies of the ocean ecosystem…and cultivate a deeper appreciation for their vital role in the ecosystem and the impact of human activities on their lives”.

    More-Than-Planet symposium at ISEA 2023: On the same planet (Rob La Frenais, June 2023)

    Marko Peljhan with moderator Pauline Briand. Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    More-Than-Planet partner Marko Peljhan opened the second section of the symposium by drawing our attention to what he called the landscape of the imagination and how it interacted with the social and biological complexities of planetary systems, in a time where more data was stored than any time in history. Pointing to current events (one of the biggest attacks with hypersonic missiles by Putin on Kiev had just taken place as we met), he reminded us that we are living in the most dangerous times ever since World War 2. Peljhan, whose work critiques highly complex systems of political, economic, and military power, had correctly predicted the future of hypersonic weapons in his work representing Slovenia in the 2019 Venice Biennale, ‘Here We Go Again…System 317..‘ In terms of our relations with our planet, he asked us to consider that what he called the ‘cosmic end-game’ should not be self-inflicted. It is perhaps no co-incidence in these difficult times that Peljhan is directly engaging with the forces of technological, political and military control as the co-founder and partner of the Slovenian drone company C-Astral (motto Fly Further – See Better).

    More-Than-Planet symposium at ISEA 2023: On the same planet (Rob La Frenais, June 2023)

    Panel discussion with Rob La Frenais. Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    Elena Cirkovic from the Max Planck Institute, Luxembourg, focussed on complex Earth-Outer Space Systems and formal structures of international law, comparing the Law of The Sea, the forthcoming UN High Seas Treaty and the Outer Space Treaty. The High Seas Treaty for the first time in history will provide legal rules for biodiversity and, as Cirkovic points out, the first reference to indigenous communities and their knowledge systems. But she points out that oceans are not outer space and vice versa. The Outer Space Treaty was about trying to secure the peaceful uses of outer space but was predicated on there being ‘nothing out there’. If life existed in any form, it would not be protected by the Outer Space Treaty. In fact, until the High Seas Treaty take effect all nations can fish or otherwise exploit international waters however they like as only 1% if international waters are protected in some way. This is in fact one similarity to the Outer Space Treaty, as while that treaty covers theoretically all of outer space, each space-faring nation is actually liable for any breaches. But, in many cases nations such as China have technically breached the treaty in deliberately creating orbital debris while testing space weapons, while the US has an active military presence in space. As Marko Peljhan pointed out in the discussion, ‘You can still blow up a satellite in spite of the Outer Space Treaty!” In response to my question to Circovic, being invoked retrospectively has never happened in the Treaty’s 55 year history, apart from a semi-joking issue of a fine to NASA from the Esperance Shire Council in Western Australia for ‘littering‘ the landscape after Skylab’s hard landing with pieces of debris (I checked). On the human factors issue, Circovic pointed out that space is still dangerous and while astronauts can die ‘space exploration can’t be done out of your kitchen’ accidents are the responsibility of the launching nation, or the nation the private company is based in.

    More-Than-Planet symposium at ISEA 2023: On the same planet (Rob La Frenais, June 2023)

    Xavier Fourt of Bureau D’Etudes. Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    Xavier Fourt from Bureau D’Etudes spoke of the Laboratory Planet, founded by them with Ewen Chardronnet, which they say the Earth became after the first nuclear explosion in 1945, following three centuries of the ‘planet as factory’. As the co-organiser Miha Turšič mentioned in the introduction, he referred to planetary layers, which he called ‘planetary stacking’. He referred to the physical layer, the bio layer, the psychic layer and the spiritual layer, with reference to Vladimir Vernadsky, who coined the term The Noosphere. The Laboratory Planet project, both a newspaper, a travelling exhibition and a producer of an Atlas of Agendas’ – a political, social and economic atlas: informing the public about socio-political power structures uses ‘paranoia as an exploratory method’ to expose the ‘industrialisation and massification of secrecy’ Referring to ‘Alien Capitalism’ Laboratory Planet plays with the idea that capitalism has extraterrestrial origin, but also the planet as laboratory in terms of Gaiia feedback loops, photosynthesis and geo-engineering. They refer back to Russian Cosmism in the initial dream of sending humans and non-humans away from the human cradle, but conclude that since the bomb was exploded “only the elect could access it, leaving the post-nuclear bio-proletariat locked in a devastated Earth”.

    More-Than-Planet symposium at ISEA 2023: On the same planet (Rob La Frenais, June 2023)

    John Palmesino from Territorial Agency. Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    John Palmesino of Territorial Agency complemented Gabriel Gee’s opening image of Supercargo by inviting us to listen to the earth for a few minutes, from the bottom of the ocean, with a sample of hydroacoustic audio data from an underwater nuclear detonation detection system, which listens out for breaches of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban treaty under which underwater testing is outlawed (according to Palmesino, the last such breach was three years ago). The sound was very moving, in that is contained acoustic data of ships, whales, drilling, seismic activity and many other human and non-human sounds. The underwater stations, of which there are 11 in the world, patiently listens out for any discrepancies in this cocktail of sounds, which would indicate an underwater nuclear test. Territorial Agency is collaborating with TBA21-Academy in the project ‘Oceans In Transformation‘ to record and utilise this kind of data set about the ocean. They say “The ocean is a sensorium: it records the transformations of the Earth in its complex dynamics, and it inscribes back into the forms of life its own cycles…The ocean is in a new phase of its non-linear history, shaped by the intensification of the impact of human activities on the Earth System—the Anthropocene”. Linking scientists, artists, policy-makers and conservationists they see the project as “an instigation for new cognitive modes of encountering the ocean and a line towards attainable solutions”. He spoke about ‘renegotiating the horizon’ of the oceans, given that rising sea levels are almost invisible and asked ‘how do we start sensing the ocean that is sensing us?”

    Nicolas Maigret from Disnovation reflected Maya Minder’s talk about Homo Syntheticus by reflecting that sunlight was the primary source of energy for most life on earth, and as Vaclav Smil points out in ‘How The World Really Works’ energy is the only universal currency. Maigret proposed the creation of a ‘Solar Share‘ an edible currency formed of a a “speculative photosynthesis-based exchange unit” which allows us to “fully appreciate human dependence on perpetual solar-activated energy flows on Earth”. It would be based on
    the average amount of sunlight needed for one square metre of plants on earth and could be exchanged for goods or services. It would be a ‘post-growth prototype’ and be shaped like a biscuit.

    More-Than-Planet symposium at ISEA 2023: On the same planet (Rob La Frenais, June 2023)

    Frederico Franciamore of Space4Good. credit: Quentin Chevrier

    The final presentation was a very extensive survey of the activities of Space4Good by remote-sensing expert Federico Franciamore. Space4Good uses remote-sensing data from many satellites orbiting the Earth. While its activities cover all kinds of environment sectors such as tracking deforestation events, monitoring biodiversity, detection of illegal fishing (particularly relevant to the the Oceans in Transformation project mentioned above), surely the most relevant area right now are their peace and justice activities. They say: “remote sensing enables non-invasive and safe monitoring of conflict zones, enabling Space4Good to generate insights into post-conflict damage assessments, unexploded ordnance (UXO) detection and classification, as well as clandestine grave identification”. I asked if there were any sensitive areas which they might be blocked from getting data. He replied that as they did not actually operate the satellites themselves, buying in the data, the main issue might be commercially sensitive data that would conflict with the interests of the satellite companies themselves. He also pointed out some unusual utilisations of remote sensing of the Earth, such as working out which rural communities had the most toilets and where were the best places to release tigers into the wild (obviously not near inhabited communities). For More-Than-Planet Space4Good will conduct four workshops where where artists and scientists can share knowledge and experience in the context of climate change and earth observation.

    More-Than-Planet symposium at ISEA 2023: On the same planet (Rob La Frenais, June 2023)

    The food! From the performative dinner. Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    In the final discussion the phantom of the recently-late Bruno Latour was very much in evidence, with terms like ‘retro-active causuality’ being very much in evidence. Many of the comments in the discussion here were resonant with those I heard in embryo in the last decade at the Anthropocene Monument symposium performance in Toulouse organised by Latour and Bronislaw Szerszynski. However this Latourism was challenged by Marko Peljhan, citing the writings of Zoe Todd on ‘The Great Latour’s’ failure to recognise “Indigenous thinkers for their millennia of engagement with sentient environments, with cosmologies that enmesh people into complex relationships between themselves and all relations” in his arguments concerning Gaia. The new feudalism and the dissolution of democracy by “Elon Musk and his small cabal of characters” was also discussed. As one delegate pointed out, Latour, in a dialogue with Hans Joachim Schellnhuber at HKW in Berlin, said that in France “throwing sharp objects into the social fabric is (to solve the climate issue) is called a guillotine”. Despite the above reservations, Latour is significant to the main debate with his description of a ‘critical zone‘ – the thin layer where we can live in, versus a more porous vision and the links between the biosphere and the orbit, the moon, the sun’s energy, that also influences life, and as Ewen Chardronnet mentioned, as well as the impact of humans on outer space with orbital debris. There was also a further discussion about Vernaksky’s noosphere and comparison’s with Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis. Perhaps the final word could come from the Ukrainian-Russian curator Daria Parkhomenko, founder and director of Moscow’s Laboratoria Art and Science Foundation, which has been forced to close since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, (on their website the single word tragedy) speaking from the floor. “How do we take this beyond”?

  • Card games (Annick Bureaud, May 2023)

    Card games (Annick Bureaud, May 2023)

    Two cards decks were produced by Leonardo/Olats, each with the same objectives: as the basis for the recording of a chorus series of podcasts; b) as a tool for animation of events and a basis for discussion and participation of audiences. The first deck is related to the Global Periphery event (questions Annick Bureaud, graphic design Perrine Serres, 2022). The second deck is related to the overall project More-than-Planet (questions Annick Bureaud, graphic design Daniaux-Pigot, 2023).

    Card games (Annick Bureaud, May 2023)

    Graphic design Perrine Serres, 2022

    Deck of cards n°1
    Global Periphery

    A deck is composed of 8 illustrated cards, each one with a question. One is the so-called "joker question", the 7 others are specific to the deck.

    The questions of the Global Periphery deck are:

    What attracts you to Space (joker);
    Space: Escape or Destination;
    Space: Research or Resource;
    Is Space a Public Place;
    What is Space Nation;
    What could a Space Culture Be;
    Is Dreaming of Space a Luxury;
    What is your most Iconic Image of Space.

    Card games (Annick Bureaud, May 2023)

    Graphic design Daniaux-Pigot, 2023

    Deck of cards n°2

    A deck is composed of 8 illustrated cards, each one with a question. One is the so-called "joker
    question", the 7 others are specific to the deck. The questions of the More-than-Planet deck are:

    What is attracting you to Space (joker);
    Space technologies: solution or problem;
    Alone or with other species;
    Planetary protection or Human intervention;
    How do you portrait a planet;
    Star Gazing or Earth Observation;
    Celestial Bodies: Inquiries or Settelments;
    What is your favorite planet.

    The card decks are free to use and re-print, as long as the makers are properly credited.

  • Aerocene: Bring The Sun Down (Rob La Frenais, April 2023)

    Aerocene: Bring The Sun Down (Rob La Frenais, April 2023)

    Aerocene flight near Maintenon, 6 april 2023. Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    Funded by, among others, Mondes Nouveaux, the French government artistic pandemic recovery fund, a variety of artists, pilots, journalists, film crews, observers and drone operators gathered in a field for the latest in a series of ongoing experiments to fly with the sun. Firstly it must be said, that although the new 7000 m3 Aerocene balloon inflated to its full majestic glory, despite a community of people running with the gondola and sculpture nearly three kilometres in wet fields, it didn’t manage to take off with its pilot in the gondola for more than a few metres. Arriving at a road, we were met by two police cars and four gendarmes who politely told us to let the Aerocene down as we were creating a hazard. Soaking wet and exhausted, we complied. After examining the huge banner saying – “Fly free from fossil fuels” – “Stop War-s! Peace Now!”, and “Water and Life are worth more than Lithium”, written with the Communities of Salinas Grandes and Laguna de Guayatayoc, Jujuy, Argentina, no doubt to check if this was not some elaborate protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s retirement age changes being forced through, (for our international readers, France is currently convulsed by strikes and sometimes violent demonstrations agains this), the flics took selfies of each other with the deflating Aerocene. As Samuel Beckett said (quoted by Tomás Saraceno in the project’s WhatsApp feed) “Fail, fail again, fail better”. Despite the lack of take-off we were all exhilarated by the effort of running in the field with a vast balloon, trying to follow the wind, begging the sun to grow stronger. As Tomás Saraceno said – “we try, we try, to bring the sun down”.

    Aerocene: Bring The Sun Down (Rob La Frenais, April 2023)
    Aerocene: Bring The Sun Down (Rob La Frenais, April 2023)

    Unrolling the Aerocene balloon and banners at dawn – Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    This attempt produced some insights into both the philosophical and technical aspects of Aerocene. As member of the Aerocene community Makery was able to attend the pre-flight briefing by Tomás Saraceno and his team the night before. First of all, the gondola of the new aerosolar balloon had to include a burner for safety reasons. Indeed, in the event of a sudden drop in altitude in the wrong place, the balloon had to be able to urgently get back into the air to preserve the pilot’s life. This burner was sealed for the purposes of the record attempt, with possibilty to break the seal at any moment. Tomás Saraceno also expressed some of the aspects of serendipity that was needed to approach a solar flight and discussed the need for community: “I like this community aspect that many people are helping. There is not only one pilot, but it’s kind of many people – experts and non experts and people who do something for the first time in their life, and they’re part of the process somehow, which comes automatically with experience”. Speaking on behalf of the Aerocene community, a member of the Aerocene community expanded on this “The Aerocene community is an open-source collective, a movement for an era free from borders and fossil fuels!…Tomás is a founding member of Aerocene, but the community is a living, ever-evolving collective coming together for climate justice with nodes all over the world.”

    Aerocene: Bring The Sun Down (Rob La Frenais, April 2023)

    Inflating the Aerocene – Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    I myself had helped organise the first record-breaking Aerocene flight in White Sands Desert in 2015, New Mexico, where our initial plan to fly in the famous National Monument was thwarted by the tragic death there a week previously by exposure of two French parents and a child who got lost in the fierce sun (the child survived). Miraculously, we managed to persuade a US Army General, Timothy Coffin, latterly of the US Space Force, to let us launch in the military sector of White Sands, the cold-war unexploded missile-strewn White Sands Missile Base, with two weeks to go before the launch. The first record-breaking flight launched successfully at dawn.

    Aerocene: Bring The Sun Down (Rob La Frenais, April 2023)

    Lea Zeberli inspects the interior – Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    The synthesis of artistic desire, uncertainty and technical calculations is never better reflected in the circumstances surrounding this flight. Despite a very successful test flight in Switzerland with the same equipment – a balloon more than twice the size of the 3000 m3 balloon used on the previous flights and this time with a gondola, so a completely different challenge – we were in fact late in a rather favourable winter season for ballooning, due to the recent sudden changes in the weather in France (the prolonged drought of January-February had been followed by a rainy March and that morning in April I had to scrape the ice off my car windscreen). Weeks before there had been intense discussion on a dedicated WhatsApp group on weather predictions for the coming month, including a comparison of different weather forecasting models. One could have gained a useful education in meteorology through simply following this discussion. But finally, with 24 hours notice, we had a call to ‘go’ on Wednesday April 5 and people scrambled to get to the site by any means necessary, from Berlin, New York, Switzerland and remote parts of France as well as nearby Paris. It was a genuine coming-together of the Aerocene community and we were excited. Even the mainstream French TV channels were there. There was a significant buzz as the crowds gathered by a disused railway track as the sculpture was unrolled and inflated with an electric fan. None of us regretted being there. The whole event was covered live on Instagram with a miked-up Tomás and team member Christian Flemm’s animated blow-by-blow livestream while running frantically though the fields alongside the vast, fast-moving Aerocene.

    Aerocene: Bring The Sun Down (Rob La Frenais, April 2023)
    Aerocene: Bring The Sun Down (Rob La Frenais, April 2023)

    Close to taking flight – Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    This event highlighted the uncertainty lurking behind solar balloon flights as opposed to usual hot-air balloons, which release carbon into the atmosphere. We were able to talk to the two professional balloon pilots about the future for fossil-fuel flight within their industry, the balloon pilot for today’s flight, Lea Zeberli of Ballon Zeberli and the local balloon pilot and expert, Corentin Ragot of Air Pegasus Montgolfiere. Could fossil-fuel free flight be a pointer for their burgeoning leisure ballooning industry? What could be learned from this not-quite flight? Lea told us how it first started: “I was approached through the balloon manufacturer if I would be interested in a secret project. And I said, sure, tell me more about it then. I have got the first video from Leticia Marques (the pilot) in Argentina, from Aerocene Pacha, and I’ve been told that it’s going to be about about a solar balloon, a much bigger balloon. And they told me that it needs an experienced pilot who has the permit to fly such a big balloon and that the requirement is or the reach from Tomás is to have a woman. And I agreed…I went to Barcelona to see the balloon, to get an experience of what it is about, what is the difference with a hot air balloon, which I knew how to fly. I mean, it’s of course, the question what it is about, I mean, if you consider, is it going to exchange a normal hot air balloon to fly a passenger? My answer is no, just because the condition are not high enough to really fly. If you concede and say, you know what, we do kind of a little combination, and we say we would do a low fuel consumption. The main problem is the take-off”.

    Aerocene: Bring The Sun Down (Rob La Frenais, April 2023)

    Holding the gondola – Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    I pointed out that It’s the same problem about getting into space, because there are people who can say you can get into space with balloons, but the last moment where you have to get into orbit, and there’s no way balloon technology can do that (find out more in Space Without Rockets). So that’s interesting. In a way, this is more like a symbolic action. Did this mean that you think that a hybrid solution would be more sustainable? “Yes, I did not think of a hybrid solution before , actually. I really liked the idea of the sun. Of course, it’s to consider when the solar balloon actually is acting, it’s during the daytime when you also have thermals. This is one of the reason why it’s difficult. So for me, I think this is a balloon to do long distance flying in more hilly regions than here in France where we are right now.”

    What did Corentin Ragot think about the absence of the use of the burner in a solar flight? – I have to say I hoped for a lot of years to find a solution to remove the burner and the propane from the equation of the balloon. Yes, I heard about this balloon quite a few years ago, but I have never seen it in real-time. And I see the video from Argentina flying with it and yes, I have to say it’s amazing. And if we can make it work perfectly, it will be just amazing. I would be more and more than happy to fly only with this kind of balloon and put my own balloon in the garbage.”

    Aerocene: Bring The Sun Down (Rob La Frenais, April 2023)

    Pause for re-grouping – Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    In a later conversation Lea Zeberli talked about her first experience of flying the ‘secret project’, the new larger sculpture, the EC-096 Aerocene Aerosolar vehicle which held 7000m3 of air, successfully in Lake Constance in Switzerland, which we tried to fly on Wednesday. In a test flight in Barcelona she realised that a solar balloon had massive lifting power, which was greater than a hot air balloon, once aloft.

