In May 2019, Jeff Bezos made his case for why and how humans will occupy space, in a presentation titled “Going to Space to Benefit Earth.” The original presentation was made to a relatively small audience but is also viewable on the website of Blue Origin, the Bezos-owned spaceflight and rocketry company. In little less than an hour, he made the argument that for humans to continue to evolve and improve their living standards, we will need access to more resources and environments than the earth has to offer us. As part of the presentation, Bezos described his vision for what the off-planet colonies will look like and the short-term goals required to make them a reality. While most of the emphasis was placed on those short-term goals, which are to colonize and extract resources from the moon, the more compelling section of the presentation focused his long term goal for off-planet environments. Using a series of illustrative animations, Bezos explained how humans could inhabit space using O’Neil cylinders. This is technology initially imagined in the 1970s by Princeton University physics professor Gerard O’Neil. There are plenty of other people, such as Fred Scharmen, who have already written about the history behind extraterrestrial colonies and their cultural impacts, so instead, I would like to focus on the even older representational techniques that influenced Blue Origin's vision of the future. Bezos used four images to illustrate and emphasize a set of important points that he makes to re-enforce his vision. The first of these points is that Blue Origin's space habitats would not be made up of larger versions of the international space stations but of manmade environments capable of supporting populations that are the equivalent of small to medium-sized cities. The second is that these orbital landscapes could vary in use (and simulated gravity through the adjustment of their rotational speeds), including recreational, farming, and technical purposes. The third is, that despite being removed from the surface of the Earth, the architecture could be made to be both visionary and familiar, allowing colonizers to maintain their cultural and spatial references while experimenting with novel landscapes. Despite being new natures, the landscapes and ecologies presented by Blue Origin were highly familiar places. This was an important part of the presentation because it allowed the audience to imagine themselves as potentially occupying these places. The representational devices used in the renderings are part of a long tradition of landscape painting: most notably, passive cues that make the occupation of unfamiliar landscapes imaginable and palatable. For comparison, Thomas Cole and other artists of the Hudson River School created paintings that normalized the 19th-century expansion into the Northeastern United States. They celebrated agriculture and other methods of organizing nature to the benefit of European colonizers, "taming" what they saw as a wild place. Nature has been historically used as an adversary to be conquered in the form of weather and difficult-to-traverse topography. An example of this can be seen in the painting View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm—The Oxbow by Thomas Cole. The painting illustrates an artist on a hill facing storm clouds and farmland in the distance. The use of perspective and distance used in the Blu Origin images echo the rules used by Cole, with the only significant difference being the threat that the environment poses. One of the animations places a stag on a mountain in the center foreground of the rendering. In the background, there is an expanse of artificial wilderness with a city in the distance. To the right of the stag, an eagle or other large bird of prey flies effortlessly through the cylinder. Adjacent to the settlement in the image, the earth slowly rotates into view from behind the wilderness section. Instead of the thunder clouds seen in Cole's work, the sky has been replaced with the dark void beyond the structure's enclosure and stars, with the explicit understanding that this is an off-planet landscape surrounded by a vacuum. In another animation, a city is present in the background and passenger cars moved along a light rail. The presence of rain seen in Thomas Cole's painting has been replaced with a drone watering crops as it drifts over land designated for agricultural use. Weather in these spaceborne enclosures, specifically rain events, would be fabricated and controlled by necessity. However, using drones to create rain events also speaks towards a need to experience weather to simulate “nature” to the highest degree possible. The drones provide a service, but they also normalize an extremely artificial landscape. The final two animations illustrated two forms of off-world urbanism. In one of the images, the "city" was created by collaging together a series of important architectural constructions and streetscape seen across the world. From one vantage point, a resident would see a blend of Swiss, Italian, and Chinese architecture. Architecture would work as a comforting set of references for the residents, tying them back to the Earth-bound cultural environments perceived as being valuable. This vision was a more densely populated habitat of tall buildings, parks, and athletic fields. As is the case with the landscapes, the city animations sampled a narrow segment of the Earth, and were meant to attract interest from a narrow segment of people. The primary audience is the people that were present in the auditorium, sharing privileged worldviews and experiences, who would recognize the imagery being referenced. The animations shared by Blue Origin represent a complex set of ideas and allowances. They presented a chance to revisit the romantic mythologies that the adults in the audience saw in their college art history courses. At the same time, those renderings validate their commitment to a future where technology is the best means to advance humanity. Like the Cole painting, they justify the presence of people in space habitats through the use of positive pastoral imagery. This leads to what is arguably the real goal of the presentation—building enthusiasm for resource extraction on the moon. Jeff Bezos makes it clear that the moon would need to be mined for the resources that would make these space habitats economically viable. He also stated that space would provide a limitless amount of resources for expansion. This is an argument of expansion and capitalism, one that edges out conservation on Earth. There is an implicit assumption that increased exploration will make the materials cheaper. This is an argument that has been made many times before, including in 1492 when Columbus lobbied for the investments that would allow him to reach the Bahamas. Marc Miller is currently an assistant professor at the Penn State Landscape Architecture Stuckeman School.
