Life In Space – March 2000

4th Leonardo Space and the Arts Workshop March 26th 2000 – Boulogne-Billancourt – By invitation

Table of contents :


In year 2000 the fourth Leonardo Space and the Arts Workshop took Life in Space as its theme.

Is there life “out there” ? That is, beside “us”, human beings ? But also, is there life at all ?

This workshop examines the different “searches for life”, their scientific basis and methodologies but also their myths and “silent background”, from looking for “ones-like-us” (intelligent life, with the SETI/Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence activities) to “ones-different-from-us”(astrobiology) who might even be based on a non-carbon-based-life. It includes artistic propositions and point of view on this subject.


The workshop is co-organized by Leonardo/OLATS, the OURS Foundation and the International Academy for Astronautics.


John Allen - Life in Space in the Next Century (Mars, Moon, long-term LEO)

Life in Space in the Next Century (Mars, Moon, long-term LEO) will include by necessity for long-term survival , tapping all of the capacities of human mind-body by use of advanced theater including magic, mystery, and marvel as well as technical ‘miracles.’ This new Space-Life also by necessity for long-term survival will include complex system science-technics as well as specialist-science-technics. Biospherics, ethnospherics, and noospherics will become bodies of knowledge as well as biology, chemistry, and physics, in standard operating procedures.

Biography: John Allen works in interacting lines of art and science: in theater through the Theater of All Possibilities which he co-founded in 1967 and in which he gives the acting classes, and in writing his poetry and novels; in science through the London based think-tank, Institute of Ecotechnics, co-founded in 1973, and the U.S. based biospheric design corporation, Global Ecotechnics, active since 1969 under the other names before 1999. Information can be found at www.ecotechnics.edu, and www.biospheres.com.

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Jacques Arnould - Les aliens sont déjà parmi nous ! Quelques réflexions à propos de l'altérité, suscitées par l'astrobiologie.

Les questions philosophiques, éthiques et théologiques suscitées par les recherches en astrobiologie ramènent inmanquablement à s’interroger sur le statut de l’autre (vivant) tel que l’ont élaboré nos traditions, nos cultures, nos sociétés. Ce statut ne concerne pas seulement les “Indiens” du passé ou les extra-terrestres du futur, mais aussi bien des êtres “découverts” aujourd’hui (l’embryon, l’être humain proche de la mort, par exemple). Malgré toutes les tentatives d’offrir à cet autre une définition, un portrait, une limite, nous nous heurtons toujours à ce qui pourrait être le propre de l’homme, celui de devoir choisir d’être humain, même en face d’un alien.

Biography: Jacques Arnould, ingénieur, docteur en théologie et en histoire des sciences. Collaborateur extérieur auprès de la Direction Générale du CNES, sur les questions éthiques.

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Michael Benson - Floating Through (and Filming) Zero Gravity Theater

On December 15, 1999, the first zero gravity theatrical performance conducted in front of an audience took place in the Russian Space Program aircraft usually used to train cosmonauts. Thirteen parabolic arcs created zero gravity conditions within the aircraft; just before and after each 25-to-30 second zero gravity episode, 2-G conditions reigned in the plane; in between each 2-G/zero-G/2-G phase of the flight, relatively ‘normal’ (1-G) gravity was experienced by the performers and audience. The eight actors and nine audience members of the Noordung Zero-G Biomechanical Theater therefore participated in a work of art conducted not just in weightlessness or free-fall, but within radically varied gravity conditions (the performance continued throughout these three phases). The work was directed by Dragan Zivadinov and produced by Marko Peljhan and his Project Atol; a medical experiment involving cancer cell division was conducted by Peljhan simultaneously with the performance. Along with cinematographer Andrej Lupinc of TV Slovenia, I filmed this performance using two super 16mm film cameras and two DV cameras. The cameras were either fixed, on a tripod, or hand-held. I will present a rough preliminary VHS trailer of some of the material (11 minutes) and talk about the experience of participating in the Noordung Zero-G Biomechanical Theater, the methods and results of film production in variable gravity conditions, and of course the performance itself.

