Path to Mars #955: Space Art Business

Space Coin

The upcoming call for space art for the Revolutions Space Art Exhibit has been extended until July 15th, 2013, so you have another week to apply for what looks to be an amazing space art exhibit, possibly the biggest space art event to date in Canada.

I’m skipping ahead a few blog posts (hey, artists love to break rules!) and sharing with you a more recent excerpt from There’s No Business Like Space Business, in which you can read all about Revolutions, and put it in the context of how and why space art is important to the general space industry economy:

The Canadian Space Society put out two seemingly disparate calls this week on their website. On one side of the coin, there is a request for space art submissions for their inaugural space art exhibition Revolutions: The inexorable evolution of Art. On the flip side is a call for papers on the topic of “Canada’s Space Economy”, to be presented at the more tried-and-true annual Canadian Space Summit. On the surface, these two invitations seem to have little in common, other than the two logos having an uncanny resemblance to a certain guitar pick-shaped recent mission patch.

It would be easy to assume that the separate calls subconsciously mirror a well-worn notion that artists wouldn’t be interested (or business-savvy enough) to attend a dullsville economic event, and that economists are surely too sensible to spend their time chasing a frivolous arty dream (creative hobbies take place on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons, thank you very much). The reality, however, is that nothing in the space industry is simple, including the complex relationship between Space Business and Management and Space Art.

A humble, vital position

The list of technical sessions on the CSS website page for the call for economy papers offers a small clue as to the public nature of this relationship. At the very bottom of the list, the very last phrase of the very last section reads “communication of space activities to the public”. While the humble placement of the topic may be happenstance, there is certainly nothing casual about the need for public support in the space economy arena. Public outreach and education has a vital role to play in communicating the societal value of space exploration. This in turn boosts public funding and sways votes in favour of space programs. More funding means more money for public outreach and education, and the cycle begins again. At the heart of public outreach lives the Arts.

It’s no shocker that the Arts has long been a vehicle for reeling in the public. In fact, the upcoming Revolutions exhibition, to be held in Calgary this September, does not shy away from this obvious mandate. The exhibition description states, “the purpose of the exhibition is to inspire and educate the public on space developments, and examine the impact these innovations are making via artistic expression.” The first part of this description makes excellent sense to space industry economists; it’s the latter that gives artists a room of their own in the relationship.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Blast Off!

Posted in Space and Society, Space Art, Space Business, Space Entertainment, Space Opportunities | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Path to Mars #956: Narratives in Orbit

Credit: NASA, ESA, and E. Sabbi (ESA/STScI)

Credit: NASA, ESA, and E. Sabbi (ESA/STScI)

The third installment of Breathing Space looked at the area of Satellite Applications. This is an area of space I really enjoy teaching kids about – there is so much happening out there they can get involved with! It’s also a fascinating area of the industry for space artists, particularly any artist that uses sound or lighting. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

My cell phone is gradually dying, like a slow-burning star. At first it was the fast-draining battery, and then the keys started sticking. Now the ringer only sounds if it is set on silent. I am waiting for it to pass on, checking on it every hour like a servant at a dying master’s bedside. Which is fitting, considering the Latin word for servant is “satelles”, the root of the modern “satellite”, without which I wouldn’t have cell phone service at all.

Apparently, I’m not the only one orbiting my handheld device.

Satellite applications comprise a whopping 90% of space industry activity, and of that percentage, communications is by far the largest economic component, beaming in about $150 billion dollars US per year. Like most people, however, those broader economic factors aren’t my everyday concern. Like many freelance artists, I just want my phone, TV, radio and internet connections to function properly so I can work from home, creating art and discussing it online while being entertained and informed. While I am wholly dependent on satellites, I focus on the creature comforts and connectivity they produce, rather than the actual objects in orbit. However, satellite applications go far beyond the range of my cell phone and wireless router.

