The Impact of Space on Society: Cultural Aspects

8th Leonardo Space and the Arts Workshop March 16th 2005 – Budapest, Hungary

Table of contents :


The arts have been an integral part of space exploration and space activities since the beginnings. Over the years artists, writers and film-makers have captured the imaginations of their generations gradually making the idea of space exploration an exciting and integral part of our society’s shared aspirations which in turn has helped generating public support and enthusiasm for the civilian space initiatives.
What is the role and place of the artists today ?
We are proposing presentations from artists, writers and other cultural professionals that address the role of the artist in the context of societal and cultural aspects of space activities from a future oriented perspective.


Hosted by Millenaris, the 8th Leonardo Space and the Arts Workshop took place on March 16th 2005 in Budapest on the theme of “The Impact of Space on Society: Cultural Aspects”.

It has been organised in collaboration with the First IAA International Conference: The Impact of Space on Society that took place March 17-19.

Under the sub-theme of “Art and literature, science fiction, cultural aspects of space activities”, the selected participants to the Conference formed the core group of the Leonardo/Olats Space and the Arts Workshop.

Programme Committee

Ivan Almar, Chairman, IAA Commission 6
Annick Bureaud, Leonardo/Olats
Roger Malina, International Academy of Astronautics
David Raitt, ESA
Arthur Woods, OURS Foundation
Nina Czegledy, ISEA President
Miklos Peternak, C3
Jean-Luc Soret, @rt-Outsiders


Ivan Almar - What Kind of Impact has Space on Arts?

What kind of impact had the view of the sky on past generations? The first revolution: the telescope reveals unknown faint features and objects. The second revolution: we can visit some celestial bodies (the space age). The third revolution: our knowledge concerning the possible forms of matter is very limited (dark matter and dark energy). And finally the (possible) fourth revolution: we are not alone in the Universe. Can the arts follow and express these enormous changes in viewing the world around us? Or, better to say, how can the artist describe or express these revolutionary changes outside and inside?

Biography: Ivan Almar DSc, professor of astronomy.
Born in 1932, Budapest, Hungary. My father was an architect and painter, my mother a piano teacher and pianist. After studying at L. Eotvos University in Budapest I worked as an astronomer in Konkoly Observatory, Budapest. Started space research already in 1957 by tracking optically artificial satellites. Later organized the Satellite Geodetic Observatory in Penc and also the first center of satellite remote sensing. Now I am Chairman of the Space Research Council of Hungary. Member of IAA since 1980, former co-chair of its SETI Committee and chairman of its Terminology Study Group, now I am chairman of Commission 6 (Space and Society: Education and Culture).

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Matha Blassnigg - Towards an Anthropology of Space

This abstract is a preliminary draft to express my interest in contributing to the Space and Arts conference in March 2005 in Budapest: In this presentation I intend to extend part of my argument from my presentation at the ESA conference in Noordwijk in May 2004, approaching the subject of space in its relation and analogies to mythology. From out a perspective of Cultural Anthropology I would like to explore some main aspects raised within this scientific discipline of the humanities and transfer their significance and applicability onto an approach to space as a cultural construct. Cultural Anthropologists have been exploring phenomena perceived as unknown, alien and exotic since the 18th century by empirical, so called ethnographic fieldwork and gathering insight from within the apparent “otherness”. During the period of intercontinental exploration starting in the 15th century, the imagination and mythologies about the “other” and unknown continents and its imaginative inhabitants have not only shaped the histories and perception of many indigenous peoples, but also the histories and perception of the explorers and the explored spaces. My claim is that (outer) space exploration is impinged by similar discussions and the case of space art practice is able to offer concepts of convergence and transparency of such discourses. Space artists as well as scientists seem to consider it a growing importance to act as interpreters or agents to not only bring certain prejudices, misunderstandings or transfigurations to light, but also to discuss imagination and hybrid mythologies. As part of this presentation I intend to include my own research into the metaphysical implications of technologies, paying special attention to the conceptualization of angels in “outer space”, as part of the DAO project on the mars-patent site (www.mars-patent.org), and an attempt to develop an anthropology of space. For further information on the research centre Metatechnology and my own background.

