ARS IN VACUO D.O. de Loor in conversation with Nestor Claire Transcribed and edited by D.O. de Loor Published in Gap Light, 2nd edition of 2020.
The Universe is the greatest exhibition space. - Nestor Claire
Our life is but floating around. So will be our art. - Nestor Claire
. Daan Westerheide Master’s Thesis ArtScience Interfaculty University of the Arts The Hague MMXX on the Universe as exhibition space through the lens of a fictional curator
a conversation with the curator of the Universe
ARS IN VACUO
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction p. 4 THE UNIVERSE AS EXHIBITION SPACE p. 6 SPACE FEATHER p. 8 COSMIC EXHIBITION SPHERE p. 9 THE COSMIC GALLERY p. 11 CURATING THE COSMOS p. 18 HOMO IN VACUO p. 26 THE SUNYATA p. 30 INTERVOID TRAVEL p. 31 GALACTIC INTERACTIONS p. 33 FLOATING-AS-ART p. 37 INTERVIEW WITH THE UNIVERSE p. 39 Acknowledgements p. 44 Glossary p. 45 Bibliography p. 53
The main reason why I wanted to come to the ArtScience Interfaculty was because I noticed the course ‘Pataphysics1 in its curriculum. After one minute of researching the term ‘Pataphysics online I knew that ArtScience would suit me well. Since my youth I constructed imaginary worlds having their own logic. I was being pataphysical all along. So why not research a self-invented pataphysical construct? The origin for this thesis topic emerged from my original ArtScience research proposal ‘The Universe is the Greatest Exhibition Space’. After I followed the ‘Pataphysics course my mind was opened, I saw endless opportunities, I knew which artistic road to take. So what does this (pataphysical) research entail? I’m diving into art as a purely aesthetic discipline. How it will interact, imaginatively, with the phenomena of the Universe. What if the Universe was an art space and contained art in it? Approaching contemporary art and exhibition making without any sociocritical context. I want to approach it from the playful and useless angle. Uselessness is like mystery, it keeps one craving for knowledge. It keeps questioning reality like creating art does. For this thesis I’m using a fictional character that’s being interviewed in order to investigate this topic: Curator Nestor Claire is having a conversation about The Universe, his newly founded art gallery set in the cosmos, with D.O. de Loor, my writer’s pseudonym. Nestor resides in a Universe where Earth also exists but in a slightly different way.
“Pataphysics is the science of imaginary solutions…Pataphysics describes a universe supplementary to this one.” & “Pataphysics is ‘subjective’, privileging the particular above the general, the imaginary above the real, the exceptional above the ordinary, the contradictory above the axiomatic.” Hugill, A., ‘Pataphysics: A Useless Guide, The MIT Press (2015), pp. 4, 2. 4
The setting of this fictional interview is not set in the future. It is set in a parallel present. I’m taking liberties with the multiverse theory2 where parallel universes and therefore parallel Earths can exist. It also follows the Rare Earth Hypothesis3 ; the fact that the Earth is the only true living diamond in our Universe, which has the shape of a closed yet expanding sphere.4 A term with an asterisk refers to the glossary where it is (further) explained. I highly recommend reading this while floating.
“The new picture given to us by string theory indicates that there are other bubbles out there, each one a solution of the string equations. In fact, there is a bubble bath of universes, creating a multiverse.” Kaku, M., The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality and Our Destiny Beyond Earth, Penguin Books (2019), pp. 299-300. 3
Cool Worlds, Why we might be alone in the Universe (May 9, 2019), https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqEmYU8Y_rI 4
“Scientists have already calculated that if the universe exceeds a "critical density," it would close in on itself, assuming something like a closed, spherical shape. The team behind the new paper said the Planck data suggests the universe is 41 times more likely to be closed than flat." Johnson, S., ‘Cosmological crisis’: The universe may be a closed sphere, not flat (6 November, 2019), https://bigthink.com/news-social/universe-shape 5
D.O. DE LOOR:
Being weightless and able to float must have a bigger appeal by now than just sitting on a chair I wonder? NESTOR CLAIRE:
Well, as a matter of fact we have an Earth-like gravity environment on our ships and we do have chairs. We still like chairs believe it or not. You can even attach a chair to your exosuit* while floating in space. D.O. DE LOOR:
Unfortunately floating is not an option here so I would suggest let’s get down to Earth. Please take a seat. NESTOR CLAIRE:
One cannot resist sitting down once back on Earth.
