"I think it’s crucial to keep in mind that with great power comes great responsibility. Arts should be no exception to that."
Interview by: Nikos Akritidis
Nikos Akritidis: Your research focuses on the paradigm shift that technological advances will bring in the 21st century. The evolution of space travel, advanced biotech and human augmentation are recurrent themes in your work. How do you see these technologies affecting artistic production in the coming years?
Aron Mathe: I see the emergence of an interdisciplinary crossover of fine art practices with scientific research. I believe that there will be a significant expansion of creative practices in relation to the development of space exploration and gene engineering.
N.A.: You’ve mentioned extra- terrestrial colonies as a source of inspiration for your art. How can aerospace technologies challenge creative thinking?
A.M.: “We dream, it’s who we are, bound to our bones that instinct to build, to drive to seek beyond what we know, it is in our DNA. We crossed the oceans, we conquered the sky’s and when there were no more frontiers on Earth, we launched ourselves among the stars”.
The quote above is sourced from the National Geographic television series “Mars”. I believe curiosity has always been a drive for creative thinking, that space exploration is the next frontier in that only now technology is starting to get to a point where we can take it seriously. The space sector has had a close relationship with the Arts from its early development. I see this relationship as a source of inspiration effecting both the arts and the aerospace technologies.
The iconic 1865 novel “From the Earth to the Moon” by Jules Verne, and Kubrick’s science-fiction film “2001: A Space Odyssey”, has contributed to inspiring audiences for generations and has helped envision the future possibilities of Space travel. NASA’s Apollo project gained popularity and founding due to American painter Chesley Bonestell’s collaborations with NASA’s rocket scientist W. Braun. His paintings, portraying landscapes of planets and illustrations of future space missions, convinced the public that expeditions to the moon were possible.
Access to space is increasingly becoming more affordable, enabling artists to freely explore
this phenomenon. Let’s take the works of Trevor Paglen as an example. His Orbital Reflector produces a satellite space sculpture that reflects sunlight, becoming visible from Earth. This inflatable Orbital Reflector was carried to orbit by Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket.
Other planets have become a playground for artistic creativity; most evidently seen in NASA’s phase 3 competition Marsha. The start-up companies Zopherus, AI Space-Factory and Kahn- Yates secured top positions by discovering a multitude of approaches constructing large architectural spaces on Mars with 3D printing technologies. With this new technology being developed, a new spectrum of artistic presence has gained momentum. Works of art hold the potential to reach other planets far beyond human scope.
Yusaku Maezawa intensified this increasing interest of artistic presence in space with his controversial launch of the #dearMoon project. In essence, Maezawa purchased tickets for Elon Musk’s private SpaceX programme, of which he specifically reserved space for artists of his choice. This represents how artists have been prioritised in space exploration which therefore validates their importance of artistically interpreting and communicating space to potentially change the perspectives of humanity itself. Artistic presence in Space exploration has enabled such projects to develop that are increasingly pushing boundaries of the possible.
N.A.: Can you tell us a bit about the project you are working on at the moment?
AM.: I am working on an arthouse documentary film presenting how humans could use genetics to adapt and survive in Space conditions in the future. I am planning to present the film together with a couple of new sculpture pieces that I’m currently making.
The origin of the documentary will heavily use NASA’s Twin Study as a starting point, but then the film will aim to pick up where NASA left of, through introducing elements of conversation that will confront the ethical, social and economic impacts of human gene-editing.
NASA’s Twin Study was a project that involved Scott Kelly, a NASA astronaut, spending the longest time a human has ever been in outer space. His biological build up was compared with his identical twin brother Mark Kelley who stayed on Earth. The project aimed to provide an insight to what happens to the human body after 12 months in space.
The film will present documentary interviews with carefully selected experts in different fields of science, arts, design, engineering and philosophy. The project sets out to reveal the billion-dollar industry behind applied genetics, uncover promises it holds for long term Space exploration and present the dangers it may hold if exploited for military or economic benefit.
For the sculptures, I am using the most up to date available aerospace manufacturing technology developed by NASA and other partnering companies. I’m afraid that is all I can tell you at the moment.