    Apart from private tests, there have only been three ‘successful’ human flights of the Aerocene. The first was organised by the Rubin Center of the University of El Paso (Texas) at White Sands (New Mexico) in 2015, which was a captive flight and the film of which was screened at the Grand Palais during the COP21 in Paris (as already mentioned above). The second, also a captive flight but this time with a short test of free flight, was organised in the Fontainebleau forest during Tomás Saraceno’s exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in 2018. Finally the third set a series of world records with an Aerocene Pacha free flight in Salinas Grandes, Argentina, in January 2020. The experience in Maintenon showed there is still a long path towards the dream of reliable fossil fuel-free flying.

    Finally it is important to comment on the Aerocene community’s stance on the decarbonisation of the air and behavioural change. On the announcement web page, they say: “Today, humanity’s dream of flight has become a nightmare. There are 1.3 million people in the air at any given time, releasing over 1 billion tons of CO2 annually, as the interests of capitalist systems continue to obscure an imaginary that shouldn’t be claimed by any bomb, missile, flag or billionaire. In addition to technological change, the decarbonisation of the air and a just energy transition also demand significant behavioural change. This is truly not rocket science!” As a no-fly curator since 2019, I’m pleased to see that the Aerocene community demands behavioural change on flying. However, because of the close window (48 hours) and the rapidly changing weather conditions, a number of people, including the workers at Studio Tomás Saraceno and other people involved in the project flew in Europe, from Berlin to Paris for example, to be at the launch. I, too, arrived at the last minute to this remote location from my village in France in a petrol-driven car. In organising the pioneer flight in 2015, I also flew a number of people into White Sands from around the world, so I know this is a process of change for which we must all take responsibility. After all, Greta Thunberg managed to get to Chile from Europe, with a catamaran across the Atlantic and a bus, for COP24 without flying.

    We asked an Aerocene community member to comment on the use of flights by participants on this flight: “the Aerocene Community fosters collaboration towards a future free from fossil fuels! In the process of confronting the climate crisis as a team, as part of a collective, we work as best we can to recognise our spheres of response-ability and act accordingly, towards a true alignment with the living, breathing Earth. We do sometimes have to fly for projects we truly believe in, projects which are in their own way inching us to alternative futures, but, given current energy regimes and travel infrastructures, the path is not always linear. The aim is to continue to learn from each experience, so we can do better in the following opportunity, however, without wanting to stigmatise individual actions.”

    Aerocene: Bring The Sun Down (Rob La Frenais, April 2023)

    Ordered to deflate by the police – Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    Aerocene: Bring The Sun Down (Rob La Frenais, April 2023)

    Lea Zeberli and Toms Saraceno – Credit: Quentin Chevrier

    It is also worth noting that the slogan “Water and Life are worth more than Lithium” carried on the balloon and expressed by the Communities of Salinas Grandes in Argentina resonated interestingly with current French environmental struggles. The attempted Aerocene flight took place only a few days after the riots in Sainte Soline (that were life-threatening for some participants), where environmental activists demanded a halt to the construction of “mega-bassines” and the preservation of water as a common good in the face of the planned extraction of groundwater for agro-industrial purposes, and at a time when France is planning to open a major lithium mine in the Allier department and is exploring other possible veins throughout the country.

    On a final note, it is clear that this is a long and creative process of learning how to fly with the sun. Aerocene community aerial data expert Joaquin Ezcurra sums it up: “we all do what we can to push forward for the impossible with solidarity with others. We are doing something really different here. Very few people have flown or have tried to fly a balloon – or sculpture – like the Aerocene community is doing. Also, our way of flying is very novel, hence it’s expected to find some difficulties along the way”. The Aerocene community will gather again on June 24-25 for a festival at the historic airship hangar, Hangar Y in Meudon, Paris (details to be announced soon). And as Ezcurra says: “It’s a chapter that adds to a longer and broader history, which hopefully, is only beginning!”

    Aerocene: Bring The Sun Down (Rob La Frenais, April 2023)

    Next time! Credit: Quentin Chevrier

  • Spheres podcast (ep.1): What kind of dreams could we have for the future? (Photo North - Northern Photo Center, March 2023)

    What kind of dreams could we have for the future?

    In the Spheres podcast hosted by Photo North – Northern Photo Center, we talk about planetary images of climate change and consider possible futures. What kind of artistic and scientific approaches do we have to the past and the present? What dreams could we have about possible futures in times of climate change?

    The first episode of the Spheres podcast of the More-than-Planet project presents the background of the project managed by Photo North – the Northern Photo Center, which started in 2022, and the relationship and dialogue between art and science. What kind of concrete questions, solutions and prospects for possible futures can research stations and artist residency cooperation bring to a world struggling in the midst of environmental change through locality? Through the podcast, listeners can get to know the activities of the Oulanka Research Station and the Callio Lab of the Pyhäsalmi mine with Riku Paavola, the director of the Oulanka research station, and Jari Joutsenvaara, the project director of the Callio Lab, and hear media artist and film director Minna Långström's perspectives and background stories from her work The Other Side of Mars (2019).

    The Spheres podcast of the More-than-Planet project is a three-part series on climate change and alternative futures. It is a door to a changing world, which uses the means of art and science to deal with global climate change through local phenomena and activities and the overall picture of the planet. The More-than-Planet project develops people's environmental literacy, the ability to image and understand the environment and change through a comprehensive overall picture of the planet in the years 2022–2025.

    The project has been granted Creative Europe funding with program ID No 101056238, as well as national matching funds from the City of Oulu and the Board of Education.

    Listen to the episode (in Finnish) here: https://open.spotify.com/show/... or below.


    • Moderator, Antti Tenetz, More-than-Planet project manager, Photo North – Northern Photo Center
    • Minna Långström, media artist, filmmaker
    • Riku Paavola, specialist researcher, station manager, Oulanga research station
    • Jari Joutsenvaara, Callio Lab research coordinator, Kerttu Saalasti Institute, University of Oulu

    More information: http://www.photonorth.fi/fi/pr...

  • Synthetic Becoming: Life in the Molecular Commons (Vit Bohal, March 2023)

    Synthetic Becoming: Life in the Molecular Commons (Vit Bohal, March 2023)

    Rian Ciela Hammond, Root Picker, 2021, video still

    What does life re-assembled by hormonally active substances look and feel like? Who are we becoming with them? What are their effects on our bodies, how do they impact sexual development, and how can we live well with them despite their potential for harm?

    These are some of the questions explored in the essay collection Synthetic Becoming, published in 2022 in collaboration between the Berlin-based K. Verlag and the Faculty of Arts at the Brno Technical University. The book explores the new molecular commons, in which myriad vectors connect our bodies with human industry, the consumer habits of other people and the material state of our lived environment.

    Synthetic Becoming: Life in the Molecular Commons (Vit Bohal, March 2023)

    Hawthorn leaves—Crataegus, 2022, photo by Elena Souvannavong

    Bringing together theorists, makers and artists (including Eva Hayward, Malin Ah-King, Annabel Guérédrat and Rian Ciela Hammond), the monograph questions the boundaries of our bodies and the environments within which they are enmeshed. The collection brings together 14 diverse textual and graphic projects; despite their diversity in genre and style, the featured works manage to weave together a coherent tapestry addressing the molecular politics we are currently negotiating around the planet. The pieces range from a personal diary of phytotherapeutic herb picking (Mariana Rios Sandoval and Rosæ Canine Collective) to a “Partial Inventory” of endocrine disruptors and their pharmacologically ambivalent effects (Franziska Klaas and Susanne Bauer). The contributions tease out some of the implications of a recent moment of realisation that we have indeed been living in a new normal – the effect of anthropogenic toxins on bodies has been known at least since the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a book that helped to phase out DDT, one of the most toxic industrially used endocrine disruptors.

    Synthetic Becoming: Life in the Molecular Commons (Vit Bohal, March 2023)
    Synthetic Becoming: Life in the Molecular Commons (Vit Bohal, March 2023)

    Adham Faramawy, Skin Flick, 2019, video stills

    The collection’s editor Lenka Veselá writes in the introduction that “the guiding idea of this book is that we are synthetic”, where synthesis means “place[d] together with”. I contend here that the synthetics of “synthetic becoming” can be read in three ways: on the one hand, it is a classically philosophical operation that resolves the conflict between thesis and antithesis. But with the discovery of the deep time of planetarity and the realisation of the magnitude our present choices bear on the deep future, this particular metaphysical reading of “synthetic” can be considered least relevant for what is discussed in the collection, except perhaps as a solutionist call to arms. The second understanding of “synthetic” is more relevant here: it is the instrumental meaning of “artificial” or “fabricated”, i.e. joining and modifying in order to synthesise new forms, as we, for example, see indexed in the budding field of synthetic biology.

    Synthetic Becoming: Life in the Molecular Commons (Vit Bohal, March 2023)
    Synthetic Becoming: Life in the Molecular Commons (Vit Bohal, March 2023)

    Ker Wallwork & Juliet Jacques, Approach/Withdraw, 2016, film stills

    Works such as this one (we can also mention the Prague-based project Multilogues on the Now) have shown us that our biology has always been synthetic to a degree, and opened a space for political engagement structured beyond the binary of pure vs. profane. The third meaning of “synthetic” is that of being-with: learning to live well together with all the contingencies loosened and solidified by modernity and its industrial modes of production, distribution and consumption. On a political level, the entire collection attempts, in this sense, to frame an antidote to what the xenofeminists have called “the infection of purity” and question the conditions and pragmatics of contemporary bio-chemical existence.

    Synthetic Becoming: Life in the Molecular Commons (Vit Bohal, March 2023)
    Synthetic Becoming: Life in the Molecular Commons (Vit Bohal, March 2023)

    Annabel Guérédrat & Henri Tauliaut, Taking Care of Each Other, 2021, performance, Martinique. Photos Yann Mathieu Larcher.

    The featured pieces address the synthetic as a fundamentally social construct, insofar as they assert that we are all “placed together with” each other – we become together, locked in complex, non-trivial relations constructed within a cascading temporality, always negotiating between present lived conditions and a contingent future. In this way, Synthetic Becoming speaks from the position of a particular planetary politics that takes stock of a new, molecular commonality, and radically engages with the multiplicity of voices that speak through post-colonial, ecological and social critique.

    Synthetic Becoming: Life in the Molecular Commons (Vit Bohal, March 2023)

    Marne Lucas, Attaque, 2022, infrared camera still

    The book itself is constructed as a particular material artefact printed on recycled paper in order to mitigate its carbon footprint; but such paper is at the same time “weaker, less reliable, and potentially toxic” due to the higher retention of toxins and bacteria in recycled paper generally. Its reading thus constitutes a material “commitment” on the part of the reader – “a material choice to acknowledge dependencies, vulnerabilities, and sensitivities of contemporary life extending beyond our individual selves.” For better or for worse, within this new molecular commons we never stand alone.

    Synthetic Becoming: Life in the Molecular Commons (Vit Bohal, March 2023)
    Synthetic Becoming: Life in the Molecular Commons (Vit Bohal, March 2023)

    OBOT (Maddalena Fragnito & Zoe Romano), On the Fall of Joy, 2022, illustrations

    Synthetic Becoming (K. Verlag and FFA BUT, 2022), featuring Malin Ah-King & Eva Hayward, Aliens in Green (Léonore Bonaccini, Ewen Chardronnet, Xavier Fourt, Špela Petrič, Mary Tsang), Adham Faramawy, Feminist Technoscience Governance Collaboratory (Jacquelyne Luce, Vrisha Ahmad, April Albrecht, Sarah Hyde, Amanda Kearney, Lainie LaRonde, Alek Meyer, Cassie Pawlikowski, Karisa Poedjirahardjo, Emily Pollack, Anjali Rao-Herel, Ella Sevier), Annabel Guérédrat, Rian Ciela Hammond & Krystal Tsosie, Franziska Klaas & Susanne Bauer, Marne Lucas, Mary Maggic, OBOT (Maddalena Fragnito & Zoe Romano), Byron Rich, Mariana Rios Sandoval & Rosæ Canine Collective (Bethsabée Elharar-Lemberg, Maïwenn Le Roux, Elena Souvannavong), Lenka Veselá and Ker Wallwork. Design by Day Shift Office (Bára Růžičková & Terezie Štindlová).

    Synthetic Becoming: Life in the Molecular Commons (Vit Bohal, March 2023)

    Mary Maggic, Estroworld, digital illustration for Estroworld Now, 2021

    Synthetic Becoming: Life in the Molecular Commons (Vit Bohal, March 2023)
    Synthetic Becoming: Life in the Molecular Commons (Vit Bohal, March 2023)

    Aliens in Green, Xenopolitics #1, 26 January 2019, Antre Peaux, Human Tech Days festival, Bourges, France

  • Leonardo/Olats at the ITACCUS meeting during the IAC Spring Meeting

    Leonardo/Olats at the ITACCUS meeting during the IAC Spring Meeting

    Each year in Spring, the members of the International Programme Committee of the International Astronautical Congress gather in Paris in the so-called "Spring Meeting". It is time for all the Technical Committees of the International Astronautical Federation to meet. Annick Bureaud from Leonardo/Olats took part in the ITACCUS (International Technical Committee for the Cultural Utilization of Space) meeting and presented the Portraits planétaires LASER event that some of the members of the Committee attended.

  • More-than-Planet: Finding New Planetary Imaginaries and Actions (Zoénie Deng, February 2023)

    More-than-Planet: Finding New Planetary Imaginaries and Actions (Zoénie Deng, February 2023)

    When above. The metropolitan system around the English Channel, on prospective sea level rise. Data developed by Territorial Agency.

    Introduction by Tonya Sudiono

    The essay More-than-Planet: Finding New Planetary Imaginaries and Actions by Zoénie Deng (concept developer Waag Futurelab) provides an intriguing insight of the artistic work-in-progress within the framework of the project More-than-Planet. How can we think beyond the framework of infinite economic growth? Why should we take matters into our own hands and care for the planet? What can we learn from the ocean, the planet’s biggest sensorium? And if toxic air is a monument to slavery, how do we take it down?

    You and I don’t seem to live on the same planet

    The planetary imaginary is a term coined by philosopher Bruno Latour in the essay We Don’t Seem to Live on the Same Planet (2018). He describes seven fictional planets such as planet ‘Anthropocene’, ‘Exit’ and ‘Security’. A planetary imaginary is a concept, a fiction but at the same time a very powerful way of thinking that influences what we strive for in life.

    To give an example: ‘Modernity’ is the idea that everyone should develop according to the American way of life. It implies that the American way of life is the best thing worth striving for, and that everyone who is not ‘there’ yet, is not modern.

    Why do planetary imaginaries matter?

    A first consequence of the existing imaginaries is that they polarise our societies. Planet ‘Modernity’ for example, allows the believer to look down on non-American ways of life. Whereas people on planet ‘Exit’ would like to leave our planet together with Elon Musk (without caring for the ones without the means to leave), others will try to reach ‘Security’ by defending their territory against anyone who seems to form a threat. The current planetary imaginaries thus create a division between the 'haves' and 'have-nots'.

    A second consequence is that none of the seven planets are tenable when we consider our planet’s ecological boundaries. We would need several planet earths to cater to all the needs, if everyone was to reach planet ‘Modernity’.

    This is why we need a new planetary imaginary, a new way of communal thinking that allows us to care for the planet and all its entities, including the more-than-human ones. Only if we care, we can start to create a planetary imaginary that strives for equality, and social and ecological justice. From this urgency, More-than-Planet is developed.

  • Paleo-aero: an alternative low-carbon history of aerospace and aeronautics (Atelier 21, February 2023)

    Paleo-aero: an alternative low-carbon history of aerospace and aeronautics (Atelier 21, February 2023)

    Illustration from La Découverte australe par un homme volant, ou Le Dédale français, Nicolas-Edmé Restif de la Bretonne, 1781

    The history of energy is far from continuous: it is full of fantastic innovations, precursor devices that were judged to be irrelevant or unreliable in their time, failing to find interested users or lacking a technical device to build a truly efficient system. But today, these forgotten inventions have the means to respond favourably and no doubt unexpectedly to the challenges of a rapidly changing world.

    COP21 returned our attention to the urgency of reviving among the general public this overlooked technical heritage based on renewable energies. We launched the Paléo-énergétique participatory and citizen research program in order to collectively excavate social and technical inventions, patents, forgotten or abandoned practices that have fallen into the public domain – to collect potentially catalysing social visions and weak signals from the past.

    This rewritten history of energy, which shines a light on the invisible margins, calls for a global vision that leads to other fertile phases of analysis and creation. As a collective commons, this intellectual material can be redistributed to and revived by creative and collaborative open source communities – where former inventions would no longer fall into the public domain, but instead rise to and emerge from it.

    Since we first launched Paléo-énergétique, a number of projects for low-carbon flights and attempts to reach outer space have caught our attention, as our research has introduced us to various alternative flying machines. Meeting Tomás Saraceno and participating in his Aerocene initiative further motivated us to pursue our investigations into aeronautics and aerospace.

    We have therefore decided to embark on a dedicated research project to collect all these counterfactual histories from the forgotten fringes of aviation and aerospace. Our current goal is to build a circular economy of knowledge about low-carbon flights by identifying and inventorying techniques and technologies that can be updated and adapted for today’s society.

    This rich heritage and counter-history will be documented on a dedicated
    website – http://paleo-aero.org – as a collaborative research tool that makes available to the general public the collective intelligence of experts and non-experts alike.

    We all invite all Paleo-investigators to join us on this journey through time, to discover surprising stories, revolutionary machines, and inventors who just might have changed the course of history.

    1784: First (involuntary) solar flight of a hot-air balloon

    This flight took place on May 30, 1784, as described in the book Voyages Aériens by James Glaisher, Camille Flammarion, Wilfrid De Fonvielle and Gaston Tissandier, published in 1870. A hot-air balloon (104,000 square feet / 3,565 m3) was resting at Dijon Academy, inflated in order to let dry a recently applied layer of varnish. The guards had measured the temperature inside the balloon at 39°C, while outside, the thermometer only showed 23°C in the sun. A few days earlier, they had observed a temperature of 60°C inside the balloon under the same circumstances, without measuring the temperature outside. On May 30, around 12:30 p.m., a strong wind swept up the balloon, carrying along with it the net, ropes and equatorial ring – a total of 122 kilograms. The package even lifted off his feet a 34 kilograms boy who tried to pull it down. The balloon continued on its way, drifting along the first alleyway behind the Porte Bourbon, astonishing people who came running to get a closer look. The balloon fell more than 250 steps away, unfortunately ripped along its length by two trees.