Biography: MARTHA BLASSNIGG is currently a PhD student with MetaTechnology Research, in the School of Art, Media and Design at the University of Wales Newport.
Her original interests in fine arts, music, dance, photography and philosophy have converged in studying and working with film in the areas film theory, documentary, projection and restoration. In her Masters thesis of the University of Amsterdam Seeing Angels and the Spiritual in Film: An Interdisciplinary Study of a Sensuous Experience for the studies of Film-theory and Cultural Anthropology she has compared cinema technology with the metaphysical phenomenon of appearances. Her documentary film Shapes of Light, 2000, which was part of her thesis, presents four Austrian artists who express their belief in angels and mediate their own clairvoyant sensitivity in their artwork. In her latest documentary film, Lotte Hahn, 2004, a portrait of her grandmother’s artistic and personal life, she treats the subject of memory in its relation to time and space. The film reflects fragmented and discontinuous remembrances of her past. At several points the flow of the narrative is ruptured in order to reflect upon the way the medium film can express the transience and complexity that underlies the working of our consciousness in our interaction with history. Before joining MetaTechnology research she worked as filmrestaurer in the Netherlands Filmmuseum in Amsterdam and subsequently in the Computer Software sector.
The interrelations of metaphysical themes with aspects of technology, in particular cinema and photography, are brought together in her Ph.D project at MetaTechnology Research. Drawing on evidence of claims for human extensions into other dimensions, such as in the way technology is said to provide a gateway to spirituality, the thesis examines how the historically determined concept of the angel becomes connected to the popular use of photographic and cinematographic technology. The aim of the thesis is to make a contribution to the way we think about the spiritual and metaphysical implications of contemporary technology and its popular interpretation.

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Annick Bureaud

Biography: Director Leonardo/Olats

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Nina Czegledy

Biography: President ISEA

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Gyula Julius

Biography: Milenaris

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Roger Malina

Biography: President Leonardo

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Ariane Maugery - Microgravity Oddity

This joint work reflects the conjunction of an Artist’s practice (A.M.), collaborating with a Physicist, Guy Le Lay who was the co-Principal Investigator of an experiment that flew in the first International Microgravity Laboratory (IML-1) on board the shuttle “Discovery” in January 1992: the Mercuric Iodide Crystal Growth experiment. Starting from films from NASA channel and from a large number of photographs taken on board and out of the shuttle by the crew, an artistic video film will be realized and presented in the context of the World Year of Physics 2005 (WYP-05), under the auspices of UNESCO and UNO. It will be a giant scale video to be projected outdoors on such world known places as the Palais des Papes in Avignon during the international theater festival, the roman arenas in Arles during the ferias and the famous photo festival, on the occasion of the opening of the Centre Chorégraphique National in Aix-en-Provence, the fortifications around the Vieux-Port in Marseille, and even the Stadium of the “Olympique de Marseille”, the most famous french soccer team. The aim of WIP-05, also known as Einstein Year because of the centenial anniversary of the theory of special relativity, of the photoelectric effect and of the Brownian motion, is to attract the attention of a vast public and to generate interest in sciences and especially in Physics. We will show that Space-art in relation to creative science is a fantastic tool, having a strong societal impact: a testimony is the captured attention of such different audiences as afficionados, soccer fans, contemporary dance amateurs or theater and photographs passionates.

Biography: Ariane Maugery was born in Marseilles, France, in 1979. She studied visual arts at the Université de Provence in Aix en Provence and graduated in 2000. In 2001, she got a “Diplôme d’Etudes Approfondies” in Aesthetics with her diploma, Vertigo towards deterministic chaos. Currently, she is a third year Phd student in Visual Arts and Art’s Science. Along with these post-graduate studies, she has her own practice has an artist in visual arts with strong emphasis on video, sound and special interests at the interface between art and science.
In 2004-2005, she is the director of a workshop at the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Marseille. Following the attribution of the Fearless Medi@terranée Prize in 2003, she was in fact in residency there to create Internal Friction, a video, which is the first phase of a video-installation, Ultra-relativistic e-motion, with a dancing movement. This video-installation has been selected by the Ballet Preljocaj and the French Physical Society in the context of the World (or Einstein) Year of Physics under the aegis of UNO and UNESCO for the inauguration (June 2005) of the Centre Chorégraphique National de la Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in Aix en Provence.
Ariane Maugery who created her first performance, Cathédrales liquides in 2000, is the author of a dozen of videos; she has participated in several video festivals, exhibitions and conferences.