Posts tagged with "landscape art":
The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) has selected landscape designer and artist Paula Hayes to serve as its first landscape artist in residence. With two sculpture gardens and lawns in addition to its main buildings, BMA sprawls over seven-and-a-half acres adjacent to Johns Hopkins University. Hayes, who's best known for her soothing (and sometimes wacky) sculptures, landscapes, and garden objects, will be in charge of curating the museum's overall physical environment for two years. “Throughout my career I have worked with a mix of public and private spaces, but working with an institution like the BMA is a new endeavor for me,” said Hayes, in a press release. “I am honored to have the chance to help shape the natural environment of such a prized community landmark and I look forward to collaborating on the vision for its renewed ecosystem.” The New York City–based artist designed a botanical sculpture for MoMA's lobby in 2010 that took cues from leopard slug sex, as well as a Canoes, a permanent work in the Seagram Building that was installed in 2016. She's also completed landscapes for clients like David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, and W Hotel South Beach. At BMA, she will curate an 87,000-square-foot sculpture garden by Sasaki, as well as a 17,000-square-foot garden by George E. Patton that contains early modern sculpture by Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Isamu Noguchi, and others.
New York's Front Room Gallery is featuring nine artists who explore the patterns people inscribe onto landscapes. The group show, Pattern in Landscape, opens this Friday. It features Ross Racine's take on suburbia–serenely arranged, almost intestinal cul-de-sac spreads the artist creates through digital imaging and drawing. Photographer Phillip Buehler captures a military storage yard in Arizona filled with aircraft, a geometric image that would not be out of place on Things Organized Neatly. Zoe Wetherall also looks to the desert—as well as architectural forms—to reveal the inherent geometry of nature in her images, pictured at top. Meanwhile, photographer Sasha Bezzubov looks to the north, chronicling the changing Arctic ice sheets, which are shaped and scarred by climate change. The opening reception is this Friday, January 26th, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Pattern in Landscape is on view at Front Room Gallery from January 26 to February 18, 2018. More information on the show and Front Room Gallery's hours of operation can be found here.
Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson has unveiled two large-scale water installations at the Château de Versailles in France. Eliasson may be best known for his Weather Project (2003) in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern, London and his four large-scale artificial waterfalls that were installed on the shorelines of Manhattan and Brooklyn in 2008. Eight years on, and Eliasson is still working with artificial waterfalls. This time his similarly-sized project in Versailles, along with a series of site-specific works, aim to reflect on the effects of climate change. Using a construction crane, Eliasson allows water to crash down into the basin of the Grand Canal at the Palace of Versailles. The piece is titled Waterfall and the crane is positioned in such a way that on June 21, the cascade of water will obscure the sun, creating a shimmering array of light from certain perspectives. In a more overt not to climate change, the artist's Glacial Rock Flour Garden uses 50 tons of glacial rock flour from Greenland—worn down to dust through erosion— to create a desert-scape in the Palace of Versaille's gardens. Surrounding the statue of Persephone, Greek goddess of spring, Eliasson has described the installation as "very alien." Speaking at at a press preview, Eliasson said that Persephone and the encompassing Colonnade "have been cultivated" adding that the work is about "the loss of nature." Other installations can be found inside the Château de Versailles. The Curious Museum features mirrors located behind windows, intended to reflect the arches of the Hercules Room. A reflective triangle and circle installation, dubbed Your Sense of Unity and located at the end of the Hall of Mirror, creates the illusion of illuminated circles filling the space. Using more mirrors, Solar Compression is a mirror that slowly rotates, reflecting the details of the King’s Guards’ Room wooden floorboards. "Historically, the royal court at Versailles was a place of constant observation—of oneself and of others; the strict social norms of the time were enforced