    Paleo-aero: an alternative low-carbon history of aerospace and aeronautics (Atelier 21, February 2023)

    Illustration from Voyages aériens / by J. Glaisher, C. Flammarion, W. de Fonvielle, G. Tissandier; woodcuts and chromo-lithographs drawn from sketches by Albert Tissandier by Eugène Cicéri and Adrien Marie; Librairie L. Hachette et Cie, 1870

    1881: The Tissandier brothers’s aerostat

    By the 19th century, electric power had spread to all sectors of society: medicine, leisure and transportation. Contemporary citizens had become so fascinated with electricity that in 1881, the International Exposition of Electricity was held in Paris. Under the roof of the Palais de l’Industrie floated the aerostat of renowned French aeronauts Gaston and Albert Tissandier. It measured 3.5 meters long, was filled with pure hydrogen, had a lifting capacity of 2 kilograms, and was powered by electricity. Gustave Trouvé, brilliant engineer, the “French Tesla”, developed a small electric motor, made partly of aluminum and weighing only 220 grams. A rudder oriented the little aerostat to the left or right. At a good altitude, on a calm day, it could reach a speed of up to 25 km/h! Throughout the exposition, demonstrations were held twice a week before the astonished eyes of visitors.

    Buoyed by this success, Gaston Tissandier registered a patent for the conquest of air: “New application of electricity to aerial navigation […] “Electric motors offer the following advantages: 1. Their weight is stable, so the balloon remains balanced in the air […] 2. There is no need for fire, which is a certain hazard on a hydrogen-filled aerostat […] 3. The electric motor has the advantage of being easy to start up and shut down, and the mechanics are relatively simple to operate.”

    In order to develop the prototype into a dirigible capable of transporting passengers, the Tissandier brothers founded a company in 1881. They spent two years with collaborators building a new dirigible: 28 metres long, with a diameter of 9.2 metres, a volume of 1060 cubic meters, and a 2.8-meter propeller that could spin at 60-80 rotations per minute.

    On October 8, 1883, the balloon was inflated in seven hours. At 3:20 p.m., the dirigible rose on a light east-south-east wind with the two brothers on board. At an altitude of 500 meters, it flew at a speed of 1 km/h. Taking off from the aerostatic workshops of Auteuil, the dirigible reached a cruising speed of 10 km/h as it flew over the Bois de Boulogne. However, once the wind had risen, the airship with its rough rudder could no longer advance. The motor was stopped for a moment. After 20 minutes of flight, over a distance of almost 3.5 km, the dirigible landed without incident in a large field near Croissy-sur-Seine. The Tissandier brothers would continue to improve their electric dirigible in the following years.

    Paleo-aero: an alternative low-carbon history of aerospace and aeronautics (Atelier 21, February 2023)

    Illustration of the Tissandier brothers’ airship with accumulator batteries, engraving extracted from Gaston Bonnefont’s book, Le Règne de l’électricité, published in 1895

    1884: “La France” dirigible at Hangar Y, the world’s first return flight

    Charles Renard, a French military engineer and inventor, aeronaut and
    aviation pioneer, became director of the Central Establishment of
    Military Ballooning at Chalais-Meudon in 1877. It was the first
    laboratory for aeronautical testing in the world. In 1879, he
    established Hangar Y for building and storing balloons and dirigibles.
    On August 9, 1884 at 4 p.m., one year after the Tissandier brothers flew
    their airship over Boulogne, Renard’s own dirigible “La France” rose
    into the air over Meudon. The cigar-shaped airship measured 52.4 meters
    long, with a diameter of 8.4 metres and a volume of 1,864 cubic metres,
    all propelled by an electric 8-horsepower engine. On board were Charles
    Renard and the infantry captain Arthur Krebs. They launched the
    dirigible on an easterly wind, first against the wind and then across
    it. In these conditions, the airship traveled 7.6 kilometres in 23
    minutes, before landing softly in a relatively small forested space. It
    was the first time that an aerial device had returned to its point of
    departure. And it was this flight that showed the general public that
    the airways were wide open for navigation.

    April 22, 1959: First stratospheric flight in France by Audouin Dollfus with a bunch of 105 balloons

    On April 22, 1959, the French astronomer and aeronaut Audoin Dollfus reached an altitude of 14,000 meters in a pressurized capsule. The objective of this flight was to detect the presence of water on the Moon and Mars. This unprecedented method for attaining this altitude was validated by Professor Auguste Piccard, who, along with Paul Kipfer, had been the first in 1931 to have penetrated the stratosphere at a height of 15,781 metres, but in an exploit that was more athletic than scientific.

    Tied to 105 balloons spread over a distance of 500 meters, the capsule that contained Dollfus for the duration of the flight consisted of an aluminium sphere measuring less than 180 centimetres in diameter and 1.2 millimetres thick, covered by 20 millimetres of polystyrene. It had 7 windows and a 460-centimetre opening. Its total weight, including all scientific appendages, was 800 kg. The polystyrene balloons were inflated simultaneously with bottles of hydrogen. Tests for dilating the envelopes had previously been carried out inside Hangar Y in Meudon. Using a large number of probe balloons was also financially viable, as the meteorology industry was already an important consumer.

    After 2.5 hours of flight, Dollfus reached 14,000 metres and made his observations using a Cassegrain telescope with a 500 mm fixed lens on top of the capsule. To come down, the balloons were gradually released from the cable using explosives controlled by radio waves. After 5 hours of flight, Dollfus landed at night in a prairie in Nivernais. If this flight on April 22, 1959 enabled the observation of the Moon and Mars, it also led to the first precise measurements of water content in the stratosphere.

    Paleo-aero: an alternative low-carbon history of aerospace and aeronautics (Atelier 21, February 2023)

    The stratospheric device of Audouin Dollfus before the last rope is cut for lift-off

    1977: CNES infrared hot-air balloon

    Since 1977, the CNES (Centre National d’Études Spatiales) has been developing the MIR (Montgolfière Infrarouge) hot-air balloon for long-duration scientific flights in the stratosphere. By day, the MIR balloon flies at an altitude of 28 kilometres to 32 kilometres, and by night, between 18 kilometres and 22 kilometres depending on the quantity of infrared rays rising in the flight zone and the temperature of the air at the flight level. The balloons can then carry a payload of about 50 kilograms for several weeks. The trajectory follows the circulation of stratospheric winds, enough to circle the Earth more than once...

    MIR is an “open” hot-air balloon with a helium complement at takeoff. Thanks to their aluminum covering, these 35,000 to 45,000-cubicmeter balloons are heated exclusively by the sun during the day or by terrestrial infrared rays at night. This phenomenon follows the Earth, which is heated in its mass during the day by solar radiation, and gives back this heat at night in the form of invisible infrared radiation (this infrared radiation from the ground or clouds provides only a very weak thrust, estimated at 4 gr/m3). This “passive” heating system allows the air inside the balloon to remain hotter than the surrounding air, which gives a certain lift to this flying object.

    Assembled by Zodiac International, the MIR balloon is composed of two distinct hemispheres made of materials that offer an adequate compromise between their thermo-optical properties and the balance of their mass: The upper part is made of aluminized Mylar of 12 to 16 µm forming a cavity to absorb rising infrared radiation and preventing any re-emission towards the sky. The lower part is made of 15 µm linear polyethylene, a material that is transparent for infrared rays and resistant when the balloon is exposed to a cold environment (temperature below -80°C) during its flight.

    The average lifespan of a hot-air balloon is 15 to 20 days. On December 8, 1988, an infrared hot-air balloon took off from Pretoria in South Africa. It successfully circled the Earth twice in 50 days. More recently in 2001, a hot-air balloon circled the Earth three times in 70 days. Infrared hot-air balloons are powerful instruments for scientific measurements, and their low-carbon flights could inspire many other applications in aeronautics or outer space.

    Paleo-aero: an alternative low-carbon history of aerospace and aeronautics (Atelier 21, February 2023)

    MIR – Upper part of a Mongolfière Infrarouge, CNES

    2014: SolarStratos, towards the first 100% solar-powered stratospheric flight

    Initiated in 2014 by the Swiss pilot Raphaël Domjan, the SolarStratos project aims to achieve a technological exploit: to reach the stratosphere at an altitude of 25,000 metres with an airplane powered exclusively by photovoltaic solar energy. The goal of this adventure is to prove that, using today’s technology, it’s possible for vehicles to perform beyond the potential of fossil fuels. Electric and solar-powered vehicles are among the greatest challenges of the 21st century, and the SolarStratos project paves the way for tomorrow’s mobility.

    SolarStratos is a two-seat airplane designed by Calin Gologan from the company PC-Aero GmbH. It is powered by two electric 19 kW motors that rotate a three-blade propeller with a 1.75-meter diameter. The wings are covered with 22 m2 of the latest-generation solar cells, whose conversion rate is between 22 and 24%. They charge lithiumion batteries with a total capacity of 14 kWh, extendable to 21 kWh.

    But for the record-setting flight, the plane will leave the hangar with uncharged batteries, which will be recharged by solar energy before departure and upon landing. At the end of the flight, they should have stored at least as much power as at take-off in order to attest that the entire flight was effectively 100% powered by solar energy. A new propeller will also be installed, optimised for the ascent into the stratosphere.

    The stratospheric flight is scheduled for 2023. In the meantime, SolarStratos aims to beat the current record for a fully electric and solar flight set by Solar Impulse in 2014 at an altitude of 9,400 meters. According to the website SolarStratos.com, the mission in the stratosphere should last approximately 6 hours, including a 3-hour ascent toward space (“15 minutes with our head in the stars”, then 3 hours to come back down to Earth). Both the aircraft and the pilot Raphaël Domjan will be subject to extreme temperatures, in the region of -70°C.

    The last example cited in this article for this handbook and the launch of Paleo-Aero shows that many adventurers are innovating, pushing the limits of the impossible, even risking their own lives, to advance science and the energy transition toward low-carbon flights.

    Paleo-aero: an alternative low-carbon history of aerospace and aeronautics (Atelier 21, February 2023)

    Solarstratos, 3D image

  • Floating into space and other ways of getting there (Rob La Frenais, January 2023)

    “The main civilian space programs rely on flying in a system where ascent means strapping yourself atop a giant flying gas tank with powerful engines tweaked to the brink of exploding … (and) plummeting back toward to Earth inside a man-made meteor”. Airship To Orbit, John Powell.

    Scientists have written about the effects on the atmosphere of the exponentially increasing number of rockets being launched into space and the way this will add to the climate disaster that we know is already here. Technologies for travelling around the planet, for heating and cooling buildings and industrial plants and for maintaining a modern lifestyle are just not keeping up with accelerating climate change. I have written in the past about the fact that airship technology could sustainably replace the use of aircraft, but hardly any governments or corporations are pursuing this path. The clean skies during the worst of the pandemic (so far) have again been filled with passengers rushing around the planet again, despite the lack of staff to operate the airlines. Apart from Google’s Sergey Brin’s LTA, who is launching the 180 metre electric powered Pathfinder 3 next year, the main airship companies are generally promoting novelty tourist flights. Even the Pathfinder 3 will be years away from being able to replace airliners, being mainly aimed at disaster relief. LTA’s director Alan Weston: “We believe lighter than air technology has the capacity to speed up humanitarian aid by reaching remote locations with little infrastructure, and to lower carbon emissions for air and cargo transportation.” (cited in ‘Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s airship start-up grows rapidly’. Financial Times June 3 2022, Tim Bradshaw.)

    Such disasters and the need for this relief will become more common not only because of global warming but also alarming sea level rises, some saying 5 metres by the end of the century. Bill McGuire, who writes in the handbook 'Space Without Rockets' speaks of just one glacier in the East Antarctic in his ‘Cool Earth’ newsletter: “Satellite data has revealed that a cluster of colossal glaciers, which together make up about an eighth of the coastline of East Antarctica, are starting to melt as the surrounding ocean gets progressively warmer. The loss of the giant (It’s about the size of Spain!) Totten Glacier – just one of the cluster – would, on its own, raise global sea levels by more than three metres. The data show that it and its companions are now moving increasingly rapidly seawards and thinning as they do so, meaning that even the worst predictions for rising sea levels may be optimistic”.

    Floating into space and other ways of getting there (Rob La Frenais, January 2023)

    Pathfinder One, LTA Research

    Skyhooks to StarTrams

    The irony is that the only way we can see this data is from satellites in orbit and that takes rocket launches, seventy two so far at the time of writing in 2022 alone. What are the options for getting into space in the near future without rockets? There is a whole menagerie of ideas in the history of spaceflight of unrealised non-rocket options. The list is long, starting with Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s Space Tower, ranging through Skyhooks (orbiting tethers), Space Fountains, Orbital Rings, Launch Loops, electromagnetic mass drivers, railguns, coil guns, and most intriguing of all, StarTram. While these may all be suitable studies for long-term projects like the 100 Year Starship they all still belong in the realm of science fiction and are not being commercially developed or adopted by space agencies, as far as I know. As we all know, we don’t have that long. The only new launch technologies receiving serious investment are stand-alone and hybrid balloon launches, space elevators and more recently, SpinLaunch, which has developed from some of the technologies listed above.

    Floating into space and other ways of getting there (Rob La Frenais, January 2023)

    Illustration of StarTram Project based on existing maglev technology and basic physics

    Getting into space with balloons

    Let’s start with the most realistic option – balloon technology. The main problem with getting into space with balloons is that they burst when they get very high and without some kind of technology that has yet to be invented they cannot reach the escape velocity needed to get into orbit. According to NASA a spacecraft leaving the surface of Earth, for example, needs to be going about 11 kilometres (7 miles) per second, or over 40,000 kilometers per hour (25,000 miles per hour), to enter orbit. The closest to getting there is John Powell of JP Aerospace, who has the idea of a three stage programme to get into orbit, with an Orbital Ascender which departs a Dark Sky Station using some kind of hybrid technology.

    Floating into space and other ways of getting there (Rob La Frenais, January 2023)

    First stage airship for Dark Sky Station project, JP Aerospace

    I asked John Powell, founder and director of JP Aerospace, how long would it take them get the Orbital Ascender into orbit without actually burning up rocket fuel? “Our system is never to use traditional rocket fuel. It will be driven be a hybrid plasma engine. We’ve done about 150 test firings on a small scale of the engine. We’re just now starting to scale the engines up.” So they are on the way. They continue at the stratospheric launch stage with an intensive campaign this year. “This last flight was a bit of a celebration. It was our 200th flight. It was a balloon flight to 102,900 feet. We were tested new valves and telemetry equipment for the airship. We also carried a bunch of student payloads and a few commercial ones to pay for it all.” I asked him if there had been any sign that the established space agencies and big commercial space companies are accepting your viewpoint, now we are even closer to a climate disaster and there is more science being done about black carbon in the atmosphere? “Sadly NASA and the rest of the space industry have doubled down on the traditional rocket. Most of the alternative programs have vanished. All the new space companies appear to want to be little Elons…”

    MIR Solar Balloons

    Floating into space and other ways of getting there (Rob La Frenais, January 2023)

    Stratospheric pressurized balloon, CNES

    Space agencies have also experimented with balloon flights into near space. The CNES MIR balloon programme, developed in the 70’s and continuing to this day combines long duration flights with height. From the scientific ballooning magazine Stratocat: “ At the beginning of the 70s the French atmospheric research program needed to find a new platform that was versatile and adaptable to any climatic circum- stance (the Arctic, the tropics, etc.), cheap, simple operation and above all that allowed the realisation of long-duration flights. Thus, after several years of study, scientists of the aeronautical service of CNRS came to the conclusion that the original concept of the Montgolfier brothers (with hot air instead of gas) could be used to develop a new type of ball that would allow not only long-duration stratospheric flights, but also could make ‘vertical excursions’ that is to change height with just opening and closing a valve and without carrying ballast.The first two models of the aerostat, were manufactured using dark polyethylene to facilitate the absorption of solar heat… However, none of them survived the critical night stage. To solve this, they devised an ingenious solution: counteract the cooling of the aerostat by the absorption of infrared radiation from the Earth.The new prototype that was christened MIR (acronym of Montgolfière InfraRouge), instead of being manufactured of dark material, was composed of two well-differentiated hemispheres: the bottom of transparent polyethy- lene, which facilitated the passage of telluric radiation, and the upper part made of aluminised mylar forming a cavity that allowed the retention of heat absorbed by the balloon, raising the internal temperature and giving it greater lift”. MIR flights continued to take place in Canada, Australia and the Kiruna spaceport in Northern Sweden.

    However, the MIR programme was discontinued in 2009 while a new flight technology was being developed, the New Operational System for the Control of Aerostats (NOSYCA), starting flights in 2014 which are “especially adapted to Zero Pressure Balloons and allow flying up to 40 km high with a scientific gondola up to 1 ton”. This is high, to give a context the Kármán line – where space officially starts – is 100 KM. Launches and campaigns now take place mainly at the Timmins Stratospheric Launch Site operated by the Canadian Space Agency, which is itself a major hub for scientific stratospheric launches and which has a special agreement with CNES to share facilities.

    Rockoons and other stratospheric options

    Rockoon (rocket plus balloon) technology has a relatively long history in the chronology of spaceflight, the first being fired from the Aerobee firing cruise of the U.S.S. Norton Sound in March 1949. “The basic idea was to lift a small sounding rocket high above the dense atmosphere with a large balloon in the Skyhook class. Once enough altitude is attained, the rocket is fired by radio signal straight up through the balloon.” Then in the ‘50s James Van Allen discovered radiation in what was to become the Van Allen Belt, using a rockoon. “James A. Van Allen first put rockoons to practical use when he and his group from the University of Iowa fired several from the Coast Guard Cutter East Wind during its cruise off Greenland in August and September 1952. Van Allen was looking for high-altitude radiation near the magnetic poles and needed a vehicle that could reach well over 80 km (50 mi) with an 11-kg (25-lb) payload and yet still be launched easily from a small ship. The rockoon was the answer. With his rockoons, Van Allen detected considerable soft radiation at high altitudes – much more than scientists expected. This was one of the first hints that radiation might be trapped by the Earth’s magnetic field. One drawback to the rockoon was that it had to be fired before high-altitude winds carried it out of radio range.” (‘NASA Sounding Rockets 1958-68, A Historical Summary’, William R. Corliss.)

    Floating into space and other ways of getting there (Rob La Frenais, January 2023)

    James Van Allen of the University of Iowa poses with a rocket model, NASA

    The rockoon has undergone a small renaissance in recent years and the European Space agency has funded and encourage several small scale enterprises using stratospheric launches and rockoons. One is a company based in Wales, B2Space who have already done a test flight in 2020, on the facilities of the new Spaceport Snowdonia, in North Wales, achieving altitudes above 30km high and temperatures below the -50 degrees Celsius. The flight carried the necessary payload for a rockoon launch, but have not yet got into orbit.

    I asked B2Space co-founder Valentin Canales how far they are to launching their first rockoon. “We have tested (ground and strato-spheric flight) all elements of the rockoon technology so far including the Large Zero Pressure Balloon and all associated navigation and safety systems, the remote rocket arm and ignition system, rocket launcher pointing, positioning and stabilisation platform A final demonstration of all elements will be performed late September or early October 2022”. I asked him how much more sustainable are rockoons in terms of propellant use for low earth orbit launches? “By skipping the highest density part of the atmosphere, B2Space reduces Delta V losses up to 2km/s, which is translated into more than 70% propellant saved for an equivalent launcher. That, linked to the fact that B2Space is working on its proprietary bio-propellant, will make B2Space one of the most environmentally friendly launch companies in the world . Another, Zero2 Infinity, based in Spain, boldly goes with the following confident publicity: “From the public to the gurus of aerospace, most people think that space will remain within the realm of a few super- powers, large defence contractors and the odd billionaire…but we won’t settle for that. At Zero2 Infinity we choose to carry the burden of proof that there is indeed a better way one that allows you to realise your dreams in space.” Mainly promising high flying stratospheric launches for testing low earth orbit satellites, they also intend “to fly an efficient rockoon as a reusable sounding rocket for microgravity, science, component certification, etc”. Interestingly they aim to use sea launches as well as land launches saying “sea launches decrease administrative restrictions and the areas to avoid: highways, populated areas, or military terrain” and that “sensitive or confidential payloads are better protected at sea than on land”. In researching these balloon technologies the cold hand of the military or border forces is never far away. This company also has a sideline in space tourism, offering 30 km flights “over 99% of the atmosphere.”