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Ioannis MICHALOU(di)S - aer()sculpture

The project aer( )sculpture is an innovative worldwide pioneer art & science research project and its aim is the creation of weightless, ethereal works of art using sculptural medium of silica aerogel. It is important to indicate that this is the first time in the History of Art that a sculpture was created using sculptural medium of silica aerogel. Here are three properties of the silica aerogel that make it interesting for the Visual Arts:

I. Lightweight, strong, and with many special properties for the modern Science era, a product of Space acivities (cf. «Stardust Project», NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory), aerogels are unique materials: both their pores and particles are smaller than the wavelength of light.
II. The silica aerogel is blue for the same reason the sky is blue: Rayleigh scattering. So, if you keep a piece of silica aerogel in your hand, it is as though you have a piece of sky in between your fingers!
III. The silica aerogel has no definite geometrical form! We can say that the space of Silica Aerogel is a personification of what the French mathematicien Henri Poincaré named a “representative space” [1], a space that you cannot measure, you just live in with all your senses. This vaporous and fragile substance breaks the conventional boundaries of the euclidean space…When a spectator looks at a sculpture made of silica aerogel, he thinks that it is not a 3-D object but a gas, a projection, an hologram…However, this nebulous mass is there: like a memory, like a dream, like an illusion… The next reaction of the spectator is to touch this immaterial and for that ‘’noli me tangere’’ sculpture made of 99% pure air! Therefore, the title of this research has the name of aer( )sculpture read as erosculpture.
[1] Arthur Miller, Einstein-Picasso: Space,Time and the Beauty that causes Havoc, (2001), transl. in Greek S.Pierris, edit.P.Travlos, Athens 2002, pp.175-234.

Biography: Dr. Ioannis MICHALOU(di)S had received his Ph.D in Visual Arts at the University of Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne in 1998. His artistic work till then was caracterized by the use of elastic fabric in site specific installations (in situ), envirommental art and public art projects. With his work he had participaterd in a lot of exhibitions and conferences around the world. In 2001 he had received the Fulbright Award in order to achieve a post-doc research titled ‘’(IM)material Sculpture’’ at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A collaboration with scientists and industries around the world was launched for the aer( )sculpture project, an Art&Science pilot research concerning the creation of sculptures using novel aerogel materials, which are the lightest solids in the world and have the appearance of frozen smoke.

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Attila Nemeth - Putting the Science in Fiction (Vernian Traditions in 20th Century Hungarian SF)

In the world of SF literature, Jules Verne’s works meant the beginning of a new era. The birth of scientific romance. Exotic adventure stories with bold scientific theories, lost races, incredible machines, voyages within the Earth and into outer space. Hungarian literature, as the rest of the world, got infected as soon as Verne’s novels got translated, and an SF-boom started in the early 1900s. Up until World War Two the romance aspect of SF had the priority over science, but after the communist takeover this kind of literature took on the great responsibility of educating the young minds, creating a new generation of engineers and scientists, to serve the country’s bright future. So science came to the foreground, and SF became the playfield of real scientists and authors with scientific interests. Also, after the first decades of propaganda, more and more accomplished writers turned toward SF to use it for purposes of social commentary, in the form of satires and dystopias. After the political changes of the 1990s scientific education once again took a backseat in favour of adventures. SF was viewed as pure escapist fun, to get people away from the chores of ordinary lives. Contemporary Hungarian SF struggles to gain acceptance in both the literary and scientific circles, and again, it looks westward for inspiration, but this time more to the English speaking parts of the world, where it is rather fashionable nowadays, that scientists popularizing their field of research either themselves or with the help of SF-authors to weave stories of the future with a good measure of information thrown in. Jules Verne’s literary tradition seems to reborn in Hungary with new writers who aren’t afraid of taking their themes from everyday revolutions in science, over looking for Star Wars as inspiration.