Biography: President and CEO of Kinetikon Pictures, is a filmmaker and writer based in Ljubljana, Slovenia. His life-long interest in space exploration and space science has resulted in a series of texts during the last two years focussing on the unmanned exploration of space; he is also producing space-related artworks, specifically motorized spiral galaxy paintings (“clocks”, a series of kinetic icons). Benson’s feature-length “Predictions of Fire”, which focussed on the multimedia collective art movement NSK and the tortured history of Slovenia and Yugoslavia, won a number of international best documentary awards (the 1996 Vancouver and St. Petersburg international film festivals). He has since produced a 55-minute documentary on Hong Kong titled “Fragrant Harbor/HK–PRC/Pass the Glass” and is working on a feature-length global road movie titled “More Places Forever”. In December 1999 Benson filmed the first zero gravity theatrical performance conducted in front of an audience — the Noordung Zero-G Biomechanical Theater. In combination with material featuring other pioneering artists who have created work or conducted research in zero gravity, he plans to make a 55-minute film titled “Zero”. It will focus on an emerging genre of microgravity art and trace its antecedents.

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Annick Bureaud

Biography: Specialist of art and technology. Coordinator of OLATS/Leonardo Observatory for the Arts and the Techno-Sciences. Executive director of CHAOS, non-profit organization which publishes the IDEA online/International Directory of Electronic Arts. Eletronic art critic. Lecturer at the art school of Aix-en-Provence.

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Jack Cherne

Richard Clar - "ALMA da AGUA": A Space Awareness Initiative

Water resources and management are issues of great importance to the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP). These issues–key to the economic development and well-being of the CPLP–are better served through a collaborative effort of the CPLP. ALMA da AGUA or “Soul of the Water”, an interdisciplinary space art project, addresses metaphorically the unification of Portuguese-speaking countries and celebrates their common bond of language.
ALMA da AGUA begins with the gathering of water samples from the Portuguese- speaking countries: Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea, and East Timor. The individual water samples are to be carried into space aboard a Brazilian sounding rocket. During space-flight, in a highly symbolic gesture, the waters will be combined by the action of a scientific apparatus–A.L.M.A. (Acceleration-induced Liquid Mixing Apparatus). Live coverage of the waters being mixed in space by A.L.M.A. will be provided by a video camera and downlink integrated into the payload.
After an ocean splashdown, the mixed-waters payload of ALMA da AGUA will be recovered to be divided and presented at cultural ceremonies to representatives of the Portuguese-speaking countries. ALMA da AGUA is being planned for launch in October 2000 during the 51st IAF Congress in Rio de Janeiro. It is hoped that the live video of ALMA da AGUA can be presented during the Congress in addition to a World-wide Internet webcast. ALMA da AGUA is a collaboration between Richard Clar of Art Technologies and Dinis Ribeiro of Companhia Espacial Portuguesa, Lda.

Biography: Artist, Richard Clar from Art Technologies, USA, focuses his attention on the creation of art in space and art that utilizes data and processes related to various aspects of space. Subjects range from the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) to Orbital Debris. Richard’s work is interdisciplinary in nature and seeks to engage a broad audience from varied cultural backgrounds.

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Jürgen Claus - New Aesthetics in Solar Energy

Survey of the BIMODE – Project of the European Commission which lasted 2 years and included partners from industry like BP Solar and Bayer AG, from Academia like Universidad Politecnica de Madrid and Academy of Media Arts Cologne. If with Solar Art and Architecture “Form follows Energy”, then we have to discuss the integration of photovoltaic modules in a different way, not from technical points of view alone but also from aestetic ones. This can help to shape the necessary culture of a solar age. My communication shows some new approaches from our BIMODE work (BIMODE = “Development of Bi-functional Photovoltaic Modules for Building Integration”, Contract JOR3-CT97-0175, JOULE III).

Biography: Artist, Writer, Professor at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. Recipient of European Solar Prize, 1995 (with Nora Claus).

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Kitsou Dubois - New Programme of Zero G. Flights

Kitsou Dubois will talk about her new project.

Biography: Artist

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Rob La Frenais - How not to go on a parabolic filght !

Rob La Frenais will present his experience in the Russian Zero G. training plane.

Biography: Curator, Arts Catalyst

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Louis Laidet

Biography: Louis Laidet graduated from ISEP (Paris) in 1963.
He has been working for CNES since 1965. He started working on satellite control systems and was head of the satellites tracking station of Bretigny in 1970.
In 1971 he started the development of the CNES space remote sensing program, and in 1976 became Director of GDTA (Groupement pour le Développement de la Télédétection Aérospatiale).
In 1983 he was appointed Space Attaché at the French Embassy in Washington where he spent 5 years developing and promoting collaborations between the American and French Space Programs, among them Topex-Poseidon oceanographic project, life science projects, ISS cooperation, etc.
In 1988 he joined CNES-HQ as Director for Communications.
Since 1998 he is Delegate for relations between CNES and international space related institutions.
Member of International Academy of Astronautics since 1981
Member of Board of Trusties of International Space University
Member of Board of Institut Français d’Histoire de l’Espace
Member of International Affairs Committee of AIAA
Member of Eurisy, Euroscience, Eucosat, IAF, AAAF
Numerous publications on the following themes: Remote Sensing, Communicating with the Public, Space and Poetry, .French Space Program, etc.