    Another company, SpaceRyde in Canada, literally a garage start-up by Iranian husband and wife team Saharnaz Safari and Sohrab Haghighat, backed by the Canadian Space Agency, say they want to be the ‘Uber of Space’ . They aim to launch what they call a ‘smart rocket from a balloon 30 km up at a pricetag of $250,000 per 150 kilograms, envisioning a ‘rocket network, delivering small satellites into orbit. They plan their first launch next year. How did the progress of rival Rockoon companies like these compare to B2Space? Valentin Canales: “Regarding other competitors (Zero to Infinity or Space Ryde), B2Space is much more advanced in terms of stratospheric flight capabilities, having conducted dozens of flights. This places us in an ideal place to start the scale up of our launch vehicle and start servicing our customers from 2024”.

    Floating into space and other ways of getting there (Rob La Frenais, January 2023)

    Fly with Aerocene Pacha, Tomas Saraceno (2020)

    Another company specialising in stratospheric balloon flights, based not far away from where I am writing this is Zephalto, founded by test pilot Vincent Farret d’Astiès which offers “Travel towards the stars without polluting, in harmony with nature.” Unusually, using solar energy like artist Tomas Saraceno’s Aerocene, they have entered a partnership with CNES in France. “Since 2016, in the heart of Hérault, in Occitanie, Zephalto has been developing a unique and highly technological know-how with the CNES: Céleste, a balloon capable of taking voyagers into the stratosphere for an unlimited flight time and an unforgettable experience in unprecedented conditions of comfort and safety. This know-how is based on two major technological innovations in the world of balloons: the altitude regulator and the reusable envelope. Thanks to these technological advances, Céleste is completely ecological, runs on solar energy, and can be reused indefinitely... Solar energy also allows for take-offs and landings without the need for lots of infrastructure and offers a great freedom of movement by following the wind.” However there are no plans for hybrid launches into orbit as far as I can see.

    Safe space tourism by balloon, to be able to see the edge of of the blackness of space and the curvature of the earth without burning up pro- pellants is by no means guaranteed. In 2017 a test hydrogen-filled balloon at the Tucson headquarters of a US company called World View exploded, causing them to go over to helium (which is in short supply on Earth). A new US company, Space Perspective, is continuing with hydrogen, insisting that with modern engineering and construction method it is safe, and that helium is needed in hospitals and sat- ellite technologies. Another Spanish start-up EOX-Space is also offering space tourism at 40 km, but is also using rare helium.

    It’s fine to lower the costs of space tourism this way and while high altitude stratospheric balloon flights can reduce the demand for waste- ful, polluting and expensive flight tickets with Virgin, Spacex and Blue Origin – as far as I can see – unless JP Aerospace can develop its orbital ascender, or rockoons can reduce the amount of propellant used, none of these companies are getting us closer to sustainable travel to space.

    Space Elevators and towers: are they really coming?

    What is a space elevator, actually? A space elevator is an electric vehicle called a “climber” that drives up and down one thin tether between the ground and a satellite in stationary orbit, using another outside tether for balancing with centrifugal force. The total length of the tether would have to extend to 100,000 kilometres. This would be a permanent portal into space, but the tether is the main problem to construct. Although in another article in this handbook, space elev- ators have been ruled out as being at all feasible in the near future, some companies have been putting some serious money into research and development. One is Liftport, founded in 2003, in Washington DC, who have been researching an Earth Elevator, but have found that to build the tether to lift ‘climbers’ into space “is the part of the Elevator that is preventing us from building one here on Earth today. The combined forces of gravity and centripetal acceleration on any known material in the shape we need would snap it. As such we need a material with extremely high tensile strength that is also very light. Technically, we could build an Earth Elevator today with existing materials, but it would need to be so large to withstand the forces acting upon it that it would be completely impractical to build”. So they have put that on hold for what they see as a more feasible project, a Lunar Elevator “to create a permanent system on the Moon that is reusable, replaceable and expandable, to open up the resources present on the Moon, expand our presence in space, and improve life here on Earth.” The idea is to build a ‘spaceline’ from the moon to near the Earth, developed by astrophysicists Zephyr Penoryre and Emily Sandford, which would orbit Earth once a month. But then you’ve got to get all the components to the Moon and that means more rockets.

    Floating into space and other ways of getting there (Rob La Frenais, January 2023)

    The Canada-based space technology company Thoth Technology is building a 12-mile high, 755-feet wide inflatable space elevator

    Thoth Technology in Canada have patented an Earth Space Elevator concept invented by founder Brendan Quine, starting with pneumatic towers. However this would technically only be an elevator tower only going as high as 15km, as far as I can see, providing a platform to launch spaceplanes closer to near earth orbit. Thoth CEO Caroline Roberts describes the benefits of the new technology here: “Access to near space is set to revolutionise the way we do business on Earth. The advantages for energy generation, communications and space tourism are immense. Thoth plans to construct pneumatic ThothX towers to access first 1.5 km and then 15 km above Earth within a decade.” So this is actually closer to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s Space Tower.

    In Japan, the Obayashi Corporation, which is a massive construction company building bridges and highways among other things, have announced their intention to complete a working space elevator by 2050. They say that a computer simulation shows they have the ability to construct the ribbon or cable, using carbon nanotubes and starting in around 2031.They would use the climbers to actually construct the cable, slowly over 20 years. “The construction process consists of deploying the cable and constructing the facilities. It is necessary to analyse the cable dynamics in order to estimate the characteristics of the cable, counter-weight, facilities and climbers, and in order to determine the construction procedures. Parameters for the cable dynamics include tension, displacement and elongation of the cable due to ascending climbers, masses of counter-weight and cable, wind, and fixed loads of facilities. With the help of a computer simulation of the equations of motion, we designed the system and determined the construction process...”

    It will take roughly 20 years to construct the cable, the impacts of wind or Coriolis force on cable displacement are small, and it is essential to fix one end of the cable to the earth’s surface, always applying pre-tension at the ground end. According to the plan, a 20-ton cable is deployed initially, and is reinforced 510 times by climbers up to 7,000 tons, ascending in succession over roughly 18 years. The facilities are then transported and constructed within one year.” (‘The Space Elevator Construction Concept’, November 4 2014)

    Floating into space and other ways of getting there (Rob La Frenais, January 2023)

    Illustration of the space elevator project of Obayashi Corporation

    However, they too say “The current technology levels are not yet suf- ficient to realise the concept, but our plan is realistic, and is a stepping stone toward the construction of the space elevator.” The simulation was worked out by engineers who built the worlds highest free-standing tower, the Tokyo Skytree, in 2012. Speaking in a recent article in Redshift/Autodesk on the Obayashi Corporation’s space elevator, Professor Yoshio Aoki of the Department of Precision Machinery Engineering at Nihon University introduces another aspect but takes a more upbeat note: “We still don’t have any measures to sufficiently address legal and safety issues of how we should deal with threats such as terrorism. Dealing with such difficult aspects will be required mov- ing forward. But if we are able to get past such issues, and if more cor- porations support us, I believe that an operating cargo transport space elevator is entirely possible in the 2030s.” More of a think-tank, but also coming up with real proposals, is the International Space Elevator Consortium, advised by artist Arthur Woods and David Raitt, formerly of ESA and others. They announce on their website. “The Modern Day Space Elevator is Closer than You Think!”

    It’s good to hear such optimism in an industry that is so wedded to short-term solutions. The title of the handbook ‘Space Without Rockets’ points to a dream that is still far from realisable but nonetheless is an urgent wake-up call to the space industry to start putting some serious money and research into sustainable alternatives to getting into orbit.

    Floating into space and other ways of getting there (Rob La Frenais, January 2023)

    View of the Suborbital Accelerator, SpinLaunch

    Note: Just as I was completing this survey I was told about a new technology that is being developed at SpacePort America, SpinLaunch, as mentioned by Ewen Chardronnet in his introduction of Space Without Rockets. It’s raised 110 million dollars funding and is an orbital accelerator, literally shooting vehicles into space. From their website: “SpinLaunch is an innovative new space technology company that has created an alternative method for putting 200 kilogram class satellites into low earth orbit. Unlike traditional fuel-based rockets, SpinLaunch uses a ground-based, elec- tric powered kinetic launch system that delivers a substantially less expensive and environmentally sustainable approach to space access”. It’s initial 33 metre test launcher launched 4 carbon-fibre aeroshells flown at supersonic speeds in late 2021 at a cost of 7 million dollars. It is proposing to build a 100 metre launcher capable of reaching orbit by 2025. Although SpinLaunch will get the aeroshells out of the atmosphere into suborbital space it will still need a small rocket to reach the 28,000km/h velocity needed to enter orbit. So not quite space without rockets yet.

  • More Than Planet booklet Old Observatory expo COVER

    More-than-Planet Expo Booklet (Miha Turšič, July 2022)

    We live in a world in which 75% of the planet’s land surface is experiencing measurable human pressure.(1) The way we imagine our Earth has a substantial impact on the environment. We construct these imaginaries with a number of underlying concepts, value systems, visual cultures and technologies to portray the Earth’s environment. However, these technologies are neither neutral nor socially inclusive.

    Our ideas are not only the result – or lack – of established knowledge: they are also related to power. The consequence is a variety of planetary perceptions often at war with each other.(2) To offer an alternative, the More-than-Planet exhibition shows a number of five transdisciplinary works. They open up the conversation in which technology and art-driven innovation can reduce the pressure on the environment.

    Western concepts of the environment historically transitioned from imperial and colonial histories toward the modern globalism and contemporary geopolitics of the terrestrial and planetary.(3) These developments fostered the emergence of today’s dominant Earth systems science – and its critical assessment by the philosophy of science, science technology studies and environmental humanities provided an opportunity for more socially inclusive environmental concepts to surface.

    Socially sensitive environmental studies look at hidden power structures(4), non-human entities becoming tangled up with human infrastructure projects(5), a fragile thick layer of Earth critically transformed by life(6), or just very messy entanglements that resist systematisation—like in more-than-human studies(7). This is a very different approach from the exclusively scientific view which takes the human out of the equation or neutralises it with generalised terms like the Anthropos.

    Since it matters which planet or environmental concept is portrayed (and which one is not), the More-than-Planet exhibition, symposium and three-year project aims to research how mattering can contribute to socially more inclusive environmental imaginaries. Mattering(8) stands here as a study of how making facts and values is inevitably intertwined, and what cultural and societal arrangements can be built on top of that.(9)

    As citizens, we need to be sensitive to environmental problems more than we have ever been. Especially since the dominance of science, and the matters of interest from industry and governments, tends to be prioritised over the citizen’s concerns and need for planetary care. Understanding the diversity of such drivers behind environmental concepts contributes to better accessibility of transdisciplinary environmental knowledge and provides agency to us all as actors of change.

    In parallel with environmental concepts, iconic images of Earth contributed to a modern understanding of a planet as a whole: Earthrise(10), Blue Marble(11), and Pale Blue Dot(12), all depicted Earth as all-we-have, but still in a very generalised way. On the other side, media studies and artists also explore the planetary environment as an interface(13), a parametric future landscape(14), a vertical public space(15), environmental violence and racism(16) or visual policymaking imaginaries.(17)

    Such examples overcame the concept of the Earth as a neutral and systemised object of scientific observation. At the same time, such works of art shed light on technologies and data infrastructures underlying the mediation of an Earth as a planetary concept. They also demonstrate the ways in which artists – in creative and concerned ways – use the same tools as scientists, yet are better at identifying matters closer to citizens, especially those in a variety of social and environmental problems.

    1. Venter, O., Sanderson, E., Magrach, A. et al. Sixteen years of change in the global terrestrial human footprint and implications for biodiversity conservation. Nat Commun 7, 12558 (2016).

    2. Latour, B., and Weibel, P., Critical Zones – The Science and Politics of Landing on Earth. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2020

    3. Likavčan, Lukáš. Introduction to Comparative Planetology. Strelka Institute Press, 2019.

    4. Bureau d’Etudes, Atlas of agendas – mapping the power, mapping the commons, 2015.

    5. Tsing, A.L., Deger J., Saxena A.K., Zhou, F., Feral Atlas: The More-Than-Human Anthropocene, Stanford University Press, 2020).

    6. Guinard, M., Latour, B., Lin, P., and e-flux journal editors, Editorial: You and I Don’t Live on the Same Planet, e-flux, Issue #114, December 2020

    7. Jaque, A., Verzier, M.O., Pietroiusti, L., More-than-Human, Het Nieuwe Instituut, 2020.

    8. Law, J., Matter-ing, Or How Might STS Contribute?, published by the Centre for Science Studies, Lancaster University, UK

    9. Haraway, Donna (1991), ‘Situated Knowledges: the Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective’, pages 183-201 in Donna Haraway (ed.), Simians, Cyborgs and Women: the Reinvention of Nature, London: Free Association Books.

    10. NASA, 1968

    11. NASA, 1972

    12. NSA, 1990

    13. Terravision by ART+COM, 1994

    14. Brain, Tega. (2018). The Environment Is Not A System. A Peer-Reviewed Journal About Research Refusal.

    15. Parks, Lisa. Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual. 1 ed. Duke University Press, 2005.

    16. Cloud Studies, Forensic Architecture, 2020

    17. Oceans in Transformation, Territorial Agency, 2020

    The More-than-Planet expo at the Old Observatory Leiden (1 July - 23 December 2022, NL) is an exploration of the impact of humanity on our planet. The exhibition features five artworks, from artists Minna Långström, Dani Ploeger, Territorial Agency, Forensic Architecture and artist group Tega Brain, Julian Oliver and Bengt Sjölén.

    The connective tissue between the different artworks is that they comment on how our experiences and preconceptions change how we look at our planet. Take a look at the exhibition booklet, with an introduction by curator Miha Turšič.

  • Green Open Food Evolution, a speculative exploration of algae and the food transition (Pauline Briand, October 2022)

    Swiss artist Maya Minder’s “Green Open Food Evolution” installation was inaugurated as part of the group exhibition “More Than Living” at the Open Source Body festival at Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. It will also be presented at Rencontres Mondes Multiples by Antre Peaux in Bourges from November 19 to December 4, 2022.

    At the opening of “More Than Living”, visitors gather around a sinuous table whose sunken craters are occupied by vases filled with a blue-colored beverage, bioplastic plates holding seaweed-wrapped maki rolls, small mounds of algae-seed granola, plus a variety of sauces, algae and fermented vegetables. During this performance banquet, food is eaten with hands, bioplastic containers are partly devoured. The desserts are served in Petri dishes holding bits of fruit imprisoned in the same agar-agar, a jellifying substance derived from algae, as in laboratories for microbiotic cultures. On the periphery, a wooden drying rack exhibits long dried seaweed, bioplastic forms containing plant fibers or animal hairs, kitchen utensils with both strange and familiar forms, Petri dishes seeded with microbiota of organisms belonging to various kingdoms, in colors ranging from blue to pink.

    Green Open Food Evolution (GOFE), the culinary installation conceived by Maya Minder and her collaborators, has come to life. We met the entire team before the opening to discuss this project at the intersection of art, traditional and digital craft, cooking and research.Green Open Food Evolution (GOFE), the culinary installation conceived by Maya Minder and her collaborators, has come to life. We met the entire team before the opening to discuss this project at the intersection of art, traditional and digital craft, cooking and research.

    Green Open Food Evolution, a speculative exploration of algae and the food transition (Pauline Briand, October 2022)

    Opening of the “More Than Living” exhibition prior to activating “Green Open Food Evolution”. © Quentin Chevrier

    Eating to invent the future

    Maya Minder introduces herself as an artist in “eat art” – a versatile expression that could translate as art mediated by food, but also the art of feeding oneself. Her artwork takes the form of installations that host various living processes. “Gasthaus – Fermentation and Bacteria was my first project. There was also a table in the center of the room, microbes were developing on top of it in the form of various ferments such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir. I use this metaphor of fermentation as a reflection of social agitation. In the 21st century, we are starting to realize that the idea of community must be lived and reinforced. Within communities, you have social democracy, you have the platform of assemblies, you have to negotiate. It’s pretty to similar to a bacterial process. As the kombucha develops, bacteria communicate with each other, and at the turning point, they produce a new biofilm. Just as we do when we create great collaborations.”

    The GOFE project, which came directly out of this practice, launched in late 2020, when Ewen Chardronnet invited Maya to join a work-in-progress on algae in partnership with the Roscosmoe program and the Multicellular Marine Models laboratory at the Roscoff Biological Station in western France. The two artists then co-developed a speculative research that explores the concepts of symbiosis, planetary interdependence, and algae as food and a key actor in the ecological transition. Their work is based on the research of Xavier Bailly from the Multicellular Marine Models lab on Symsagittifera roscoffensis – a local autotrophic marine worm that in its juvenile stage ingests microalgae without digesting them, keeping them in its epidermis and feeding off their photosynthesis. They are also inspired by the Roscoff Biological Station’s research showing that Japanese people’s consumption of seaweed over time led to a horizontal gene transfer that modified their microbiome, as well as the ideas of evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis, who speculated on a future “Homo Photosyntheticus” – the human version of the Roscoff worm.

    Maya Minder explains: “What if humans became Homo Photosyntheticus? For me, this narrative is both utopic and dystopic, because I like to cook, and becoming autotrophic would mean no longer having to eat. By imagining what humans would be like in the future, you also start to think about the human structures of our domestic world – how much energy we use, all our animal food and this whole industry that we create around food. I’m stepping back, in order to create a bigger space for imagination.”Maya Minder explains: “What if humans became Homo Photosyntheticus? For me, this narrative is both utopic and dystopic, because I like to cook, and becoming autotrophic would mean no longer having to eat. By imagining what humans would be like in the future, you also start to think about the human structures of our domestic world – how much energy we use, all our animal food and this whole industry that we create around food. I’m stepping back, in order to create a bigger space for imagination.”

