One of the reasons our launches hold so much fascination is because space holds so much symbolic importance for us. Across cultures, across the fields of science, art and spirituality, space means something more than just... well, empty space.
It's no surprise, then, that we are often called upon by artists who want to use a space launch as part of their creative process. Today, we're sharing three of the most unique space launches we've done and exploring some of the artistic themes behind them all.
What artistic creations have been sent to the stratosphere?
Our most recent work comes from award-winning photographer and artist Sophie Molins. Happy Ending Happy Ever After, recently exhibited at the prestigious Venice Biennale, shows a wedding dress floating and dancing in space, scored by celebrated composer Michael Nyman.
The dress in question belongs to a friend of the artist who gifted it after separating from her husband. Molins’ own divorce led to her throwing her own wedding dress into a Venice canal at a previous Biennale, making this a deeply personal and pointed work of art.
Traditionally, fairy tales and romcoms alike have presented the formalisation of a relationship with marriage as the pinnacle of romance – the ‘happy ending’ of the title. The implication is that, once a couple is married, their story is both happy and ended, with no more twists and turns.
Yet personal experience and a brief look at divorce rates will show that neither is guaranteed. On the flip side, separation or divorce are seen as tragic losses, clearly negative experiences, but the end of any relationship, even a primarily positive one, is often an opportunity for growth, personal change and renewal.
The film explores this paradox by playing on our perceptions of space. On the one hand, it is inhospitable, lifeless and cold, but the way the dress jumps and moves around like a ghostly figure dancing suggests that being in a boundless space far removed from our comfort zones and expectations can also be liberating – in ‘the heavens’ we have a chance at a new life after the death of an old relationship.
Sybren Renema is a Dutch-born artist based in Scotland. The youngest ever MFA at the Glasgow School of Art, his work is internationally renowned for its playful representations of exploration, imperialism and adventure. Discovery is a film which shows the launch into space of a small fragment of wood, taken from the RRS Discovery.
The Discovery was built in Dundee in 1901 to carry the British National Antarctic Expedition, the first to thoroughly explore the near-untouched continent of Antarctica. Over four years, Captain Scott and his crew of scientists and Naval officers faced freezing temperatures, hunger and disease to uncover the mysteries of the frozen frontier, all in the name of fame, glory and England.
Many ships of exploration have shared the name, including that used by James Cook on his search for a Northwest Passage and the HMS Discovery which carried the British Arctic Expedition of 1875-76. More recently, science enthusiasts will recognise another frontier-pushing vessel – the Space Shuttle Discovery – while fans of Star Trek will know its fictional counterpart from the ongoing hit TV series of the same name.
The parallels between sea and space exploration are baked into our language and culture, making Renema’s film a fitting celebration of the position space holds in our collective imagination as the focal point of scientific exploration and discovery.
There’s no gallery like a space gallery
What better frame than the stars above?
The last image we’re here to share is a bit of a departure in tone from previous works. There’s no other way to address this: it’s a vacuum cleaner bag in a vacuum – in other words, a very elaborate pun. In fairness, Kim Noble is a comedian as well as an artist, actor and filmmaker.
The contrast between the sublime and the mundane is often a source of comedy, but putting the everyday in the spotlight is also an invitation to look at it with the consideration and reverence usually reserved for traditional ‘objets d’art’. Alongside winning awards at international comedy festivals and exhibiting his work across the world, Kim has also worked as a cleaner at several points in his life and the dust and grime in this bag comes from the house of a friend of his.
The great scientist and author Carl Sagan once pointed out that “We are made of star stuff”, which is to say that all the matter in the universe was created by the fusion of lighter elements inside enormous stars and blasted out into space when they eventually form supernovae. Another Saganism comes from the famous image, taken by Voyager 1 in 1990, of the Earth from the edge of our solar system, showing the Earth as nothing more than “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
The vacuum bag in space could be a reminder of the importance of perspective. Close up, even the tiniest speck of dirt is a scientific marvel, forged in the heart of a star, while from another angle, our whole planet and everything on it is insignificant on a cosmic scale. And what is the point of comedy, if not to make you question your perspective?
What better frame than the stars above?
Whether you're an artist hoping to explore the philosophical and artistic implications of space, or a marketing company looking for an attention-grabbing promotional activity, we can help. Get in touch and find out how we can realise your vision.