Biography: Attila Németh is a part time translator, editor and journalist. He began translating stories and novels fifteen years ago, then became associate editor at Galaktika SF Magazine. He worked as a journalist for other periodicals on the side, and after Galaktika folded in 1995 he founded his own publishing house.
He contributed to the publishing of more than 50 novels, short story collections and other kinds of books. For two and a half years he edited Átjáró SF&F, a fresh new magazine trying to get a foothold on the Hungarian market.
Then came the rebirth of Galaktika, and the owners approached him to handle the magazine’s literary contents. So now he is literary editor of the new Galaktika, now at its 4th issue.
From time to time he is participating in Eötvös Loránd University’s science fiction seminar, and two years ago he was asked by EURISY to present his views on SF and scientific education in Hungary, at their Vienna conference.

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Takuro Osaka

“It is impossible to realize new discoveries, zest and morals unless having a viewpoint from the outside of the earth.” The comment by an astronaut who has such consciousness strongly, suggests the future way which human beings should take. Moreover, the gravity-free environment is connoting the possibilities to various art and design. The educational program considering arts in this unique environment releases a terrestrial space concept, and urges to discover new aesthetic sense and life design. At the University of Tsukuba in Tsukuba science city, the new art education is supported by engineering, psychology, and astronauts. Because being released from gravity extends feeling and consciousness of bodies in 3-dimensional space, life styles would be expanded. So, new costumes, toys and traveling tools of handicapped people are being proposed. I would like to report with images on the proposals of art and design using underwater experiment in a pool and so on. This experimental education has big value in the meaning of extension of the consciousness towards the near future. Various new proposals are expected.

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Miklos Peternak

What is C3?
C3: Center for Culture & Communication Foundation is not for profit institution, a space for innovative experiments and developments, its main focus the fostering of meetings and cooperation among spheres of art, science and technology.

Main objectives:
To provide space and opportunity for open information exchange and to make the results of these accessible to the general public.
To support artistic and interdisciplinary projects of a high standard.
To expound, interpret and distribute the positive examples established with the initiatives of large-scale events, exhibitions and conferences, traditional and electronic publications, research reports, bulletins and periodicals, via their publication in various media, as well as specialist documentation, and the maintenance of an archive and media library.

Exhibitions organized by C3

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Virgiliu Pop

The fact of heavens becoming part of man’s world has been met with joy by many religious people – laymen and clerics. While God is constant – same yesterday, today and forever – religious art evolves. Human penetration into a new realm has been mirrored in the religious art – from iconography to hymns. This paper will analyse several aspects of this phenomenon. The figure of an astronaut was sculpted on a cathedral doorframe in Salamanca, and death in space was depicted on a door panel in Vatican. A genuine lunar rock was merged in a stained glass window in the Washington National Cathedral, and another one is part of the tabernacle of a Polish cathedral. Church hymns were composed glorifying the “God of Earth and Outer Space”, and asking “God Bless the Astronauts who Fly”. From the examples above, it can be seen that sacred art found no difficulties in taking the proverbial “giant leap”.

Biography: Virgiliu POP, LL.Lc, LL.M, is a specialist in space law and policy, currently writing-up his doctoral thesis on space property rights at Glasgow University.
His research was published in Space Policy and various conference proceedings, and his expertise was sought by mass media such as New Scientist and BBC. He is a member of the International Institute for Space Law, and maintains a strong interest in the relationship between religion and space exploration. Virgil is the national point of contact for Romania in the Space Generation Advisory Council, having attended UNISPACE III.

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David Raitt - Cultural and Artistic Events in Space: ESA's Perspectives

Biography: Dr David Raitt has worked for the European Space Agency since 1969 in France and Italy, as well as The Netherlands, in a variety of positions.
He is now Senior Technology Transfer Officer in the European Space Agency’s Technology Transfer and Promotion Office in The Netherlands where his activities involve identifying and researching new breakthrough technological opportunities to ascertain their subsequent spin-off/spin-in possibilities in new markets. He is also charged with making the general public more aware of space technologies and concepts and the benefits in every day life that can result from technology spin-off. He is also involved in space art, culture, design, and educational activities, as well as projects relating to biomimetics, space elevators and materials, amongst others. One particularly noteworthy study that he initiated and managed related to innovative technologies from science fiction for space applications. Essentially this study sought to ascertain whether science fiction literature, arts and films contained concepts or technologies which had been overlooked and which now might be possible to achieve with today’s scientific and technical advances. The work generated much press and public interest and has fostered several follow-on activities. Dr Raitt is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and a Corresponding Member of the International Academy of Astronautics.