    “Green Open Food Evolution” installation view

    “Green Open Food Evolution” installation view. © Maya Minder

    Installation detail: Petri dish experiments

    Installation detail: Petri dish experiments. © Vladimir Jamet

    Several questions emerge from this narrative. How do we feed a perpetually growing population? What would be the recipes, gestures, practices? “I’m very much inspired by Filippo Marinetti’s ‘futuristic cuisine’. With GOFE, we apprehend food like a playground, a means, not only to feed people, but also to create discussions and speculate.” Maya also questions how food changes our bodies: “I speculate on the way in which the daily ingestion of food changes us, the action of fermentation on our microbiome, the link to the place where we live, the role of the microbiome that is specific to the hands of the person who cooked. In Korea, we have the term ‘son-mas’, which connects a person’s hand to the taste of their cooking. When I give fermentation workshops, I say ‘Let’s mix our microbiomes!’”Several questions emerge from this narrative. How do we feed a perpetually growing population? What would be the recipes, gestures, practices? “I’m very much inspired by Filippo Marinetti’s ‘futuristic cuisine’. With GOFE, we apprehend food like a playground, a means, not only to feed people, but also to create discussions and speculate.” Maya also questions how food changes our bodies: “I speculate on the way in which the daily ingestion of food changes us, the action of fermentation on our microbiome, the link to the place where we live, the role of the microbiome that is specific to the hands of the person who cooked. In Korea, we have the term ‘son-mas’, which connects a person’s hand to the taste of their cooking. When I give fermentation workshops, I say ‘Let’s mix our microbiomes!’”

    Cooking to resist the system of productivity

    “Family cooking is holistic in the sense that it’s about sharing love, taking care of food, managing one’s time and resources, like the amount of land that we need. And it’s about becoming aware of the origin of your food. Food that you cook yourself is the best approach to get people interested in participating in this dialogue of food transition.” Indeed, this transition questions the amount of energy required to produce the food, the place given to meat, global food chains.

    Lisa Jankovics, the chef who supports Maya in her creations, adds: “Working with Maya has changed my relationship to time, I’ve slowed down. Fermentation requires you to take your time. You initiate the process, it will deploy over time, but you can’t totally control it. It’s a vital process.” For Lisa, eating with your hands is also important: “It’s imtimate and intense, you pay much more attention to the food.”

    Green Open Food Evolution, a speculative exploration of algae and the food transition (Pauline Briand, October 2022)

    We Have Always Been Biohackers © Maya Minder

    A question of texture

    Besides taste, other senses are also convened. “During my trip to Japan,” Maya recalls, “I ate a lot of algae and visited nori farms. Japanese people surprised me, they love sticky food. In Western food culture, viscous foods are considered offputting, revolting. But these foods also evoke eroticism and sensuality. Algae give us pleasure, satisfaction and umami taste. Experiencing pleasure and joy changes us. That’s why, for my speculative cooking workshops, I always bring strange and queer ingredients so that the participants can transform them into meals. And algae are undoubtably queer!”

    This research on texture is also done in collaboration with the artist and textiles/materials designer Alexia Venot: “Maya and I started to think about performative dinners, where there would be no distinction between the food and the plates. This raises a question that is common to both of our practices and that was also raised by Donna Haraway – the act of becoming one with the material and digesting our own work, putting into practice the compostability of the world, thinking about the life cycle of objects and also of projects. We work with a creative research approach. We share the same materials. Living together in the same space and working together creates a kind of alchemy, so that her recipes, and the materials that I create, act together.”

    Banquet participants not only tasted the food presented on plates made by Alexia for the occasion, they ate the dishes too. “The materials are bioplastics, biopolymers made from algae and binding elements such as algae or sesame. The result is gelatinous. This also involves research over time, as the materials evolve as they dry; they harden, shrink, change color.”

    Alexia mixes, presses and cuts, she uses molds, sometimes creates optical illusions, where temperature and humidity are especially important to the creation and durability of the dishes. This process has led her to question her own relationship with matter: “Our conventional way of transforming materials is really violent, it tells us a lot about our relationship with technique. Here it’s about finding a new sensuality by doing things in ways that are more care-based. When Maya works with kombucha, she has an affectionate relationship with it, she lives with the material and it’s part of her everyday life. In our approach, there is less determinism in the materials. My background is in art/sciences with research methods that come from engineering. I became interested in cooking also because in certain aspects, it requires less precision. There’s a magic side to cooking, with lots of intuition that comes into play, but also transmission, things that we’ve learned. There is gestural memory. It’s interesting to think about design in terms of cooking, rather than as an experimental laboratory.”

    Green Open Food Evolution, a speculative exploration of algae and the food transition (Pauline Briand, October 2022)

    Material design and research with algae. © Alexia Venot

    A question of relationships

    Maya sees cooking as a cultural act, but also as a revealer of relationships: “I don’t do synthetic biology, but I would qualify myself as a biohacker because we have always been biohackers, in the sense that we have always transformed matter and modified it. We have always selected plants and animals. We have always interfered in our environments and modified them. The cooking process was no doubt the first chemical process. We know that the human brain was modified by the introduction of fire and facilitated access to proteins.”

    Working with algae also means considering the local environment: “Food culture is huge in Korea, and lots of preparation processes still reference harvesting or aquaculture, a connection to the maritime world and the oceans. In Roscoff, I collected seaweed, I bathed in a forest of kelp. I tried to incorporate this carnal knowledge into my work. I’m very much influenced by the concept of eco-sexuality developed by Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens. By bathing in these kelp forests, you perceive a different world. You absorb the movement of seaweed in the water. You touch their sticky surfaces. It’s an impression that stays with you and inspires how you’ll cook them afterward.”

    This process also extends to Alexia’s creations: “We experimented with these techniques for the first time at dinner in Bourges. Once we had finished eating, we decided to bury the dishes. It’s quite pleasant to bury your own objects after use, we nourish the humus and go away unencumbered. It’s in-situ, neither discarding nor recycling, you’re feeding the soil.”

    Green Open Food Evolution, a speculative exploration of algae and the food transition (Pauline Briand, October 2022)

    Artwork detail: speculative tool. © Pacôme Gérard

    A question of forms

    GOFE is also the “media kitchen”, speculative cooking commissioned by Maya Minder and conceived with Victor Yvin & Pacôme Gérard Designers Artisans, Gabriel Violleau from the agency Bientôt architectes urbanistes and Ewen Chardronnet from Makery during their “Homo Photosyntheticus” residence at Antre Peaux’s UrsuLab in Bourges. Maya explains: “The idea was to create cooking that can be activated. We made racks to display the tools of speculative cooking, as well as algae and various other objects. Even the table is like a topographical landscape, non-uniform, that tells a story.” The installation is activated during workshops, performances and cooking presentations, inviting other artists and the general public to develop their own stories through cooking.

    Victor Yvin comments on the design process: “For these creations, we worked on the entire process, from harvesting the algae to ingesting them. That was why we designed a table that we could work on directly using tools.” Pacôme Gérard adds: “We were inspired by certain medieval tables that were both a recipient, with plates dug right into the surface of the table, and a centerpiece of the room, a piece of furniture whose role changes during the course of the day. We tried to create forms that stimulate the imagination and invoke as many uses as possible, to use it freely. This table is made to be transformed little by little.”

    Green Open Food Evolution, a speculative exploration of algae and the food transition (Pauline Briand, October 2022)

    The table and its topology designed by YG Designers Artisans for “Green Open Food Evolution”. © Vladimir Jamet

    In order to obtain these unique forms, the woodworking designers used a digital milling machine. Victor Yvin explains the process: “The machining is controlled by computer. We have a 3D model and processes for preparing the wood. We work layer by layer. We gradually remove material until we reach the final form. We smooth out the curves as much as possible, then there is a lot of sanding down, and finally the object is finished using carpentry tools.” Pacôme Gérard adds: “This technique lets us access a formal repertory that is a much longer process when done by hand, especially with wood that is hard like oak. We wouldn’t know how to access that repertory otherwise.”

    These cooking ustensils invented ad hoc are also an invitation to rethink our usual habits. “Each food culture has a different way of processing and cooking foods,” observes Maya. “Even the way we cut vegetables, cook meat, are skills that we received from our parents, as if we are cooking from memory. These tools are, once again, a departure toward a speculative, futuristic, post-modern lifestyle.”

    While some utensils resemble conventional cooking tools, others invite us to discover new practices, just as some extend our own limbs. “We are seeking an ancestral futurism, a fusion reflected by the installation,” Maya continues. Here, the utensils may seem out of proportion with our habitual cooking tools, adapting to the length of macroalgae, which can reach several meters.

    “With these utensils we imagined new gestures to pick up the seaweed, crush them, cut them, prepare them like microalgae such as spirulina,” Pacôme Gérard explains. “For example, we have one tool in the shape of a DNA strand to mix, homogenify the algae.”

    Green Open Food Evolution, a speculative exploration of algae and the food transition (Pauline Briand, October 2022)

    Tools of the installation during their fabrication at YG Designers Artisans. © Pacôme Gérard

    The table was also designed like a living object. “This is where animism appears,” says Maya. “The table will evolve, especially in its appearance. I am careful about staining it, but it’s an artwork that is also functional. It will be touched and it wants to be touched. There is a form of sensuality. It will carry the marks of its history.” Victor Yvin adds: “We used oak, which is a wood that reacts strongly to tannins and humidity, and therefore to work with algae. It’s a canvas that will be transformed. Now it’s blank because we haven’t used it yet, but we thought of it like a kind of painting where running water would be painted across it. The idea was to favor these traces, which resonates with Maya’s work as she recycles the tablecloths used for these banquets.” Tablecloths that frame the installation presented at Cité Internationale des Arts.

    Green Open Food Evolution was part of the “More Than Living” group exhibition during the Open Source Body festival at Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, and will be presented at Rencontres Mondes Multiples by Antre Peaux in Bourges, France, from November 19 to December 4, 2022.

  • We Are All On The Periphery (Rob La Frenais, October 2022)

    On September 23-24, at Cité internationale des arts in Paris, Global Periphery symposium was exploring the contemporary imaginaries of space through examples of artistic creations and of activities from the space sector with voices from multiple continents and locations.

    Global Periphery, a conference and event organised by Annick Bureaud and Marcus Neustetter, took place at the end of the International Astronautical Congress in Paris and posed the general question – ‘whose bodies are in space?’. The event culminated after many years of the Leonardo-Olats space and the arts workshop, which took place at the Malina House (a historic artist’s studio near the Bois de Boulogne), where, gathered among many archive photos including those of the Leonardo founder and space pioneer Frank Malina with Yuri Gagarin, artists trying to break through into the rarefied atmosphere of the space industry including Kitsou Dubois, the first dancer in zero gravity. I attended the first back in 1997. The last such workshop was to have been the aptly-named All Woman Crew in 2020 but this was, like many events in the last years, moved online. The congress itself was an uneasy return to normality, with lavish stands and a large Ariane rocket greeting arriving delegates. With the slogan ‘Space For All’ it was intended as a celebration of the ‘space community’ as well as being public-facing. However there were many unspoken and unstated agendas, including the paradox of earth observation being necessary to measure the extent of the climate catastrophe and the increasing exponential pollution of multiple rocket launches, which are proliferating at a vast rate. Many of the stands in the congress exhibition reflected considerable greenwashing and of course no-one mentioned the war. Roscosmos was visibly not present, ostensibly because visas were not being issued. Makery made its contribution to the climate and space debate, launching a new book ‘Space Without Rockets’ unofficially under the Ariane rocket then onwards by electric bus to the first airship hangar in the world in the forest of Meudon outside Paris. The book, edited by myself and Ewen Chardronnet, the culmination of an action created by Tomas Saraceno in White Sands Desert and in Paris for COP 21, was also launched at Global Periphery.

    Global Periphery was opened by an extraordinary online simultaneous performance organised by Marcus Neustetter between Paris and South Africa as part of Imaginary Futures with the Senegalese dancer and choreographer Fatou Cissé live and interacting with performers such as dancer and musician Xolisile Bongwana in various remote locations, fading in and out as the signal and power varied. Imaginary Futures describes itself here “In the process of exploring a collective understanding of what a shared future might look like, an experimental dialogue of creative producers from different disciplines and contexts look at their shared cultural and natural resources… Through a sharing of practices and contexts, these sessions seek to develop a collective narrative and to ultimately explore the notion of a common future vision.” It was developed originally by Neustetter for the festival Afropixel (slogan ’Power To The Commons’) in Senegal in 2021, which took place in virtual space out of necessity.

    We Are All On The Periphery (Rob La Frenais, October 2022)

    Imaginary Futures at Global Periphery, Fatou Cissé, Marcus Neustetter and the South African Team. © Quentin Chevrier

    Challenging the Blue Marble

    Opening the speaker presentations was Frédérique Aït-Touati who produces theatre productions using iconic images of space along with, among others, Bruno Latour, in a series called ‘Terrestrial Trilogy’. For example, “‘Anatomy of the Earth’, a creation project for the stage, wants to gives a ‘story of the gaze’, the dimension of an epic through a double common thread… the testament of a woman, a scientist, addressed to her little girl, for the future, to leave her the trace of this transformation of the view and of the knowledge that we have of the Earth System.” She challenges the colonial notions of space exploration, coming from, for example, Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

    We Are All On The Periphery (Rob La Frenais, October 2022)

    Frédérique Aït-Ouati. © Louis Hemon

    Susmita Mohanty, a space industry entrepreneur from India and founder of Earth2Orbit, moderating, outlined the geopolitical aspects of the way space exploration is perceived and asked the pertinent question ‘What is the Global South’ in terms of space. She talked about NASA’s ‘megaphone’ approach to the coming Moon mission Artemis, as opposed to the less well publicised ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) missions to the Moon and ended by asking what colour the next flag on the Moon should be. She said white was suggested during the Congress, which is ironically what the famous stars and stripes planted by Neil Armstrong would now be after 50 years of exposure to the Sun.

    We Are All On The Periphery (Rob La Frenais, October 2022)

    Susmita Mohanti and Fabiane Borges. © Louis Hemon

    Fabiane Borges reminded us about the political situation in Brazil, where Lula is standing against Bolsonaro (in fact as I write it looks if Lula is about to win). She said that if Lula was elected again, Brazil could return to the previous golden age where cultural players were instrumental in government. Borges, who has written the essay ‘Brazil Without Rockets’ in the Space Without Rockets book went on to describe the formative Movimento dos Sem Satélites project founded by Pedro Soler and others and the ‘Arte en Órbita’ project she curated in Ecuador and spoke about the artists projects for the Brazilian national institute for space research, INPE, described in her recent Makery article: Space Art and Culture in Brazil.

    Davis Cook, from South Africa, cited Ha-Joon Chang’s influential work ‘Kicking Away the Ladder’ in which developed countries are attempting to ‘kick away the ladder’ with which they have climbed to the top, thereby preventing developing counties from adopting policies and institutions that they themselves have used. He sees the big space agencies in developed countries as examples of this. He described various space initiatives in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria, that are relatively unknown to the populations living there, because they associate space exploration only with NASA. He spoke of the irony of people walking around African cities in NASA T-shirts without realising Africa had space agencies like the Kenyan Space Agency, albeit run under contract with the Italian Space Agency and astronomical initiatives like the Square Kilometre Array in South Africa.

    The queer feminist thinker Eleanor Armstrong, (also known for her writings on sex in space at ‘Elliethelement’) finished the day in the same vein asking ‘where is the place for space?’. She spoke of space exploration as an instrument of American soft power and how science museums around the world bend the truth, such as in the widespread theft of rocks and meteorites that indigenous populations regard as sacred. She also talked about space and colonisation in the context of France, which used to launch rockets from Algeria until it was forced to leave and now uses another colony French Guiana, where the Kourou launch site is based, which was the site of protests against conditions in the French overseas territory. Coming from the UK, she also decried the depiction of the history of British rocketry, taking place mainly on the site of the Woomera Rocket Base, also the location of one of Australia’s most notorious refugee prisons and scene of protests by Aboriginal people since the ‘70s. Armstrong also pointed out the dual use of space funding between the military and space agencies, Woomera also being used by the British for nuclear bomb testing in the 40s and 50’s.

    We Are All On The Periphery (Rob La Frenais, October 2022)

    Eleanor Armstrong. © Louis Hemon

    The second day of Global Periphery was opened by Ewen Chardronnet describing the More-Than-Planet Creative Europe project, which initiated this conference and many other activities such as the Space Without Rockets book. He was followed by one of the other partners, Antti Tenetz from the Northern Photographic Centre in Finland which will use one of the deepest mines in Europe. He said “Going so deep is like going into space.” They would connect the subterranean space with Earth observation through the European Space agency. He asked “What kind of culture are we going to produce in space?”.

    Inner Telescope

    Eduardo Kac has been a space artist since 1986. His poems were social writing systems from the bottom up – gravitropic holopoems. He pointed out no human language systems known are written this way. He originally used slow scan television produce his ‘spacescapes’ and placed an DVD artwork ‘Monogram’ on the Cassini spacecraft when it launched in 1997. It arrived 2004 on Saturn when the spacecraft dived into the planet to avoid polluting it and the artwork was burnt up. His early works for satellite were ground-based glyphs based on the ‘Lepus’ constellation, which looked rather like a bunny. This is the first presentation I have seen by Kac in which it was not necessary to mention Alba, the GFP bunny! While early versions were expensive to do, his recent glyphs on rooftops and other spaces can be accessed by Google Earth. His latest one is in a cemetery in Geneva where Jorge Luis Borges is buried. Kac was artist in residence at CNES, where he worked with astronaut Thomas Pesquet to created the origami sculpture for the ISS, ‘Inner Telescope’ in 2017. I asked him how it was to work as an artist with the astronaut on this project. “He got that my artwork was not just a fetish object in space and that the telescope was using time and space in a real way. He sent me an email from the ISS on the success of the project.” Finally he described his project ADSUM (meaning ‘Here I am’) for the moon which has been tested in the ISS. Hopefully it will go to the Moon when the Moon Gallery finally flies.

    We Are All On The Periphery (Rob La Frenais, October 2022)

    Eduardo Kac & Yoko Shimizu. © Louis Hemon

    Yoko Shimizu, artist in residence at the Ars Electronica Future Lab, described her ‘Beyond Earth’ all-female artist collective who has created Bio-ink, a living form of ink. She sees living systems entire ecosystems in the universe. Their latest work shows how earth, life, gravity and light works together, flying with the stratospheric balloon company Space Perspective (mentioned in the Space Without Rockets book). They were able to test Living Light, which uses biomimicry and AI creatures, created by synthetic biology company Twist Bioscience, prototyped for the artwork which was actually contained within the Neptune vehicle and went 30 km high.

    Ale De La Puente spoke of ‘living in entangled times’. According to her, astronomical events such as the Transit of Venus only happen because we are standing on Earth and instead of looking at constellations we should be looking at the space between them. She mentioned the next Transit of Venus coincides with a total solar eclipse in the year far in the future, 15,000. Referring to the famous image of Montezuma when he saw the comet which foretold the ending of the Aztec civilisation when the Spanish arrived in Mexico, she decided to re-create the moment by building a ‘celestial dome’ with 500 kg of pyrotechnics on the night of the Mexican presidential election. For 40 minutes there was an unannounced comet in the sky and people thought they saw a UFO, which was reflected in following conspiracies and legends similar to that of the Virgin of Guadalupe on social media. When I asked her which was the most significant eclipse she has seen, she replied ‘the one in the future’. She is planning a new work for the Mexican total solar eclipse in 2024.

