Inhabiting the Extra-terrestrial Space
This triennial programme supported by FNS, the Swiss national scientific research fund, aims to open a new chapter in cultural studies of space by showing how images—illustrations, drawings, plans, sketches and so on—from the world of space are finding their way into other domains and thus challenging definitions of human habitation and its forms and functions. To achieve this aim, a team of researchers specializing in architecture, the history of art, visual culture, human sciences and space has been consulted for the programme.
The study of real and fictional projects seeking to establish human settlements in outer space will challenge concepts such as habitability as well as mobile, capsular and modular forms. From the sketch of the harness holding the cat Félicette on its pioneering flight in 1964 to plans for the meal table in the MIR space station, these images either directly depict or reference spacecraft occupants and how they live or survive.
These representations reach far beyond the world of space into other domains of iconographic production such as architecture, plastic arts and cinema. Sometimes they challenge the concept of human habitation, like for example the Archigram architectural collective’s Instant City project (1968-70). Sometimes they borrow directly from the world of space, as in Fritz Lang’s film Woman in the Moon (1929), for which the science advisor was none other than Herman Oberth, the pioneer of astronautics. And sometimes the representation of a space object is ‘re-produced’ by an artist, as in Bertrand Dezoteux’s work En attendant Mars (Waiting for Mars, 2017), which portrays the habitat module used for a simulated journey to Mars.
At a time when many questions are being raised about future missions to the Moon and Mars, this research programme seeks to undertake a unique exploration of the ways that human settlements outside Earth are imagined, combining arts and sciences. Its results are likely to shed light on what forms the colonization of space might take.
The Observatoire de l'Espace, CNES’s cultural laboratory, and HEAD – Genève, Geneva School of Art and Design, member of the HES-SO, the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland, are launching a research programme on representations of human settlements outside Earth.
Official website : www.cnes-observatoire.fr