THE UNIVERSE AS EXHIBITION SPACE The first outer space art visitors are about to embark on their journey. You returned to Earth to greet the visitors and to officially open The Universe.* People can experience the wonders of the Universe and all the artworks and exhibitions you and your art community have collected, produced and exhibited. The time has come to open the voids to the public. We are happy to announce that the first Clairevoyager* ship is more ready than ever. The first of many to soar into space soon. I cannot wait to welcome the new valiant vacuonauts.5 Visitors will be provided with information about The Universe on Earth. They can choose a certain exosuit. They can sign up for specific gallery tours already but are
“Space travel is the product of the multiplication of precision and recklessness; here levitation is combined with the utmost care. Nietzsche's prediction that we, the seafarers of the future have not only broken the bridges behind us—including the land, too, becomes concrete in the most literal fashion for the vacuonauts in space.” Sloterdijk, P., Spheres. Volume 3: Foams, Plural Spherology, Semiotext(e) (2016), pp. 302-303. 6
there certain steps to follow after taking the lunar space elevator6 to the Moon and get acclimatised to this new environment? On the Moon people face the actual Universe for the very first time. This is a pivotal moment. You are outside of Earth, you are beginning to become aware of the grandeur of the cosmos. Looking back at the gibbous-phased Earth7 is looking at the first gem of the Great Exhibition. It starts with Earth, the first artwork you encounter, the first readymade* you perceive in full glory. The cosmic ride continues after a having a pit stop on the Moon, which is a readymade or constellation-specific* artwork as well and having levitating dust8 as one of its peculiar features. It’s on the tip of my tongue this infamous proverb, how was it again? ‘Be humble for you are made of earth…’ ‘Be noble for you are made of stars’.9 We developed it into a sign and it’s ‘placed’ in the outer edge of the Oort Cloud.10 It is as back in the day in Ancient Greece at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi that said on top: Gnothi seauton.11 It’s a moment of reflection just before the cosmic tour continues to the vacuo-galleries.* Our Clairevoyagers will be in awe and in dismay after they pass this interstellar-specific* poetry.
Cool Worlds, The Lunar Space Elevator (Jan 25, 2020), https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=L1ytpj3y21E 7
https://people.highline.edu/iglozman/classes/astronotes/media/ earth_gibbous_apollo11.jpg 8
SciShow Space, How Levitating Dust Shapes Airless Worlds (Jan 21, 2020), https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-NGUOI6tP0 9
Barrow, J.D., The Artful Universe Expanded, Oxford University Press (2011), p. 219.
“the Oort Cloud is believed to be a giant spherical shell surrounding the Sun, planets and Kuiper Belt Objects.” https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/solar-system/oort-cloud/in-depth/ 11
“Socrates appropriated the words that were written over the temple of Apollo at Delphi: ‘Gnothi seauton’ (‘Know yourself’).” Wilson, E.R., The Death of Socrates: Hero, Villain, Chatterbox, Saint, Profile (2007), p. 36. 7
Throughout the solar system the Clairevoyager doesn’t stop to rest. After the Oort Cloud the tour really kicks off. You can picture the solar system as a grand hallway to the Universe galleries. You experience this with the other passengers on the ship. It’s the famous readymades-passage seen from a distance. If you would like to experience the rings of Saturn up close for example you can venture to it yourself. Our solar system, which is aptly named the domestic-constellation gallery*, is really just the start of the grand tour. We mainly focus on the works beyond domestic space; our void-floating oeuvre.
SPACE FEATHER Before we go into deep space I’d like to go back to gravity again if you will. You started with launching small objects and artworks into space from Earth. The starting point of this I believe was the feather. The lone feather. This was such a long time ago. It was an iridescent magpie tail feather we sent into space. It was more of a gesture than approaching it as an art project. A symbolic gesture. From that day on I got very excited about the idea of seeing outer space as the most exuberant art gallery to be. As E.E. Cummings once put it; ‘Listen, there's a hell of a good universe next door: let's go!’12 For your ‘Space Feather’ visitors were able to use a telescope to track it in space. Do you intend to use Earth telescopes for your Universe gallery any further? It was a thing of the past. A telescope is auspicious though it’s not quite appealing anymore to track down art in the deep cosmic galleries from Earth. It is not in our programme let’s say. Vicinity to the stars is key.
