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Introduction to Blowup Reader 7

Introduction to Blowup Reader 7 by Michelle Kasprzak.

This eBook, the seventh in the series of Blowup Readers released by V2_, explores the extreme scenario that is outer space. It forms part of the ongoing research into Innovation in Extreme Scenarios carried out by V2_Lab.

About V2_:
V2_, Institute for the Unstable Media, founded in 1981, is an interdisciplinary center for art and media technology in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. V2_ conducts research at the interface of art, technology and society. V2_ presents, produces, archives and publishesabout art made with new technologies and encourages the debate on these issues. V2_ offers a platform where artists, scientists, developers of software and hardware, researchers and theorists from various disciplines can share their findings. Art and culture play an essential role in the social embedding of and attitude towards technological developments, and V2_ creates a context in which technological issues are explored through critical reflection and practice-oriented research.

About Blowup:
Blowup, launched in 2011, is a series of events and exhibitions that explore contemporary questions from multiple viewpoints. Blowup zooms in on ideas, bringing into focus clear pictures of how art, design, philosophy, and technology are transforming our lives – or reinforcing the status quo.

Each Blowup event will provide a deeper understanding of a theme relevant to this moment in time. Some events will ask you to be hands-on, and some will involve just listening or looking. No two events will be the same: Blowup events mix artists and theoreticians; mix formats; challenge assumptions; and take risks. Investigating topics ranging from art for animals to speculative designs for future objects, each Blowup will surprise and inform.

Along with the public events, Blowup Readers exploring the thematic strands with texts from a wide range of sources will be released in eBook format. Blowup is curated by Michelle Kasprzak.

 

Outer Space as Extreme Scenario 
 
“The answer to the Riddle of the Ages has actually been out in the street since the First Step in Space. Who runs may read but few people run fast enough. What are we here for? Does the great metaphysical nut revolve around that? Well, I’ll crack it for you, right now. What are we here for? We are here to go!” - Brion Gysin, The Process 1969
 
“Wir sinds, wir! wir haben unsre Lust daran, uns in die Nacht des Unbekannten, in die kalte Fremde irgend einer anderen Welt zu stürzen und wär es möglich, wir verliessen der Sonne Gebiet und stürmten über des Irrsterns Grenzen hinaus.” - Friedrich Hölderling, Hyperion oder Der Eremit in Griechenland, 1797 
 
Newton explored the meaning of gravity. Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power, and now if America's new spacecraft succeeds in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight tonight.

This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems, new dangers. Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward. [...]

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win... - John F. Kennedy, 1962

 "There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew." - Marshall McLuhan, 1965

For our last edition of Blowup in 2013, we turn our attention to a canvas on which so many human hopes and dreams are projected: outer space. In this eBook, a range of specially-commissioned and previously published pieces have been collected which explore how human thought and action as it relates to outer space has inspired and challenged artists, designers, thinkers, and the general public. 

Currently, a major V2_Lab research topic is Innovation in Extreme Scenarios, which was initially inspired by a top secret experiment conducted during World War II, involving the proposed use of a special form of ice to build an aircraft carrier for the Allies. In line with this programme of research, this edition of Blowup zooms in on the potential that outer space holds for human innovation, success, and failure, and the dangers of disaster, greed, and progress itself, rather than slick science-fiction narratives.

Our contributors to this publication look at outer space from many angles. In Dirk van Weelden's text De Ruimteschip, he examines the possibility of solar sails (which at the time of writing was as dreamy as our current thoughts on going to Mars), and looks at the spaceship as an aesthetic object. In my interview with artist and scientist Angelo Vermeulen, we discuss his artworks that also deal with spaceships as aesthetic objects (in this case exhibited in a gallery context), his thoughts on the evolvability of these objects, and the nature of leadership and team working, especially in extreme contexts and environments. Similarly, Regina Peldszus and Alex Salam describe the extremes of testing for space in environments that we create here on Earth to simulate the challenges of space: isolation, psychological pressure, and more.

Nelly Ben Hayoun has contributed a description of her evolving project Disaster Playgrounds, wherein she designs disaster scenarios for astronaut training. In an interview conducted way back in 2000 right here at V2_, Geert Lovink and Kodwo Eshun discuss speculative thought and the new adventures before us, while Benedict Singleton takes us further back in time to the Russian Cosmists and thoughts of escaping planet Earth -- as it might be the biggest trap of all.

In a text from the Bureau of Public Secrets site, penned by Eduardo Rothe in 1969, he states: "Power, which cannot tolerate a vacuum, has never forgiven the celestial regions for being terrains left open to the imagination." Indeed it is not only the imagination which continues to have free rein over space, the emerging field of "space law" attempts to close the loophole and legally control and determine ownership over the heavens. In the new artwork commissioned by V2_ this fall/winter, Paper Moon, Ilona Gaynor in collaboration with Craig Sinnamon addresses the tangle of legal, economic, and political motives and actions which we generate on Earth and project onto the possible property and territory of the cosmos.  

Michelle Kasprzak
Curator, V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media. Rotterdam, 12/12/13

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