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Jean-Luc Soret

Biography: : Space Art One

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Kara Szathmary - Visions of space: Artists' Journey through the Cosmos

Artists have been at the forefront of space exploration since its beginnings. For almost 25 years the International Association of Astronomical Artists has brought together the world’s foremost artists in the field of astronomical art on a regular basis to recognize the accomplishments of their peers, to provide direction, guidance, and stimulation for the artistic exploration of the cosmos by its membership and to share the beauty and imagination of space exploration with the general public. Space Art is a visualization, a component of which would include what we could expect to be “out there” in a space environment. Today, we stand at a crucial stage in the beginning of a new millennium. The period between 1957 and 1991 saw the dawn of the space age with flights to the planets, footprints on the Moon, and global communications. As artists, in the media of our choice, we are creating and are focused on the impact of the space era onto human culture as a genre. The IAAA is a band of artists bent with a passion to document the visualization of an Eisteinian perspective, a new paradigm, that scientists use to make sense of the terrestrial world, the solar system habitat, the nearby neighborhood of our Milky Way Galaxy and outward, to cosmological scales including the conceptual voyage to the Planck Scale – the unity of all fundamental forces that generate the froth of matter, energy and the dimensions of this APPARENT universe at large. It is the public purse that provides funding: finance, education, research and development, and space exploration. The public has generally no interest in data, columns and rows of numbers, nor symbols that are more hieroglyphics than substance. Yet society wonders – What does it look like? How is it different from where I am? What might be the human condition in space, on other planets, or perhaps eventually around nearby stars? This societal wonder is a powerful motivation for artists, who also share a passion for astronomy, geology, fossil records, physics, space sciences, alien worlds et cetera. What about the rest of humanity? Where are we? How are we? What are we? Why are we? The wonder breeds an existential dilemma. As a genre, Space Art is helping answer all of these questions, as a telescope for society. We reside on ancestral Earth, but it is the artist who is visually transporting us toward the new and exciting worlds of the cosmos. This is our vision, the IAAA’s space activity that is impacting society.

Biography: IAAA President and Chairman of the Board
Kara Szathmary was born in 1946 in the Hartz Mountains of West Germany, of Hungarian parents, who immigrated to Canada in June 1951.
He holds a Major Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and Mathematics from McMaster University (1970), a Master of Science degree in Astrophysics from the University of Western Ontario (1972) and a Diploma of Mathematics and Physics Education from McGill University (1976).
He is also a visual artist and a Fellow member of the International Association of Astronomical Artists. He is the first international president of the IAAA from 1988 to 1992. He is currently serving yet another term, his third, as President 2004-2008, and is the Chairman of the IAAA Board of Trustees since 1996.
He teaches mathematics at Champlain-St Lambert College near Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
He developed a board game, Quantum Baseball, and has had his paintings exhibited in 1989 in the “Dialogues: Stairway of Humanity” international exhibition in Moscow, as well as in the “Art of the Cosmos” exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum in 1991. In 1995 he participated in the EuroMIR’s “First International Art Exhibition in Orbit” with his painting “The Vigil” on board the MIR Space Station’s electronic archive.
He writes that in his paintings “many of my themes are metaphors of the interactions of scientific knowledge, philosophic intuition, and emotional reflection. The inspirations often spill over into spiritual and religious impacts upon the human condition at the threshold of space travel. ”

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Arthur Woods - From O.U.R.S. to S.E.E.D.S.: A 20-Year Exploration of the Cultural Dimensions of Outer Space