    Rohini Devasher is an astronomer and self-confessed eclipse-chaser. As artist in residence at the Open Data Institute she is planning to create a digital twin of the earth. She also talked about a historical project in the Kodailkanal Solar Observatory in South India which has archives of 100 years of data on the Sun. At this observatory, observing runs in the family and there are three generations of astronomers. Finally, she described the Imperial-era conspiracy theory in which, in a strange fantasy of control, Victorian scientists tried to claim there were links between the occurrence of sunspots and famines, when in fact they were caused by the British exporting grain.

    For All Moonkind

    Michelle Hanlon from For All Moonkind talked about the human artefacts on the Moon which were still preserved there 50 years since we left the Moon. (I wrote about this in the article ‘Cohabiting The Moon’). She pointed out that the entire history of human technology, from early maps to the invention of glass, all eventually went into getting to the Moon. She critiqued the hubris of the Outer Space treaty as human-centred and pointed out that regolith from the Moon is now selling for millions of dollars, providing at least one commercial reason to mine the Moon. Lunar governance was necessary but did we have the moral right to go to the Moon, given that there was no indigenous voice in space policy? However the main problem would be the free-for all of businesses invading the Moon. The private space companies were taking the attitude ‘Lets get there before the laws get there!’, while the United Nations was not functioning properly as a regulatory body because of the Ukraine situation. Then there were the NASA ‘Artemis accords’ to which 22 nations have signed up to create safety zones, for example Tranquility Base and its Apollo remains, like the Moon Rover which enabled to astronauts to drive on the Moon. Unfortunately (in my opinion) these accords amount to yet more US space imperialism. As Annick Bureaud said earlier, “We are all on the periphery”.

    We Are All On The Periphery (Rob La Frenais, October 2022)

    Marcus Neustetter & Fatou Cissé, performance Imaginary Futures. © Quentin Chevrier

    The closing performance was very moving and intense. Marcus Neustetter: “Both performances were intense but the second entered a rather more subtle and calmer intensity. What was interesting, was the layered improvisations and juxtapositions that, while partially anticipated in my direction of the individuals and the targeted questions to them, caught me by surprise and took me emotionally and cerebrally into another unexpected dimension. The format of the Imaginary Futures process has always been challenging all of our expectations but with Fatou Cissé and myself being on stage and experiencing a physicality in relation to the screen based responses brought out new personal reactions and perspectives”.

    Global Periphery and the More-than-Planet initiative were a provocative artistic and creative challenge to the increasingly sterile showcase of the the International Astronautical Congress, which moves on to an actual war zone – Azerbaijan (there are border skirmishes with Armenia) – next year with a slogan ironically borrowing from the John Lennon/Yoko Ono song – ‘Give Space A Chance’.

  • International Astronautical Congress

    International Astronautical Congress

    The International Astronautical Congress, the largest event in the world related to space activities, took place in Paris from September 18th-22nd.

    Annick Bureaud, from Leonardo/Olats, presented the Global Periphery event and introduced the More-than-Planet project at the ITACCUS committee meeting (International Technical Committee for the Cultural Utilization of Space) during the Congress. Flyers and poster were also on display on the joint SRI/ITACCUS booth in the IAC exhibition.

  • Space art and culture in Brazil: Three years of activities at the National Institute for Space Research (Fabiane M. Borges, September 2022)

    Since 2019, Fabiane M. Borges curates a research platform on Art and Space Culture at the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE). On the occasion of the 73d International Astronautical Congress in Paris, the Space Without Rockets publication and the Global Periphery symposium, she comes back on the last three years of the program.

    In the current historical moment we see a resurgence of interest in space as a way to expand the means of production, circulation and terrestrial knowledge. This requires more researchers and specialists committed to represent the regional interests of Latin America and the Global South. In this perspective we present space art and culture as a transdisciplinary field that has the task of awakening creative, imaginative and innovative aspects in the space area and technoscientific development. In industrially precarious countries like Brazil, it is necessary to give strength to inventive skills to innovate the field of space science and achieve new ways to guarantee research, autonomy and sovereignty. It is through the alliance between technosicentific knowledge, economic investment and cultural and social diversity that we can think of sustainable and even more powerful clean technologies. In this perspective, a series of art and space culture activities are being carried out at INPE. This hybrid field can generate news cosmicities, which can transform consumers into actors of technodiversity. We intend to use this series as a platform of reference to create a center of research in space art and culture at the institute. We analyze in this text six space art and culture process we are realizing at INPE 1) the curatorial and conceptual lines applied in the development of space art and culture projects at INPE; 2) the artistic residencies (2019-2022); 3) the ArtSat category (artistic satellites) in the CubeDesign satellite competition (2021); 4) the Workshops of ArtSats (2020/2021); 5) the First Album of Latin American cosmic Sounds (2021); 6) the Plutocracy on Pluto, summer course focused on astropolitics (2022). This text analyzes the methodologies used for the construction of these projects and its general applicability.

    Curatorial and conceptual lines applied in the development of art and space culture projects at INPE

    We have adopted in the space art and culture activities at INPE, a curatorial line that tries to promote the process of singularization constituted on the basis of critical thinking, decolonial studies and social and techno diversity. In search of building intersections between local knowledge and astropolitical events, we try to associate the terrestrial multiple perspectives to the orbital, solar, interplanetary and cosmic complexity.


    We know that the harmful effects of colonization apply not only to macro-structural political phenomena, but also to subjective and micropolitical phenomena. The emotional and affective repertoires, as well as the linguistic and memorial characteristics of peoples are direct results of their environmental and historical matrices that manifest themselves in unique worldviews and experiences. When these singularities encounter the steamroller of Western colonial history, it is devastated (1). The consequences generated in Latin America in general and in Brazil in particular during the beginning of the colonial period until now are still not properly measured. The compulsory production of homogenization that extends from the colonial period until now, brings as an effect the precariousness of the future, since it does not guarantee a broad spectrum of references for the expansion of our productive intelligences, hindering the variety of research in the field of humanities and technoscience. These productive areas, instead of having broad and unrestricted access to cultural multiplicities, are restricted to monocultural rational models, impoverished by little variation in the senses of rationality, affectivity and experience, because they are based on a colonial, phallocentric, egocentric, capitalized culture, sustained by exploitative modalities, with little emotional amplitude and full of sexist and racial metaphors. In this way, ecological repertoires, world perspectives, emotional nuances, linguistic knowledge, and also technological developments that have not had the opportunity to flourish in the past are lost (yet, perhaps).

    Our interest in these debates does not presuppose a return to ancestral primitivism, much less an uncritical adherence to globalism, but is located between (inter) planetary politics and cultural diversity of contemporary Latin America (and global south). We insist on these issues to collaborate in the construction of a future in which these historical injustices are repaired, in which the cultural diversity of the gender, race, and class minorities can be manifested through technological, scientific, theoretical, poetic, artistic artifacts, and so on. Contrary to this movement, we have on the other side the corporate massification system, which through the manipulation of science, technology and the media creates a machine of reproduction of colonial unconsciousness, that transforms the relations between human and nature into a treadmill of exploitation and expropriation, and prevents the autonomy of peoples to assert their own perspective on the world, nature, technology, and the future.

    Geopolitical multilateralism

    With the current geopolitical analysis, mainly scanned after the events that occurred in February 2022, with the occupation of Ukrainian territories by Russia, which publicly brought to light the need to change the logic of a polarized world to a possible multipolar era, where several nations are deeply thinking about their own sovereignty instead of submitting to a single dominant logic, we can understand more precisely the structure of the hegemonic thought so-called colonial or universalist, and what are the power networks that want to maintain it. The analysis of this geopolitical data allows us to understand more clearly that the projects considered inexorable within the capitalist, militarist machine, producer of the so-called universal subjectivity, are in reality organized by small conglomerates of financial and governmental groups that invest in technoscientific research for the production of their own profits, that with the domination of the media linked to political domination, determine the “scenarios of reality”, from a set of beliefs and values transformed into capital.

    Countries like Brazil are bound to this so-called universal standardization, under constant threat of economic sanctions or military attacks by allied countries and corporations that have their own plans for the various “peripheral” regions of the world, the West, South America, Brazil. Local Brazilian industry is becoming precarious, because its “national vocation” is increasingly tied to the export of food and natural resources, because the technological safeguards, the restrictions for scientific production are actually determined from the articulation between corporate elites of the country itself and foreign corporate elites. These programs of economic alliances between national and international elites disregard national development projects because their interest is to generate profit for their own corporations. In other words, in the name of globalization, a universal set of elites is formed whose goal is to generate more profit and not to solve local social problems.

    Thinking from localized knowledge (2) and not just accepting the great universalized and homogenized determinants is a way to safeguard the different perspectives that inhabit our planet, which directly interferes in the way we think and produce territory, technology, science, philosophy, art, and other possible or desirable worlds. But the conquest of this autonomy, in the historical references, has so far been achieved through much resistance, war, death, confrontation, genocide and murder, which puts, as a paradoxical effect, the entire arms industry in motion and consequently increases the profits of the war industry itself. It takes a lot of imagination to interrupt this logic.

    Astropolitics and space culture hegemony

    During the Cold War, in the space race, the world still divided its attention to a bilateral model (Soviet Union and the United States) and watched in this dispute, between state communism versus capitalist liberalism, two very different ways of thinking about the future among the stars. After the US made the first manned moon landings, the USSR continued to invest in the construction of the MIR (the first manned space station put into orbit). During this period, a series of cooperative space projects between the two powers began to take place, but by the end of the 1980s, the USSR began to weaken as a political, economic, and ideological project, and finally the union of Soviet socialist republics collapsed. The American liberal project became the new world empire project, and applied its liberal political ideologies to the space dream. The entire cosmology produced by NASA became a world reference, highly propagated to all corners of the globe, and these space dreams cradled the childhood dreams of billions of the world’s citizens. This NASA cosmology, built from the investment of several North Atlantic countries, was made possible by a large investment in the articulation between military and space science and technology and the use of cultural sectors such as education, media and arts (fine arts, design, cinema, documentary films, scifi literature, etc.). This articulation was fundamental to the construction of US cosmology and space culture from before the Apollos until the turn of the 2000s.

    Today it seems that NASA is weakening as a national institution through the outsourcing of its work to the private sector, such as to companies like SpaceX and others, just as it begins to lose its hegemony to countries like China, which in turn is also investing heavily in the articulation between space science (military and civilian) and the cultural sectors (education, advertising, and art), thus building its own cosmology, its own version of the future of earthlings among the stars, based on its own space dreams. So when we talk about space culture, we are necessarily negotiating with hegemonic projects that drag along the research and industries of other countries, that seek to engage in the technologies already developed in order to be able to act in some way on the space scene, without being able to build structural differences in these hegemonies. But it is in this sense that we insist on acting with a research and production platform in the sector of space art and culture, because it has the capacity to produce social engagement, produce new proposals, build imaginaries, intervene in the homogenized symbolic universe.

    Anthropocene of the Earth and Space

    At a historic moment when humans are slowly realizing their form of production and consumption is exterminating the earth’s biodiversity, the use of resources is putting their existence at risk, and the international economic relations are far from bringing justice and social balance, space dreams gain another connotation. Celestial stars begin to be seen as a place of abundant resources. With this, scientific research accelerates its experiments and companies develop mechanisms to exploit the minerals, space law anticipate the problems arising from the use of these resources, medicine starts to do tests in microgravity to cure cancer and make genetic experiments, and food companies start to build their space planting projects. This is how part of the new world economy begins to migrate its interests to the solar system, what we have called in our meetings solar capitalism, which is the displacement of the same expansionist, colonial logic of exploitation and expropriation of resources to other planets. It is good to underline that we are not against human expansion towards the solar system, much less against human colonies or the use of extraterrestrial natural resources to potentiate terraforming on an interplanetary scale. The question is how we can interfere in the colonial logic so that it does not repeat its expansion in the same molds produced during European expansionism towards the Americas, which intends to promote without any shame a space feudalism or a solar plutocracy. It is at this point that art and space culture have much to contribute to break the structural hegemony of the new space projects, expanding the possibilities of occupation of the solar system in a creative, intuitive, imaginative and multidiverse way.

    Space art and culture in Brazil: Three years of activities at the National Institute for Space Research (Fabiane M. Borges, September 2022)

    Denilson Baniwa, Letter to the indigenous people of the planet Mars with codes of recognition of the planet Earth, 2020

    Produce difference and not only reproduce the same model in space art and culture

    By adopting the vision of diversity, we are in a better position to think about transdisciplinarity. But this intersection between local diversity and astropolitical events is no easy task. We can speculate, for example, what this means when we think of the local complexities of the USA, Russia, China, Arab Emirates, India, the countries of Europe, Africa, Asia, Middle East, or right here in South America. Each one of these points disputes internal ideologies and carries in its baggage its own irreducibilities, its own historical traumas, its megalomaniac idiosyncrasies versus the history of the disempowered, its projects of power versus its religious fanaticisms, its crises of values and rights, and its local injustices. To confuse the production of diversity with a regionalist homogenization is a completely inconceivable idea. This is a naive utopia. Apparently the unique way to relate local diversities to the more neuralgic aspects of astropolitics and astroculture is to bet on historically effective skills of negotiation and diplomacy between various sectors of the society, in our case between varios sectores of space sciences and of art/culture, accessing creative spheres able to create and express, from practices such as transculturality e transdisciplinarity, what is most pulsating, controversial, complex, or even, disruptive or antagonistic to the massive domestication of our intelligence and our future. We have to act all the time in the interstices between space imaginaries and space hegemonies.

    In this perspective, a series of art and space culture activities are being carried out at INPE from 2019 until now (end of 2022), which aims to advance in transdisciplinary research projects. This amalgam is capable of producing news cosmic thoughts in the country, which not only consumes but also generates technodiversity. We intend to use this series as a platform of reference to create a research core group in space art and culture.

    Artistic residencies at PGETE/INPE and INPE & Society project – COEPE/DIEXC (2019-2022) (3)

    The first activities we did at INPE were the artistic residencies. We advocated for artistic residencies at INPE for three reasons: 1) to create spaces for research in art and space culture; 2) construction of transdisciplinary fields between art and sciences; 3) expanding the spectrum of applicability of space technologies to other sectors of society.

    Space art and culture in Brazil: Three years of activities at the National Institute for Space Research (Fabiane M. Borges, September 2022)

    The first resident artist of our platform SACI-E (Subjectivity, Art and Space Science) was the engineer, educator and artist Karina Karin (4) (11/2019), who developed the project “OriSat” (Ori: head in Yoruba – african Níger-Congo Language, Sat: Satellite), an afrofuturist satellite in cubesat format aimed at quilombola communities. Karina’s ArtSat makes reference to Afro-Brazilian ancestrality and to Afrofuturism as a cultural segment, its mission is food security and the care of soil, temperature and environment of the plantations in quilombola communities. The artsat is still in the building process, but it is being first tested at the State School Doutor Rodolfo Siqueira, from the City Hall of São Gonçalo / RJ, where Karina develops science education projects. The residency was under the care of PGETE/INPE, curated by the author of this text and supervised by Dr. Walter Abrahão dos Santos.

    In February of 2020 was the turn of the artist Pitter Rocha (5) (UNIRIO) to go to the SACI-E art-residency, also an Afrofuturist artist, who sonified the CBERS 04A data. The CBERS (China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite) program was implemented in 1988 through a partnership between the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and the Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST), in a binational technical and scientific agreement involving Brazil and China. The CBERS 04A satellite is an Earth observation satellite, the result of a Sino-Brazilian agreement launched on December 20, 2019, is the successor to CBERS-4, launched on December 7, 2014. Resident artist Pitter Rocha was the first artist to operate with the CBERS 04A data, a month after its launch, turning it into a musical document. The presentation of his work were demonstrated in the lectures of the 1st Workshop of ArtSat of INPE (6). The residency was also under the care of PGETE/INPE, curated by the author of this text and supervised by Dr. Walter Abrahão.

    The third artist in residency at SACI-E was Zander Porter (7). In March 2022, the artist, choreographer and performer from Amsterdam University of the Arts (DAS Choreography) performed his work under the title “3MOT1NG”, also known as somatic cyborg. The work consists of the translation in the form of gestures and choreographed movements, the affections that the encounter between human and technology arouse, the artist transforms the strangeness and human subjugation to the machine, into performance. Zander’s artistic work at INPE was to conduct an experiment in the architecture of the anechoic chambers of the LIT (Test and Integration Laboratory), proposing to transform his body into a satellite under test, deflagrating the solitude of this body in a hostile and machinary environment. Accustomed to working in groups, the artist put himself to the test by investigating alone the extremely silent environment of the cameras and with live video recordings built the structure of his choreography. It was the first residency done under the care of COEPE and DIEXC/INPE, curated by the author of this text and supervised by Dr. Paulo Escada.

    In our analysis, the residencies showed positive results, because despite being experimental and with no financial support from INPE, the institution provided support for receiving the artists and making available equipment and laboratories, as well as academic supervision for the researchers artists, who were able to produce works related to INPE’s space science program. The two first residencies were produced by the Space Engineering and Technology sector, and the third was produced buy INPE & Society (COEPE/DIEXC) but many other areas are willing to receive research artists, such as the astrophysics sector, advanced mathematics, remote sensing, terrestrial systems, among others. The goal is to expand the area of access for artist-in-residencies in the future. Some more artistic residencies were planned for 2022 and 2023, however, due to the pandemic the process was more restricted and slow.

    ArtSat, Space Art, nanosatellite, space junk, (research in our greatest tool)

    There is a great fear in relation to small satellites because of their durability and the ease with which they become space junk. Furthermore, the large undertakings in this area are being made by megacorporations that launch constellations of small satellites at once, thus changing the orbital traffic and dominating its use. When we join the small satellite project, we do so because this technology democratizes orbital use for developing countries that are not able to compete with the production of large scale satellites. Small satellites facilitate access to space science and technology, disseminate knowledge, and involve space engineering sectors with other fields of knowledge. Universities, schools, institutions and companies in the countries of the global south have shown increasing interest in small satellites in recent years. This is due to the accessibility and cheapening of resources. When we defend the creation of small artistic satellites (ArtSats), we do it in the name of access to research and at the same time, to guarantee representativeness and legitimacy in the space sector. The issue of space junk must be seen as a problem of the satellite components, which must be increasingly natural and less harmful, and for the treatment of waste, nowadays there are a number of efficient projects that aim to strongly reduce the space junk produced by the space industry, but still with little investment. These projects need to have more financial support to be properly tested and finally used. In order to work exactly in the interstices of these problems, we have opened the ArtSat programs, as a field of research and action in this sense.

    Space art and culture in Brazil: Three years of activities at the National Institute for Space Research (Fabiane M. Borges, September 2022)

    But what is an ArtSat? ArtSat is an abbreviation for Satellite Art (8). It is an artifact that combines satellite engineering with artistic techniques. The quality of an ArtSat is related to the utility of its payload, but also to its materiality, the nature of its components, and its form. Beyond the requirements of space engineering, the characteristics of an ArtSat also manifest themselves in its poetic attributes. An ArtSat is the materialization of a “hybrid language” that articulates technoscience with the sensitive dimension in the same object, besides being an instrument of investigation, research and deepening technoscientific, artistic and cultural knowledge, as exemplified by Karina Karim’s OriSat satellite, whose mission, as mentioned above, is to operate with food security in quilombola communities, joining aesthetic and conceptual aspects of Afrofuturism and at the same time determining a social utility to the object.