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Roger Malina

Biography: Directeur du Laboratoire d’Astronomie Spatiale de Marseille (CNRS), directeur du Center for Extreme-Ultraviolet, Berkeley, California, directeur de Leonardo.

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Susan McKenna-Lawlor - Small Steps

On March 1, 2000 a piece of music to accompany images from space will be performed for the first time by the Maynooth University orchestra in theAula Maxima of the National University of Ireland at Maynooth Co. Kildare.
S. McKenna-Lawlor will tell the story of how she introduced the composer Rachel Holstead to the space pictures and started a train of events that resulted in the commissioning of this music which is entitled Small Steps. It is hoped to be able to play this piece during the meeting.

Biography: Scientist, Susan McKenna-Lawlor is a Professor in the Department of Experimental Physics at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth as well as a Member of the Senate and of the Managing Board of that University. She is also Managing Director of her own Company Space Technology Ireland, Ltd. which builds instrumentation for space. She has acted as PI/CoI for various experiments flown on ESA, NASA and Russian missions. Currently she is participating in ESA’s SOHO, Cluster, Rosetta and Mars Express Missions and in NASA’s WIND and Gravity Probe B (Relativity) Missions.

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Jean-Marc Philippe - "Keo", Update on the project

Biography: Artist

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Phil Saunders

Biography: Phil Saunders was ESA’s Head of Television between 1986 and 1996. He introduced revolutionary new 3D computer imaging technologies and has continued to specialize in this field, providing high quality graphics for both print and television.
Phil Saunders is the Chief Executive Officer of Space Channel, with offices in London, Paris and Miami.

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Richard De Seabra - The ISADORA Module

The ISADORA Module is a proposal for a module that fits in the Space Shuttle payload to be permanently attached to the International Space Station. It will serve as a multi-purpose studio for the arts where artists will be able to experiment and create in earth’s orbit. This research hopes to reveal a set of recommendations to the space community about what an art module for the International Space Station should contain.

In interviews, I stimulate artists to contribute with what they do best; imagining and envisioning what they might create aboard ISADORA. Since it is almost impossible to predict what artists may produce in space, I thought this to be the most effective means of data collection. The results from interviews with 17 artists suggest a pattern of common needs and desires on the part of artists in relation to producing art in space. The artists’ needs and desires for ISADORA not only point to a great opportunity to unite art and science in a way that has never been done before but to the opportunity to enhance astronaut well-being through a different approach to module interior design.

Biography: Richard Seabra graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York City and is currently pursuing a Masters in Design Research at the Industrial Design Academy Eindhoven in The Netherlands.
Richard has worked as an artist and designer for 11 years in Brazil, the US and Europe and collaborates with choreographers in Holland and Brazil. He has worked for Miramax Films and was part of the creative team that designed posters for such films as Pulp Fiction, Pret-a-Porter and The Piano.
Currently his art projects are related to space. He lectures to students of aerospace and civil engineering on lunar architecture at the Technical University of Delft and he will have an article published in the catalogue for the Millennium Exhibit at the Martin Gropius Museum in Berlin.

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Vladimir Strelnitski - Public Opinion and SETI: a Romantic Pedant's Approach

History abounds with examples of extreme fluctuations in attitude of the public towards the idea of extraterrestrial life. The understanding of the public’s opinion is more important presently than ever, because the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is dependent on the public’s support, both morally and financially. Recent results of computer simulation of possible dynamics of public opinion regarding SETI, obtained by E. Lu and myself, will be demonstrated . The crucial role of the readiness of the average individual to adhere to the current opinion of the majority (“conformism”) is pointed out. The reaction of a conformist society on the evolution of reality is less predictable. It may even become chaotic, if the evolution of reality undergoes a “shock” (such as the discovery of an ET signal). It is argued that a reasonable policy can decrease the degree of conformism in society and maintain optimal evolution of public opinion. The presentation will be very audience-friendly – no mathematical background is anticipated from the participants.