The fortunate experience of having personally witnessed the beginnings of the U.S. space program while living in the vicinity of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center (1959 –1970) and having summer jobs at these facilities during the Apollo program (1967, 1968) led to the later development of a series of space art projects that eventually would span two decades artistic endeavour dedicated to an exploration of the cultural dimensions of outer space. It was initially obvious to me that, due the dimensions of scale involved and the potential for controversy, artworks designed for the space environment would have enormous potential to impact global society in unknown and perhaps significant ways and, as such, careful attention must be given to the messages associated with such artworks. It also became clear that these artworks would likely be multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary works that would transcend cultural and societal borders. Therefore, the space art projects that I subsequently initiated and developed attempted to address these issues and to communicate to global audiences through the integration of symbolic themes and messages that associated an appeal to higher human values with relevant cultural and societal aspects of space activities. The first of these projects, the “O.U.R.S. – the Orbiting Unification Ring Satellite” (1985), was designed to celebrate humanity’s passage into the new millennium by placing a “circle in the sky” visible to all humanity as a universal symbol of global unity, wholeness and peace. A technical prototype of the O.U.R.S., the form of the “Space Peace Sculpture” (1988) – a circle divided by a central cross – was both an ancient symbol found in many cultures and the astronomical symbol of planet Earth. This artwork was designed to positively address the Cold War tensions by signifying the potential for cooperation in space rather than competition on Earth. The geometric shape of the “Cosmic Dancer Sculpture” was an abstraction inspired by the Hindu god Shiva symbolizing its “dance of creation”, the surface of the sculpture was painted in a technique that I used for many years as a metaphorical interpretation of the micro-cosmos and the artwork related to the macro-cosmos by investigating the properties of sculpture in the absence of gravity. The successful realization of the artwork on the Mir space station (1993) provided an example of the multi-dimensional qualities of an artwork in a human habitat in space and was also a viable example that an individual had the opportunity to participate in space exploration on a personal level and without institutional intervention. The “Ars Ad Astra: the 1st Art Exhibition in Earth Orbit” (1995) project was designed to open the door to space to other artists who were asked to create artworks with the theme “Space & Humanity” while, at the same time, it was a cultural experiment involving the active cooperation of space agencies, commercial enterprises and the media in the development of a cultural event in space. “S.E.E.D.S. – Synergizing Earth’s Evolutionary Development Spacewards” (1995) symbolically relates to the possibility that humanity, in its quest to explore space and build the necessary tools to do so, may actually be an agent of “Gaia’s” efforts to insure its ultimate survival by planting Earth’s “seeds” on other locations in the cosmos. This insight and possibility relates to what could be considered as the ultimate human purpose and role in the evolution of terrestrial life. This paper will survey the experiences of developing and realizing these space art projects from the perspective of their potential to have a positive impact upon society. The presentation will be accompanied with multi-media elements.

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Tsutomu Yamanaka - Connecting Space Programs and Human Society by Space Renshi

The author will report Space Renshi as universal space service to connect human society and space and to inspire humanity. The Space Renshi is linked poem. Makoto Ooka, a famous poet in Japan, developed it, modernizing Japanese traditional style of linked verse, known as Renka. The author has conducted two trial space related projects to develop the Space Renshi. The first Space Renshi “Life on the Earth”, in Japanese, was composed of an astronaut, poets and 300 common people in Japan, and memorized on the International Space Station and transmitted to human society from space, under the cooperation of JAXA and Rosaviakosmos in 2003. The first Space Renshi “One Earth”, in English, was composed of members of the International Space University Summer Session Program 2004. The report will focus on three topics. Why is Space Renshi?, What is Space Renshi? and What will we do next?

Biography: The author will report Space Renshi as universal space service to connect human society and space and to inspire humanity. The Space Renshi is linked poem. Makoto Ooka, a famous poet in Japan, developed it, modernizing Japanese traditional style of linked verse, known as Renka. The author has conducted two trial space related projects to develop the Space Renshi. The first Space Renshi “Life on the Earth”, in Japanese, was composed of an astronaut, poets and 300 common people in Japan, and memorized on the International Space Station and transmitted to human society from space, under the cooperation of JAXA and Rosaviakosmos in 2003. The first Space Renshi “One Earth”, in English, was composed of members of the International Space University Summer Session Program 2004. The report will focus on three topics. Why is Space Renshi?, What is Space Renshi? and What will we do next?

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The original website of the conference