    Every satellite has a mission. So does an ArtSat. An ArtSat’s missions aggregate content that concerns also to the fictional and speculative dimensions, which has the power to affect sensibilities and futures. It is in our interest to open spaces for the creation of satellites whose mission is driven by afrofuturistic, ecological, indigenous, handcrafted proposals, that is, we want to potentiate the construction of satellites that don’t exist or have even been imagined. ArtSats are technical devices whose aesthetic freedom promotes other problems and challenges for space engineering, which can leverage research in the area in ways not yet foreseen. This allows us to broaden the panorama about the new Space Race that emerges in contemporaneity, urging us to build a proper place for space occupation. In other words, it allows us to create concrete tools of action to deal with the great problems of our time related to the terrestrial, atmospheric and space environment, phenomena inherent to satellite technology research, without, however, abandoning the symbolic and futuristic production, which are generators of new worlds.

    Space art and culture in Brazil: Three years of activities at the National Institute for Space Research (Fabiane M. Borges, September 2022)

    ArtSat Category in the CubeDesign (9)

    CubeDesign is an annual event organized since 2018 by INPE’s Postgraduate Program in Space Engineering and Technology (PGETE). The initiative brings society closer to the development of small satellites in a competitive environment. In 2018 and 2019 participants from several institutions from different Latin American countries participated in the competition to perform all the tests required to launch a small satellite into space: environmental test, environmental pressure, thermal variation, voltage, battery temperature, vibration, random test, telemetry, suitability check, mission, communication, remote control, mechanism, battery conditioning, altitude determination, stabilization system, imaging, etc. The three categories in 2018 and 2019 were CubeSat, CanSat, Mockup. In 2020 and 2021, due to the pandemic, the competition was virtual, and even with restricted access to satellite testing, was successfully launched in 2021 the Data Science and ArtSat category (10).

    In 2021 we launched for the first time the open call for the ArtSat (11) category, obtaining the participation of two competing teams: the team “Book of life” (transdisciplinary group created by the participants of II Workshop of ArtSat/2020), and the team “The shape in Space” of the State School Humberto de Campos of Sorocaba. For orientation, analysis and decision about the score of each team, we formed an advisor team with artists and engineers: Juan Diaz Infante (Ulysses I Satellite / Mexico), Lucas Bambozzi (Art and Technology / FAAP / Brazil), Mariana Paredes (Kosmica Institute / Mexico), Bruno Vianna (Brazilian from the Academy of Fine Arts / University of the Arts Helsinski (FI), Italo Pinto Rodrigues (Space Engineering / INPE / Brazil), Gabriela Junqueira (Space Engineering / INPE). The participants submitted their project files and after two weeks made the oral presentation of the project to the advisors (22/11/2021). They had 10 more days to deliver the reworked projects. Both teams were able to develop their project materially, the second place team “The Shape in Space ” launched their experiment with an atmospheric balloon a few days after the end of the competition in December 2021. The first place team “The Book of Life” is launching their experiment in orbit via SpaceX in late 2022, supported by the Mercosul Biennial. But the satellite changed its name, it is now called “Orbital Temple”. Its mission is to ask for names of dead people who have to be in heaven – “Who shall enter heaven? You tell me”. Orbital Temple is the first orbital satellite from the Global South with an artistic mission.

    Space art and culture in Brazil: Three years of activities at the National Institute for Space Research (Fabiane M. Borges, September 2022)

    Orbital Temple / 2022 – Artist Edson Pavoni, developed in collaboration with: Pedro Kaled, André Biagioni, Guilherme Bullejos, Roberta Savian Rosa, Jonathan Querubina, João Paulo Dutra and Eduardo Erlmn Edson Pereira, Gabriela Veiga and Clara Marques. http://orbitaltemple.art/

    Both teams made an interesting ArtSat project. They not only managed to resolve the demands of an ArtSat competition, but were also able to build their own strategies to launch their space artifacts.

    The awarding and closing ceremony of CubeDesign / 2021 was held with all the teams from all categories and had the (virtual) presence of coordinators from INPE and other institutions, as well as technology companies and supporters. In total there were about 150 participants, 18 of which were ArtSat teams. The participants of the competition were from several states in Brazil and many countries in Latin America. The video of the awards can be seen on CubeDesign’s youtube channel (12).

    We consider the competition of high quality due to the generosity of the CubeDesign organization team, the attention given to the ArtSat category, the quality of the ArtSat’s works, and the performance of the advisor’s group. Our intention is to maintain the ArtSat category in this competition for the next years.

    Workshops of ArtSat (PGETE/INPE – 2020/2021)

    ArtSat as a new category of CubeDesign has opened a new demand for our space art and culture program: to build an ArtSat development workshop, even to guarantee that there will be Brazilian participation in CubeDesign competitions and other satellite competitions. But it is not only about teaching how to build a technical object in the form of an artistic satellite. It is also about creating a conceptual work that enlarges the cultural spectrum that involves the artifact, giving conditions for a wide range of possibilities, based on global historical references, geopolitical and astropolitical discussions related to both art and space science, fomenting debates about space law, contemporary art, international circuit of art and technology, economic systems behind satellite technology, and so on. We apply the criteria developed in our curatorial line to make critical, political, ethical, ecological, philosophical and aesthetic thinking flourish. Our mission is to further the flourishing of transdisciplinary languages, to enhance the creativity of the workshops by bringing in experienced guests to talk about their projects, coordinators of space science institutes, curators from various countries, organizers of art and technology festivals, and artists who have already sent works into space.

    Space art and culture in Brazil: Three years of activities at the National Institute for Space Research (Fabiane M. Borges, September 2022)

    The II Workshop of ArtSat / 2020 encouraged greater participation from the Latin American public. The reason is obvious: We share similar interests and difficulties. It serves as a socio-technological investment in regional Space Culture, which seeks above all to bring together the common interests of various groups from different countries in order to foster the production of a singular space art-science, which does not submit indiscriminately to the polarizing discourses of the great space programs, or the great Art and Science programs, which centralize financial and media resources overshadowing the initiatives of developing countries. If we enter the new Space Race bringing with freedom a Latin, tropical space culture, producing the equatorial perspectivist technodiversity, won’t we be contributing more effectively to the international community? In other words, there are discursive and technological components that are unique and non-transferable from their local value, that can be of great value to the world. However, conditions must be created to facilitate these characteristics to appear.

    Latin America needs to develop research, technoscientific production and a singular space art/culture, that express its geopolitical condition, with its emerging, indigenized, africanized, miscegenated countries, to be capable of creating from its own complexity. The Workshops of ArtSat have a mission to encourage technodiversity. This represents an advance for the thought and production of Latin American art and science, because we want to cooperate in the formation of people that understands the place that Latin American countries occupy in contemporary astropolitics and should occupy in the next steps of the new space race.

    Space art and culture in Brazil: Three years of activities at the National Institute for Space Research (Fabiane M. Borges, September 2022)
    Space art and culture in Brazil: Three years of activities at the National Institute for Space Research (Fabiane M. Borges, September 2022)

    Building an ArtSat, with Lázaro Camargo (INPE)

    Workshop of ArtSat at INPE / 2020 (13)

    The I Workshop of ArtSat at INPE was a 40 hours course focused on art and space culture, organized as follows: 1) workshop for building satellites (ArtSat), executed by the electronic engineer Lázaro Camargo, and 2) presentation of artistic and theoretical works about the art/space science theme, curated by the author of this text, which had the participation of Italo Pinto Rodrigues representing CubeDesign. It had about thirty-five presentations of artistic and scientific research with guests from various places of Brazil and the world (14). In the end four teams were formed (15): 1) Team Antigenik Lab y Navalha Sat by Urutau Maria Pinto y “Antigenik Lab”, 2) Team Caipora-Sat by Alejandra Carolina Labarca Puelles, Ada Grecia Arenas sanchez and Yeté Abunã Marques Labarca, 3) Team ART. Rocket / SOLARSCAPES by Carolina Mattos Schundt, Ricardo Palmieri and Victor Valentim, 4) Team Inumeráveis / Livro da Vida – a memorial pocketQube – by Edson Pavoni, Pedro Kaled and Roberta Savian. The latter participated in the CubeDesign competition in the ArtSat category and took first place, and now in September 2022 launches its ArtSat into space, through Space X.

    Space art and culture in Brazil: Three years of activities at the National Institute for Space Research (Fabiane M. Borges, September 2022)
    Space art and culture in Brazil: Three years of activities at the National Institute for Space Research (Fabiane M. Borges, September 2022)

    The four projects of ArtSat of the four different times organized in the I workshop of ArtSat at INPE / 2020

    Workshop of ArtSat at INPE / 2021 (16)

    The II Workshop of ArtSat at INPE, as the first workshop, was a 40-hour course focused on space art and culture, organized as follows: 1) workshop for the construction of satellites (ArtSat), executed by the electronic engineer Lázaro Camargo and 2) Presentation of artistic and theoretical works on the theme of art/space science, under the curatorship of the author of this text, which had about 10 theoretical debates (17) from the Latin American perspective, with guest speakers from countries such as Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Bolivia and from Brazilian states such as Amazonas, Pará, Rio Grande do Norte and São Paulo. 3) An open call for the creation of an album of space music, made only for Latin American musicians. In the end a single cross-disciplinary team with 10 members called ARATUSAT. Aratu means a mangrove crab, which is used in the project as a reference to the manguebit movement that brings together Pernambuco’s regional culture with electronic music, plus aspects critical to globalization. ArtSat’s mission is to create a model for reading space debris and transform them into artistic readings, but with the data released. The team consists of 10 members: Arad Walsh, Enzo Garabito, Fernanda Neves, Isabella Fernanda, Lino Divas, Luciana de Paula Santos, Núbia de Moura Borges, Pitter Gabriel Maciel Rocha, Sidney Monteiro Jr. For those who want to get to know the project, access the SACI-E website (18).

    Space art and culture in Brazil: Three years of activities at the National Institute for Space Research (Fabiane M. Borges, September 2022)
    Space art and culture in Brazil: Three years of activities at the National Institute for Space Research (Fabiane M. Borges, September 2022)

    The AratuSat, the unique artsat project of the time of the II Workshop of ArtSat at INPE/ 2021

    First Album of Latin American Cosmic Sounds (19)

    We took advantage of the structure of the II ArtSat Workshop at INPE to launch an open call for the creation of the First Album of Latin American Cosmic Sounds. It was focused entirely on Latin American musical artists. The main theme of the album was “Latin America in the future of space occupations”. The theme gave us the opportunity to contribute to the construction of an imaginary spatial sound repertoire, gathering practices and poetics that represent the diversity of sound production and the local specificities of some Latin American countries. Compositions that explore the relationship between scientific data and sonification were considered in the Album. This data could be extracted from artifacts such as satellites, probes, antennas, telescopes, remote sensing techniques or other space equipment from any country, or from previously produced sound materials. Data and image sonification, electromagnetic interferences, programming, computer engineering, circuit-bending, arduino, scores and graphic notations were used in the compositions. We emphasized that the sound proposal should relate technique, concept and poetics, articulating the material with the theme of the album and with the issues surrounding environmental and climate changes, atmospheric pollution and spatial occupation.

    Space art and culture in Brazil: Three years of activities at the National Institute for Space Research (Fabiane M. Borges, September 2022)
    Space art and culture in Brazil: Three years of activities at the National Institute for Space Research (Fabiane M. Borges, September 2022)

    The album (Design of Lino Divas)

    “The collection covers different practices and techniques of sound creation, such as electroacoustic and noise music, sound collage, field recording, different approaches to sonification of data and images, improvisation, creation of instruments to capture electromagnetic waves that are converted into sound. The set instigates by presenting a diverse aesthetic picture of sound speculations of the cosmos through the sound memory of space missions, records of electromagnetic manifestations, sonification of scientific data from space program archives, solar activity and rain flow. The compilation is a cosmic cross between art, science, technology, speculative fiction, and sound. This mix activates the listener’s cosmoperception to the vibrations of the invisible, the noise that runs through us. The cosmic sonorities are a journey where we embark on a nomadic experience through space enveloped by one of the engines. They make us feel the warmth of the electromagnetic waves of solar winds in the glowing sunset, which burn away the remnants of the expanded voices of human experience. The sidereal sonic experience is a continuum from the silence of the vacuum to the subtle vibration of the meteor, the life force, the axé of the celestial body. It relays, re-reads, revises, reactivates the imagery and imagination of the dimensions and forces of Space; it sonifies the vision of science and allows us to read images in their smallest parts, bits, pixels and frames, creating movement. Thus, we dance solar data in Afro-indigenous Atlantic beats and revisit the first science, the science of rhythm, the one that shapes time. The effect of time is fluid, it dilates and contracts, flows like the waters in 100 years within 3 minutes. Sound, as the ontology of a world, allows us to touch the invisible, greet the sub-atomic, and echo into eternity, aligned with the stars, undead satellites, and alien nature (20).

    For the realization of the album we invited the brazilian artist, musician and second artistic resident of INPE, Pitter Rocha, to share the curatorship with the author of this text, and the Argentinean artist Lino Divas to do the graphic design. The album Latin American Cosmic Sonorities brings together 13 sound compositions by 19 artist-scientists from 6 countries (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Uruguay). Its purpose was to deflate the Latin American imaginary about the cosmos, thus constituting a spatial sound occupation allied to the multiplicity of cultures and musical styles of this group of countries. The selection was made through an open call, with the following provocations: What is the role of Latin America in Space Occupations? What contribution can it make to global space thinking from its specific singularity? The album is the result of these provocations. The tracks were chosen through curation and two guest jurors: Tatiana Cuoco (Argentina) and María Ignacia Edwards (Chile).

    List of artists and the songs of the Album of Latin American Cosmic Sounds
    1 – SPACE NOMADS – Jorge Barco (CO) – 6’18”
    2- Ocaso – Telmo Cristovam (BR) – 6”
    3- Cosmic Scraps – Ariane Stolfi (BR) – 6’30”
    4 – Sideral – Gilberto Esparza and Marcela Armas in collaboration with Diego Liedo and Daniel Llermaly (MX) – 6’5”
    5 – re:transmission – Henrique Roscoe (BR) – 6’38”’
    6 – Solar Wave – A1219 and Flávia Goa (BR) – 2021, 4’20”
    7 – Pluvia (Meditation about Precipitation and Temperature Brazilian Data Sonification from 1901 – 2020 ) – Viktor Stargazer (BR) – 3’42”
    8 – Tocando Lo Invisible – Isaac Medina y Mariana Paredes (MX) – 4’2”
    9 – Bön – Fill (AR) – 4’30”’
    10 – Diamagnetism – Bella (BR) – 6’21”’
    11 – Jupiter Saturn conjunction through the waves emitted by a zombie satellite – Brian Mackern (UY) – 8’21”’
    12 – Moon in Juno – Pedro Diaz and Alexandre Beraldo (BR) – 6’27”
    13 – Naturaleza Alien Homocosmicusfungi – José Luis Jácome Guerrero (EC) – 10’36”’

    Plutocracy on Pluto, summer course focused on astropolitics (21)

    Plutocracy is a system of government where only the wealthy have the legal right to exercise political control. It is a regime where the class that dominates the means of production, circulation, and distribution of wealth is the same class that determines the fate of the earthly populations. An example of this is the operating model of the technology corporations known as Big Techs, which spread across all continents of the planet determining social relations and using as capital, user data on a global level. When we talk about Plutocracy on Pluto we are making a double provocation, which is to question the forms of power and control on Earth and also in Space. We ask ourselves whether the worldviews that are at stake in the New Space Race, with all its projects for military weaponry, production of space technology, artificial intelligence and mining of celestial bodies (such as the Moon, Mars and asteroids) will serve only to empower the plutocracy from the acceleration of the modes of domination of the solar system by a few corporate conglomerates, or whether we are facing a new possibility of creating a future that will also allow the transportation of the multiplicity of world views, different perspectives of the world and biodiversity that characterizes, in principle, the planet Earth. In other words, through this new space opportunity, will collaboration between peoples be more determining than competition between large corporations, or are we only reinforcing with more sophisticated models the hierarchy and discrepancy between rich and poor peoples? Plutocracy on Pluto was a course in astropolitics, geopolitical positioning, that helped us map out the interests behind current space projects, be they military, industrial, commercial, or scientific. It is also a study of the imaginaries that cross this new frontier. We want to zoom in on the utopias, dystopias, philosophical, speculative, artistic imaginaries, and on the science fictions that have been produced by means of this space dilemma, to better visualize the aesthetics of the future that are being produced in this context of climate change and space occupation.

    Space art and culture in Brazil: Three years of activities at the National Institute for Space Research (Fabiane M. Borges, September 2022)

    Plutocracy on Pluto was a geopolitics course focused on space issues. It was held from January 24 to 28, 2022, in a virtual form, with intensive meetings in the mornings and afternoons. The course dealt with political issues, economic and legal multilateral interests of the state and private sectors that configure the “new space”. From the perspective of art and space culture, topics such as colonies on the Moon and Mars, mining the celestial stars, utopias and dystopias of space programs, and the subjective constructs that accompany such themes were addressed. Futuristic and aesthetic imaginaries were brought through the point of view of curators, philosophers, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, natives, astronomers, engineers, and others. We consider the knowledge of geopolitics to be extremely important for training in the sectors of space art and culture, so that students can understand space projects in depth and be able to evaluate the forces at play in the current process of expansion towards the solar system. In all, there were 18 specialists in the fields of space art, science, and technology, with about 90 students enrolled. We consider the course to be excellent because of its boldness and creativity. Working with such complex themes as space geopolitics in a transdisciplinary way and with the bias of the great philosophical sets that guide the space art and culture places this course in the international state of the art. The quality of the lectures, the multiculturalism of the speakers, the perspective of the global south in the face of the whole New Space scene, the depth with which the themes were discussed and the attention given by the registrants makes us consider the course worthy of continuation.

    Space art and culture in Brazil: Three years of activities at the National Institute for Space Research (Fabiane M. Borges, September 2022)


    In terms of comparison with other international space programs, we deduce that the four projects developed at INPE so far are in line with the state of the art in the area of space art and culture. We consider this projects innovative and excellent in terms of results, shared technologies and conceputalization. The projects are complying with the curatorial line to which we propose ourselves that seeks originality, authenticity and cultural diversity. Para comprovar isso, usamos como exemplo os trabalhos finais das oficinas ArtSats, que, além de serem feitas por meio de equipes transdisciplinares que se organizam dentro da própria oficina, trazem em sua missão, propostas que condizem com a linha curatorial do nosso programa, como como o CaiporaSat/2020, que como projeto pretende trabalhar com sensoriamento remoto em regiões de reservas indígenas, ou o NavalhaSat/2020, que apesar de ainda não ter desenvolvido totalmente o satélite, tem uma equipe formada apenas por travestis, ou o AratuSat/2021 que é baseado no ancestrofuturismo (ancestralidade e imaginações futurísticas) trazendo como missão do ArtSat registrar dados e imagens de lixo espacial da baixa órbita terrestre (LEO – Low Earth Orbit) para produzir trabalhos com esses dados de arte e exibi-los, realizando assim apropriações e reconfigurações, na tentativa de sensibilizar e aproximar as pessoas de uma questão tão urgente que é o lixo espacial. With these few examples we can verify that there is a correspondence between the curatorial interests and the production of ArtSats, and this means that we are opening a significant transdisciplinary line.