Biography: Born in 1941, in Russia. Graduated (cum laude) from the Herzen Pedagogical Institute in Leningrad, in 1965. Finished the graduate school of Astrophysics and got a PhD from the Moscow State University in 1973. Obtained a second degree (Doctor of Sciences) from the Moscow Institute of Space Research, in 1983. Specialist in the physics of the interstellar medium, circumstellar disks, star birth, astrophysical masers and lasers, comets. For more than 10 years, I was studying the possibilities of the application of strict quantitative methods for studying dynamics of the “ideal” social processes, such as the formation of public opinion. Published one paper on that (reported to the 45th IAA Congress in 1994). This presentation will be a brief summary of our new results in the study of the dynamics of public opinion about SETI with the means of stochastic equations.

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Doug Vakoch - Interstellar Messages as Art Projects

Messages designed for communication with extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) have typically focused on scientific and mathematical information. There have been a few attempts to encode human art into a form that might be reconstructed by ETI, such as the music and images contained in recordings onboard two Voyager spacecraft. However, such an approach does not adequately consider that these forms of art were created for a specifically human audience, and thus may not be directly applicable for communication with ETI, who would differ significantly from humans in biology, culture, and history. Instead, I suggest the creation of new forms of art, specifically aimed at an extraterrestrial audience, drawing inspiration from existing art forms such as sculpture, dance, and music, but with transformations specific to the medium of transmission. Semiotic perspectives are especially helpful in overcoming a fundamental challenge of interstellar message-making: the physical medium (electromagnetic radiation) that bears the message cannot be perceived directly by the message composer. Two methods of establishing a framework for communicating about art are described: 1) identifying possibly universal aesthetic principles (e.g., the Golden Section, a mathematical concept), and 2) teaching one civilization’s sense of aesthetics to another species with radically different conceptualizations of art. In the process of composing interstellar art projects, we may gain a better understanding of the interrelationships between art, science, and technology.

Biography: Psychologist, Douglas Vakoch is the SETI Institute’s resident social scientist. His primary focus is identifying ways that different civilizations might create messages that could be transmitted across interstellar space. He is particularly interested in how we might compose messages that would begin to express what it’s like to be human, in the process creating art projects that are informed by science and technology. In addition to his work in composing interstellar messages, he conducts research on the history of the extraterrestrial life debate, policy issues related to SETI, and possible psychological and religious responses to detecting a signal from extraterrestrial intelligence. His empirical research in psychology has covered a range of topics in psycholinguistics and psychotherapeutic communication, including studies of the differing worldviews of psychotherapists as well as experiments testing his evolutionary model of speech perception. In addition, he has written on the creation of therapeutic spaces, drawing upon philosopher Michel Foucault’s views of psychoanalysis.

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Arthur Woods - Innovative Technologies From Science Fiction For Space Applications

Ideas play an important role in science and technology, even when they do not have an immediately testable aspect, and writers have predicted satellites, spaceflight, moon landings, well before they were actually possible. Science fiction literature, artwork and films are full of descriptions of space technologies and systems – often just pure imagination, sometimes based on some semblance of fact. Early science fiction authors, artists, and illustrators described space concepts and spacecraft based on the limited scientific knowledge available at the time, whereas more modern writers generally portray the same basic systems as used in real life space flight in their literature and art, even though artistic license is often employed. These basic systems and technologies relate to propulsion, attitude and orbit control, navigation and guidance, life support, thermal protection, communications, instruments and payloads, robotics, materials and components, cabin quarters, and weaponry. Although early writings were often wildly inaccurate in many areas, some of the predictions made did come to pass and some of the systems and technologies described were subsequently successfully developed.
It is against this background that the European Space Agency (ESA) has launched a specific initiative, the main objectives of which are: – To review the past and present science fiction literature, artwork and films in order to identify and assess innovative technologies and concepts described therein which could be possibly developed further for space applications. -To obtain imaginative ideas, potentially viable for long-term development by the European space sector, which could predict the course of future space technologies and their impact.
The study is being conducted on behalf of ESA by the Maison d’Ailleurs and the OURS Foundation. The Maison d’Ailleurs (The House of Elsewhere), founded in 1976, is a non-profit foundation and is the only public museum dedicated to science fiction, utopia and extraordinary journeys. Its collection of over 40.000 books in 40 languages as well as thousands of other objects related to science fiction (paintings, posters, films, toys etc.) serves as a research and documentation centre for the science fiction community at large. The OURS Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 1990 whose primary purpose is to impart a cultural dimension to humanity’s astronautical endeavours.

Biography: Artist, President of the OURS Foundation, Chairman of the Art and Literature Committee of the International Academy of Astronautics

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