Besides communications, there are three other major categories in space satellite applications: Precise Navigation, Positioning and Timing (PNT), Telemetry and Remote Sensing. The most well-known example of PNT is the ubiquitous GPS system. Telemetry includes environmental data systems and search and rescue, such as the international COSPAS-SARSAT program. Remote sensing can be interpreted literally as gathering information from a distance, and is comprised of weather and agricultural tracking, disaster management and military intelligence systems. All of these applications, together with communications, makes up a vast sensing and information-bouncing network that spans the space age, from the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957 to today’s weather report.

Satellite art

For those of us with slightly more romantic or mystic sensibilities, satellite applications can be viewed as a way of getting a wider or deeper perspective. In other words, we send up spacecraft vessels (the bus) which contains a device (the payload) to either look at the earth from a distance, or to turn our gaze away from it, into the cosmos. Either way, the view is astonishing. So much so, that collections of images coined “satellite art” are making their way into galleries and publications. In November 2012 NASA released the visually stunning Earth as Art, a downloadable free PDF of satellite images of the Earth from space, including light outside of the visible range. The online galleries at EarthArtWorld, Newport Geographic and ABOV also feature works crafted from and inspired by satellite data, which at first glance appear to resemble rich abstract oil, watercolour, or digital mixed media paintings.

These very pretty works of earth-art appeal to a wide audience. It is no surprise that major space agencies and institutions have cottoned on to this type of space illustration as a luring mechanism for space education and outreach. The recently announced Copernicus Masters’ European Earth Monitoring Competition hits all of these buttons. The GEO Illustration Challenge Traces of Humankind calls for artists, illustrators and designers to create a work of art inspired by satellite imagery that shows the environmental footprint of humans upon the earth. Any adult from the European Union and the ESA member-states (which, incidentally, includes Canada) can participate. No doubt some stunning illustrative works of art will result from this, and future similar competitions. But what about artists who want to get a little more hands-on with satellites?

You can read the rest of the article at this link:  http://theindependent.ca/2013/03/20/narratives-in-orbit/

Posted in Science Writing, Space and Society, Space Art, Space Communication, Space Innovations, Space Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Path to Mars #957: A Blurry, Beautiful View

Globe photo by Christian Fischer. Illustration by Renate Pohl.

Globe photo by Christian Fischer. Illustration by Renate Pohl.

You may be wondering just what has been happening to Chris Hadfield during his medical tests this week after the Soyuz landing in Kazakhstan on May 14th. Back in March, I wrote a Breathing Space article on one of the issues that he may have to deal with in space, and the role art has to play in the arena of space medicine.

Here’s an excerpt from the article, A Blurry, Beautiful View:

Chris Hadfield, soon-to-be commander of the International Space Station, strums the final chords of I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing?) and releases his six-string guitar, letting it spin gently and silently in microgravity. The song, written by Hadfield and Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies, and performed with the Wexford Gleeks, is a partnership project with Music Monday, CBC Music and the Canadian Space Agency. Music Monday coalition director Holly Nimmons is calling on all Canadians to learn the song and “fill the skies with music” on May 6, with Hadfield beaming down via satellite as a symbol of national connection and international cooperation. Space and art are the main ingredients holding together this inspirational and feel-good event.

It’s an event reminiscent of Guy Laliberté’s Poetic Social Mission of 2009, when the Cirque du Soleil founder became a space ringmaster for 11 days, raising money and consciousness for water usage on earth. Popular and easily accessible cultural and humanitarian events such as these make a whole lot of emotional sense against the backdrop of the earth. In fact, it is this very big shift in perspective when looking back at the earth, known as the Overview Effect, which Hadfield and Robertson allude to in their song. Astronauts who experience this effect recognize that the national and political boundaries of earth become blurred from this wider vantage point. What is not mentioned, however, is that Hadfield, due to his extended time in microgravity, may need to deal with another very big shift in perspective, one where the earth itself may become a little too blurry.

You can read the rest of the article at this link.

Posted in Space and Society, Space Medicine, Space Missions, Space Technology | Tagged , , , ,