Art Here and Now
Daring creativity happening now around the world
Artist Astronauts, Artist Cosmonauts, Artists in Space

I have all kinds of crazy dreams. I’ve had one of them for a long time, and I’ve never told anyone about it until now. Even for me it’s a nutty one. My secret dream was to be the first artist in space.

I had such a strong desire for this, I think, because all of our missions to space are so technical or militaristic. Yet if you’ve ever known anyone working in space travel (like NASA), you know how poetic they can be. My dream to be an artist in space is nowhere near as crazy as actually trying to get anyone into space at all. There is a certain long term humanity, a looking back on ourselves as a whole, a historic something that runs through these spaceborne intentions — from astronauts and engineers alike. Somehow though, that all gets lost. This is exactly the kind of thing artists explore. For much the same reasons artists are sent into combat, they should be sent into space. (And if you’re asking why do we go at all, isn’t there something better to spend money on? the answer in the short term is always yes. But long term, our planet’s species, including our own, have a much higher chance of surviving if we become interplanetary. This is covered in The Drake Equation.)

My heart skipped a beat when first hearing Laurie Anderson had been chosen as the first artist in residence for NASA. She’s the perfect candidate for this. Unfortunately when she asked “Do I get to go up?!” the answer was “No.” Sadly, she was the first and last NASA artist in residence. Representative Chris Chocola introduced and passed a bill specifically prohibiting NASA from having an artist in residence.

Little did I know that the first artists in space had already travelled long ago. The first was Russian cosmonaut Alexey Leonov in 1965 and the second was United States astronaut Alan Bean in 1969. Up until writing this post, I didn’t know that a small tile artwork titled The Moon Museum by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Claus Oldenberg and John Chamerlain was left on the moon by the crew of Apollo 12. There have been many other artist cosmonauts since then, of many nationalities, and many pieces of art flown into space.

This is in fact such a frequently pondered idea that there are several non-profits in existence solely to get artists into space programs throughout the world and get artists creating work for the context of space travel.

And Tate Modern, one of the top museums in the world, has plans in motion to create it’s next museum location in Earth orbit.

Organizations exploring art and artists in space: The MIR Network, The OURS Foundation at Ars Astronautica, and Tate Modern Space.

A great list of artwork taken to or created in space.

Artist-Astronaut: What the Future Told Us, a project by artist Debra Solomon.

Two blogs by on duty combat artists: Fire and Ice and Sketchpad Warrior.

In the Press: The Globe and Mail – Greetings, art lovers. We come in peace and The Times UK – Blast off: artistic adventures in time and space.

Buy related work: In the Stream of Stars: The Soviet-American Space Art Book (by Alexey Leonov and others), Apollo : An Eyewitness Account By Astronaut/Explorer Artist/Moonwalker by Alan Bean, Baghdad Journal: An Artist in Occupied Iraq, by combat artist Steve Mumford, They Drew Fire – a documentary about combat artists in World War II; and work by Laurie Anderson.

Travel to space on Virgin Galactic or Space Adventures.

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posted by Trout Monfalco