Exhibition: A glitch in the Stars-Space Exploration Initiative at Ars Electronica
In a few days, on September 6th, the annual Ars Electronica festival in Linz, Austria will once again open its doors to artists, scientists, technologists and interested audience alike. The festival established itself as arguably one of the most important platforms for transdisciplinal experimentation, as well as evaluation and reinvention. Above all, it is a gathering place for creativity and innovativeness.
This year’s edition bears the title Error – The Art of Imperfection. At a time when everything seems to be tilting in the direction of maximization and towards achieving utter perfection, putting forward the ‘error’ as something potentially valuable and/or useful can itself be seen as an act of transgression, a deviation from the norm.
‘Error’ can be a whole array of things and concepts. ‘Glitch’ is one of them and also the one put to use in the following example of the Space Exploration Initiative. The Initiative, MIT Media Lab’s grassroots organisation that promotes “open-access, space-hacking future”, is presenting its six projects with their very first arts exhibition called ‘A Glitch in the Stars‘ at Ars Electronica 2018 in PostCity. In it, they explore the seemingly impossible: humans in space. This is itself a kind of an ‘error’, or a ‘glitch’, since space is »naturally« uninhabitable – in space, humans are exposed to various risks and human-unfriendly conditions, including zero-gravity and radiation.
How could we overcome those obstacles, and, if we do, how does the human factor relate to the space factor? The six projects offer us several futuristic conceptualisations of living in space – where ‘living’ is not merely ‘inhabiting’ but also includes all the meanings and connotations that we have in mind when we think of ‘home’, for example. Scent, the most powerful memory and thus, nostalgia inducer, of all senses, is employed in Ani Liu‘s Smells for Space. Liu made olfactive tokens, capsules which contain the Earth’s scents and which could be used by future astronauts on their one-way trip to space.
Nicole L’Huillier and Sands Fish were thinking of another inherently human aspect – the desire or need for music and musical expression. They designed Telemetron, a musical instrument, which works in zero-gravity. Made up of gyroscopes, the instrument translates motion into sound, so that “the performance [becomes] a dance between human and non-human bodies and explores a new body language for music” .
Furthermore, Juliana Cherston made Grappler, a tool for landing infrastructure on an asteroid; Chrisoula Kapelonis and Carson Smuts created Spatial Flux, a pneumatic surface that embraces human body in zero-gravity. Ariel Ekblaw is presenting Tesserae, a self-assembling space architecture, and Xin Liu is introducing Orbit Weaver, a spider mobility-inspired handheld gadget that helps humans coordinate movements in weightlessness.
Text by CLOT Magazine (Twitter @clotmagazine)
(Photo ‘Smells for Space (Ani Liu), courtesy of the Space Exploration Initiative of MIT Media Lab)