    Finally, we emphasize that the developed projects can be replicated and deepened to the extent that they have more institutional support both in terms of internal and external recognition of INPE, which can only happen through dissemination, translation, publication and exchanges. In 2022 and 2023, both the ArtSat Workshop, the summer course and the record production could be part of the Space Studies Program (SSP) of the International Space University (ISU), which may come to be held in Brazil under the coordination of INPE, the Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica (ITA) and the Prefeitura de São José dos Campos. It is also possible to be presented in international meetings such as the ITACCUS / IAF (Committee for the Cultural Utilization of Space of the International Astronautical Federation), besides being possible to start a series of exchanges with research centers in art and space culture in countries of Europe, North America, India, Russia and China, research centers in Latin America and countries of the Global South.


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    KULACKI, Gregory and LEWIS, Jeffrey G. (2009). A Place for One’s Mat: China’s Space Program, 1956–2003. Publicado pela American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
    LAND, Nick. “Fanged Noumena” Collected Writings 1987-2007. Ed. Urbanomic. 3º Edition , UK. 2014
    LEE Soo-jin, WOHN Kwang-yun, “The Media-Art Exhibition Ten YearsAfter-v4.0-OuterSpace”, Leonardo, Vol.41, n°5, pp. 454-459, 2008
    MACHADO, Arlindo. Máquina e Imaginário, O desafio das Poéticas Tecnológicas. Texto: Máquina e Imaginário. Pág. 30. 3. ed. – São Paulo: Editora da Universidade de São Paulo, 1º ed. 1993
    MALINA Frank J., On the Visual Fine Arts in the Space Age, Leonardo,Vol.3, pp.323-325, 1970
    MALINA Roger, “The Cultural Dimension of Space Exploration”, Editorial, Leonardo, Vol. 25, n°1, pp. 1-2, 1992, Oxford, Pergamon Press
    MANN, Adam. What Is The Dream Of Chinese Spaceflight? Publicado no medium.com em 10/10/2017.https://medium.com/@adammann93...
    FRENAIS, Rob La. and CHARDRONNET, “Ewen. Space Without Rockets”. 2022. UV. Edition.
    ROLNIK, Suely. Esferas da Insurreição, notas para uma vida não cafetinada. Editora N-1, 2018. © n-1 edições, 2018.
    ROTH Tim Otto, “Cosmic Revelation”, Leonardo, Vol.42, n°3, pp.288-289, 2009
    ROTH Tim Otto, “From the Distant Past”, Leonardo, Vol. 46, n°5, pp. 492-493, MIT Press, 2013
    SAGAN, Carl; SALZMAN, Sagan Linda; DRAKE, Frank. – “A Message from Earth” – Source: Science, New Series, Vol. 175, No. 4024 (Feb. 25, 1972), pp. 881-884 – Published by: American Association for the Advancement of Science
    WOODS, Arthur. “Art to the Stars: An Astronautical Perspective on the Arts and Space”. Ars Astronautica, 11/2018. Disponível em: https://www.arsastronautica.co... stars.php


    1. Cfe. Galeano, Eduardo. Open Veins of Latin America. Translated by C. Belfrage, Monthly Review Press, 1996. Page 15 to 90 //// Original: Cfe. GALEANO, Eduardo. Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina. 52º Edición. Siglo Veintiuno Argentina Editores Ediciones. 1988.
    2. Cfe. Haraway, Donna. (2009). Localized knowledges: the question of science for feminism and the privilege of the partial perspective. Cadernos Pagu, (5), 7-41. Retrieved from https://periodicos.sbu.unicamp... . Original article published in Feminist Studies, 13 (3), 1988, translated with the permission of Feminist Studies, Inc., c/o Women’s Studies Program, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742. (…) “I am arguing for politics and epistemologies of allocation, positioning, and situation in which partiality rather than universality is the condition of being heard in the propositions to be made of rational knowledge. These are proposals regarding people’s lives; the view from a body, always a complex, contradictory, structuring and structured body, versus the view from above, from nowhere, of simplism. Only the trick of god is forbidden. Here is a criterion for deciding the question of science in militarism, this science/technology dream of perfect language, perfect communication, final order.” (…) “It seems clear that feminist versions of objectivity and embodiment-that is, of a world-of the kind outlined here require a deceptively simple maneuver within Western analytic traditions, a maneuver that began with dialectics but stopped before the necessary revisions. Localized knowledges require that the object of knowledge be seen as an actor and agent, not as a screen, or a terrain, or a resource, and finally never as a slave to the master who encloses the dialectic only in his agency and his authority of “objective” knowledge. The observation is paradigmatically clear in critical approaches to the social sciences and humanities, in which the very agency of the people studied transforms the entire project of social theory production.”
    3. Departments of INPE (National Institute for Space Research): PGETE (Program Post-Graduation on space engineering and technology // COEPE (Coordination of Teaching, Research and Extension) and DIEXC (Extension and Training Division) – https://www.gov.br/inpe/pt-br
    4. First artist in residence at INPE \ Karina Karim\ 2019 – Under academic supervision of Walter Abrahão dos Santos and curated by Fabiane M. Borges. (Accessed on 07/17/2022)
    5. Second artist in residence at INPE \ Pitter Rocha \ 2020 – Under academic supervision of Walter Abrahão dos Santos and curated by Fabiane M. Borges. (Accessed on 07/17/2022)
    6. Presentation of the results of Karina Karim and Pitter Rocha’s artistic residencies at INPE’s I ArtSat Workshop (Accessed on 07/17/2022)
    7. Third artist in residence at INPE \ Zander Porter \ 2022 – Under academic supervision of Paulo Escada and curated by Fabiane M. Borges. (Accessed on 07/17/2022)
    8. For more on artistic satellites and artsats, see the text by: Bureaud, Annick: A beautiful name for a satellite*Satellites artistiques. Objets d’art paradoxaux, entre politique et poétique. And Griffin, Joanna: Creative resistance and satellite imaginaries. Both articles are published in Das Questões Magazine n#6, September/December 2018. Dossier Extremøphilia. Organized by Fabiane M. Borges. (Accessed on 07/17/2022)
    9. To see how a Cubedesign competition is organized at INPE, see the text “CubeDesign: A Comprehensive Competition for Space Engineering Training in Latin America”. By Walter A. Dos Santos, Jenny C. R. Asencio, Eduardo E. Burger, Lazaro A.P. Camargo, Christopher S. Cerqueira, Jeanne Lima, Herbi J. P. Moreira, Daniel Nono(1), Mateus Oliveira(1), Italo P. Rodrigues(1), Felipe O. Tavares, Auro Tikami, and Plinio I. G. Tenório. Or see event page. (All links were accessed in 09/07/2022).
    10. To create the Artsat category we had to have a series of meetings with some members of the CubeDesign organization group like Ítalo Pinto Rodrigues, Ricardo Maurício Ferreira and André Ferreira Teixeira, under the guidance of Prof. Eng. Walter Abrahão dos Santos, to adapt the CubeSat evaluation criteria to ArtSat, decide the requirements for the ArtSat mission, define the tests and applications, as well as logos, social network calls, publications design, among others. http://www.inpe.br/cubedesign/...
    11. Complete material for the CubeDesign 2021 ArtSat Category. Open call in Portuguese. Complete rules for the CubeDesign 2021 ArtSat Category- ArtSat Projects submitted for CubeDesign/ 2021: Book of Life & The Shape in Space. (All links were accessed on 07/17/2022)
    12. The video of the awards can be seen on CubeDesign’s youtube channel (Accessed in 08/09/2022)
    13. See open call: Portuguese – English. Call with the entire program of the ArtSat technical and theoretical course – with Lázaro Camargo and Fabiane M. Borges + guests Videos of the complete ArtSat technical course – with Lázaro Camargo. Videos of the complete theoretical course on Space Art and Culture – With Fabiane M. Borges + guests. (All links were accessed on 07/13/2022)
    14. See First Workshop of ArtSat at INPE at SACI-E website. (accessed in 18/07/2022).
    15. To see the teams of the ArtSats projects, access the SACI-E website. To access the complete material with all the schedule for the 1st INPE/2020 ArtSat Workshop. To access the contents of the lectures. (All links accessed on 07/18/2022)
    16. Complete material with all the programming of the Second Workshop of ArtSat at INPE.
      Open call in Portuguese/Spanish. Open call at SACIE website – Program “Building an ArtSat” with Lázaro Camargo. Program of the Art/Space Culture Debates. (All links accessed 18/07/2022)
    17. See the Second Workshop of ArtSat at INPE at SACI-E’s website. (accessed in 18/07/2022)
    18. To learn more about the ArtSat ARATUSAT project, access the SACI-E website. (Accessed on 06/18/2022)
    19. To access the “Latin American Cosmic Sonorities” Album, see the SACI-E website. /// To watch the release of the Album.
      (Links accessed on 07/18/2022) Organization: SACI-E/INPE. Curator and Organization: Fabiane M. Borges and Pitter Rocha Graphic Art: Lino Divas. Jurors: Tatiana Cuoco (Argentina) and María Ignacia Edwards (Chile), Realization: INPE (National Institute for Space Research); Support: DIVERSITAS/FFLCH/USP.
    20. Cfe. Borges. Fabiane, M. and Rocha, Pitter. Curatorial text of the album “Latin American Cosmic Sonorities”. Check on SACI-E. (Accessed on 07/14/2022)
    21. The videos of the lectures can be accessed on the SACI-E (Subjectivity, Art and Space Science) blog.
      Open call for Plutocracy on Pluto in Portuguese. In English. Schedule of the debates. (All links were accessed on 07/14/2022)

    Disclaimer: This is the perspective adopted by researcher Fabiane M. Borges during the period in which she worked in the implementation of art and space culture projects at INPE, but this narrative is personal and does not represent the National Institute of Space Research or the current Federal Government of Brazil.

  • More-than-Planet: Remote sensing and habitability (Annick Bureaud, August 2022)

    Inaugurating an ambitious three-year program, the More-than-Planet exhibition is now on view at the Old Observatory of Leiden (Netherlands) though December 31, 2022.

    Summer 2022 was marked on one hand by images from the James Webb space telescope – gazing out at the infinity of stars – and on the other by satellite images of forest fires or aerial shots following a symbolic cargo of grains crossing the Black Sea – observation of the Earth. Between “star gazing” and “remote sensing”, one of our most pressing challenges is habitability – of our planet, potentially of other planets, of the cosmos in our ongoing quest for traces of life. Quests for knowledge and survival are inextricably intertwined.

    How to describe and draw the portrait of a planet? Through its geology, its place in a galaxy, its biosphere, its resources, its infrastructures, its atmosphere, and many more approaches. What kinds of fantasies come into play? Scientific, mythological, poetic, of exploration and conquest, exploitation, even irrational conspiracies such as Flat Earth and many others.

    Embracing this complexity, the More-than-Planet project aims to dialectically confront two views that are sometimes opposed: the desire for extra-terrestrial space and taking into account the Earth as a global living system. More-than-Planet examines each of these views through the other, in a comprehension-apprehension of Earth through Space and of Space through our planet.

    In a symbolic, perhaps involuntary gesture, the first More-than-Planet exhibition opened on July 1 and extends through December 31 in Leiden, in the world’s oldest active university observatory, established in 1633 and situated in the Hortus Botanicus, the Netherlands’ oldest botanical garden, created in 1590. These two institutions have hosted the most illustrious scholars in their respective disciplines, along with the evolution of knowledge, beliefs and perspectives over centuries.

    The way in which we draw the portrait of our planet is crucial in regard to the current issues surrounding Earth and Space, as well as our responses to them, as objects of political, ideological and representational confrontations. Miha Tursič and Waag Futurelab in Amsterdam, the curators of this exhibition, have chosen to focus on remote sensing and telepresence: remote observation of the Earth and a mediatized perception that is augmented by space technologies. The five works presented in More-than-Planet are screen-based installations. Three of them could be qualified as activist artworks.

    Sensible zone

    By now it’s a cliché to say that the Earth is primarily covered in seas and oceans. Yet their role in the planetary system and the impact that climate change has on them is barely perceptible to us. Oceans and Earth are linked. Territorial Agency’s Sensible Zone targets this narrow stretch – from less than 200 to more than 200 meters – where water and land meet, a zone that is fragile and sensible to the slightest disturbance. Based on various scientific data, Territorial Agency created an installation composed of vertical screens that scroll various dynamic visualizations of the current state of predicted disasters. With its icy and seductive esthetic, this work is still a bit difficult to understand without the complement of an outside explanation.

    More-than-Planet: Remote sensing and habitability (Annick Bureaud, August 2022)

    Traces of the Anthropocene in the Pacific Ocean: data on fishing and transshipment near the Nazca-Desventuradas marine park off the coasts of Chile. © Territorial Agency

    Asunder by Tega Brain, Bengt Sjölén and Julian Oliver is in some ways the counterpoint of Sensible Zone, or its next phase. What are the solutions for mitigating the scale of climate change? Ask an AI for help. Add to it a dose of satellite images, a climate simulator, and Machine Learning techniques to produce images – the result is fictional scenarios, which theoretically allow for adapted responses that are in reality largely absurd and unfeasible. Asunder’s tech-savvy esthetic traps viewers into paying it no more than superficial attention, a bit like experts and promoters of a greeting by a technology that hasn’t been invented yet.

    More-than-Planet: Remote sensing and habitability (Annick Bureaud, August 2022)

    Asunder, by Tega Brain, Bengt Sjölén and Julian Oliver © Annick Bureaud

    What’s the difference between an artistic work and a documentary used for a court trial? Nothing, in the case of If toxic air is a monument to slavery, how do we take it down?. Forensic Architecture’s video essay presents an undeniably high quality of visual writing, going beyond what might seem like fascination for the scientific images of the previous projects. Weaving together what the human eye sees and captures with instrumental images and testimonies from relevant people, the film repositions humans and life at the center of the narrative. The humans in question are the victims and perpetrators – in the past, of slavery, and in the present, of industrial chemical pollution. In Louisiana, along the Mississippi River, on a territory of former sugar cane plantations, now stands a “Petrochemical Corridor” of factories making the air in that zone among the most toxic in the United States.

    Watch If toxic air is a monument to slavery, how do we take it down? trailer on Vimeo

    Sand, from Kuwait to Mars

    The two other works in the exhibition, while also making use or reference to space technologies, distinguish themselves from the others’ more direct eco-political approach. They also include tangible objects alongside the videos.

    Our dear GPS, which helps us to find our way through the tortuous streets of Venice or elsewhere, is also a useful war instrument. A Space War Monument was created by Dani Ploeger for the Kuwait Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the end of the first Gulf War (1990-91). This war has also been called “The First Space War”, during which space technologies were widely deployed. Ploeger confronts the image of this quasi-abstract “technological war” with the reality of the field, which is hardly as clean. His resulting “land art” is a 100-square-meter area of sand in the desert created by a GPS-controlled bulldozer – an ephemeral monument that attempts to erase all traces of the dead, mines and weapons.

    A very short video documents the construction of the piece. But can we be sure of what the images really show? Claiming to be set in the Kuwaitian desert, this Monument was actually built on a European beach. Very real, on the other hand, are the tangible traces: two small squares framed on the wall. One is made from sand sampled from the battlefield in Kuwait, the other with a gold leaf. These objects, almost insignificant when compared with the imposing technological and war machinery, reveal themselves as contemporary monuments to the dead.

    More-than-Planet: Remote sensing and habitability (Annick Bureaud, August 2022)

    Dani Ploeger with a Caterpillar D6 bulldozer controlled by GPS. DR Space War Monument

    More-than-Planet: Remote sensing and habitability (Annick Bureaud, August 2022)

    © Annick Bureaud

    More-than-Planet: Remote sensing and habitability (Annick Bureaud, August 2022)

    © Annick Bureaud

    On Earth, we can always go and check. At least that’s what we think, with this feeling of knowing the far reaches of the planet through the constant stream of photos, illustrations, models and representations that surround us. But on Mars? On Mars we rely on a mediatized perception that both reduces our senses to a single eye and augments our field of vision to the spectrum covered by these instruments. Minna Långström invites us to embark on this journey with her magnificent and masterful installation Photons of Mars.

    More-than-Planet: Remote sensing and habitability (Annick Bureaud, August 2022)

    Photons of Mars, Minna Långström, 2019. © Annick Bureaud

    On three big screens, she juxtaposes images of Mars: shot from rovers within the spectrum of human vision by high-definition cameras; shot by several different scientific instruments on board; captured by the control center and the cockpit of the rovers, with allusions to the fictional images that fill our imaginations. These three simple screens placed in a row are more relevant than any virtual reality set-up: we are on Mars. This little corner of the planet becomes just as familiar to us as to the pilots of the rovers or to the scientists who scrutinize and analyze it day after day. Like them, we inhabit the substitute bodies and seeing machines of the rovers, we are telepresent on Mars. No doubt the similiarities between Earth and Mars facilitate this sensation, but it’s especially the artist’s visual composition, the strength of the poetry and the strangeness that paradoxally give the red planet a real density.

    More-than-Planet: Remote sensing and habitability (Annick Bureaud, August 2022)

    “Jake Matijevic” Martian rock, Photons of Mars, Minna Långström © Annick Bureaud

    Photons of Mars is accompanied by a sculpture, that of the Martian rock nicknamed “Jake Matijevic” as a tribute to the engineer and mathematician who played an important role in creating the Curiosity rover, and who died just a few days before its landing on Mars. Displayed in a case opposite the video installation, it appears to be an ancient artifact exhibited in a museum, that we recognize, without really knowing it. Here begins our responsibility toward the planet Mars. What will we do with it?

    Ever since we learned about B612, the home asteroid of The Little Prince, we know that inhabiting celestial bodies is not easy, and that these can be fragile. There is no Planet B, and we are debating if it is desirable. Meanwhile, one thing is certain: we must reconsider the multitude of imaginary environments in relation to our planet Earth, considered as a conceptual whole.


    Space Without Rockets (ed. E. Chardronnet, R. La Frenais, UV Editions, August 2022)

    This book is a guide on how to get to near outer space, in orbit, or further into the cosmos without polluting the atmosphere and worsening the climate emergency on Earth.

    Essential reading for all space enthusiasts, mission specialists, space engineers, aeronauts, astronauts, cosmonauts, taikonauts, space agency officials, but also space skeptics, balloonists, Earth system scientists, nature-culture historians, environmentalists, climate change activists, synergists, autonomous astronauts... and everyone on planet Earth.

    Written by scientists, engineers, artists, curators, and cultural specialists in space exploration, this book will change your mind about how we might steer our Spaceship Earth and travel to the Moon, planets, stars, and beyond in a sustainable way.

    Space Without Rockets (ed. E. Chardronnet, R. La Frenais, UV Editions, August 2022)

    Space without Rockets - Makery.info