through a web of gazes," said Eliasson in a press release. "I ask myself: how do you, the visitor, view this iconic site? What does it do to you? Have we all become king?" Building on this, Eliasson has created The Gaze of Versailles. An easily missable installation, two balls formed from glass, gold, and brass have been embedded into a window pane in the Lower Gallery. Looking out onto the palace garden's and Eliasson's Waterfall, the installation is meant to resemble the artist's own glasses, thus allowing visitors to view the Waterfall through Eliasson's eyes. Overall, the installations seek to facilitate introspective experiences, with visitors questioning whether they are in Eliasson's words, “consuming or producing the experience.” “The works outdoors and indoors address the need to offer the opportunity for everyone to become an explorer, not just a king or queen,” he added. “With Olafur Eliasson, stars collide, the horizon slips away, and our perception blurs. The man who plays with light will make the contours of the Sun-King’s palace dance,” said Catherine Pegard, President of the Château de Versailles.
Landscape and sculpture become nearly one with Ensamble Studio’s large-scale sculptural installations in at the Tippet Rise Art Center, a contemporary center for art and music located northeast of Beartooth Mountains in Fishtail, Montana. The installations are mammoth in size, speaking to the scale and vastness of the local terrain, which is a 11,500-acre working ranch just north of Yellowstone National Park. The concrete sculptures are born of the site: for the sculpture Beartooth Portal, Ensamble Studio cast two massive reinforced concrete concrete forms in man-made earthen depression. This geological exploration yields a raw and primitive aesthetic. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqnxDjUmyAc] Ensamble Studio, led by partners Antón García-Abril and Débora Mesa, have completed three of these earthen sculptures—Beartooth Portal, Inverted Portal, and Domo. Ensamble Studio presented ideas for eight additional sculptures at the Venice Biennale none of which are currently being pursued. Domo, completed last week at Tippet Rise, is depicted in photomontages as a small upside-down mountain range. Visitors will be able to walk beneath the sculpture into an open space reminiscent of ancient caves. Its casting process was even more complex than that which was used for Beartooth Portal and Inverted Portal. Tippet Rise Art Center will open on June 17, 2016.
Memorializing the quiet town of Gibellina that was destroyed by a 6.1 magnitude earthquake in 1968, Alberto Burri's Grande Cretto has finally been completed after some 30 years of planning. Occupying over 86,000 square feet, the concrete piece of land art is now open to the public and coincides with the artist's 100th birthday. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcQhDWGoR00 New Gibellina, built to house the displaced residents of the old town is now situated 12 miles away from its predecessor. In the wake of the disastrous event, Alberto Burri decided he would concentrate his attention on what was left of Gibellina when artists and architects were asked to contribute to the foundation of New Gibellina. In doing so, Burri, unlike his counterparts, chose to cover the area with slabs of white concrete, over five feet tall, punctuated only by his signature cracks (roughly nine feet wide) that follow the original street plan. The stark emptiness of the installation echoes the horrors of the earthquake. Burri started his work in 1985 though construction halted after just four years, stopping short at 64,000 square feet of his proposed 86,000. Thanks to the Fondazione Burri, the work has now been fully realized which has prompted a series of celebratory events in New Gibellina notably an installation called AUDIOGHOST 68 that features the band Massive Attack, Robert Del Naja, and Italian artist Giancarlo Neri. For the installation, hundreds of portable radios were dotted across the surface of the concrete and lights from the audience contributed to create the effect of a thousand fireflies dancing in the night through the cities veins—a poignant reminder of what once was. A video of the installation can be seen above. In addition to this, Burri's works have seen a remarkable resurgence of late. A new exhibition, Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting, is now open at the Guggenheim New York (closing on January 6), meanwhile another New York gallery, Luxembourg & Dayan is currently exhibiting Alberto Burri: Grafica. The artist's works at auction have also been subject to a recent rise as the graph from Artnet illustrates.