Kaku, M., Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension, Anchor Books, Doubleday, New York (1994), p. 217. 8
At the time when the Terrascope13 was being realised you as a curator saw the opportunity to embrace the Cosmic Exhibition Sphere (CES)* concept. Before I launched myself into space I started with an augmented reality (AR) art gallery, an app where you can put your art into a CES directly from your own home into outer space and choose a specific cosmic gallery. The CES project came quite rapidly to me after I initiated the AR gallery. This idea of a cosmic showcase originally stems from the Voyager Golden Record.14 The collection of artworks in the first CES we launched consisted of one of my favourite art pieces like ‘Solitary and Conjugal Trees’ by Max Ernst and Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question. The Space Feather was not enclosed in a CES by the way. The launching of the magpie feather happened between the AR gallery and the first CES launch. To this day it is still adamantly but slowly space trekking, close to the Kuiper Belt15 I believe.
COSMIC EXHIBITION SPHERE Your first big project in outer space was the CES. By now you have an enormous amount of these transparent showcases floating around everywhere in space. You can picture a Cosmic Exhibition Sphere or Showcase as a human constructed mini planet. They come in different transparencies. Some are equipped with gravity. Depending on which artwork resides within it.
Cool Worlds, Turning the Earth Into a Telescope | The Terrascope (Aug 2, 2019), https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgOTZe07eHA 14
Vsauce, Messages For The Future (Sep 24, 2015), https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=GDrBIKOR01c & https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/resources/446/voyager-goldenrecord/ 15
“a donut-shaped region of icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune.” https:// solarsystem.nasa.gov/solar-system/kuiper-belt/overview/ 9
Especially in fine arts paintings, they push and pull you in and out.16 So some are also accessible, to get up close to the artwork. Each CES has its automatic restorer as well. Our design team was inspired by the Hohlwelten17 by Dorothee Golz. Those works had a resounding influence on its construction, its transparency. The CES acts like a spherical vitrine, a housing for art, and blends in with the rotundity of the readymades; the planets and stars. The CES is not in orbit around a planet or star anymore but Malevich’ Planit18 is somehow related to your CES, wouldn’t you say? This rectangular and opaque constructivism is a mere satellite. Planit is very much a design and architectural concept and related to a scientific time period rather than an aesthetic work where art has a place to be exposed in, a confined space. Accidentally, a CES can also be perceived as an artwork on its own. When you said ‘a housing for art’, I thought its main purpose was archiving art rather than being part of the Great Exhibition. It sure is part of the show. Why would it be transparent otherwise? To perceive the CES is like a hide and seek for the visitor? Your exosuit has some sort of tentacles to reach out for the sphere? It would be exciting if you have to somehow seize it with your extended hands in the darkness of space. It’s not that kind of show, at least not for experiencing a CES. The first CES edition was solar powered when they were still inside the solar system.
Louisiana Channel, Ian McKeever Interview: Mystery to the Viewer (Nov 20, 2014), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hh6QbJNvWZE 17
Spheres. Volume 3: Foams, Plural Spherology (2016), p. 695 & KA21 / CastYourArt, Dorothee Golz: Hohlwelten (Sep 7, 2017), https://vimeo.com/232815749 18
Shatskikh, A., The cosmos and the canvas - Malevich at Tate Modern (30 July, 2014), https://www.tate.org.uk/tate-etc/issue-31-summer-2014/cosmos-and-canvas 10
Now, we have what we call a Sphæra Lucis19 (SL)* installed in each CES. It is an invisible light source illuminating the whole sphere. Its light intensity can be automatically adjusted to the eye of the beholder and can be appropriated to the specific artwork. As I understand from my poor Latin it is kind of a light sphere? ‘It must have a spherical form because the sphere symbolises the optimal shape; it must be suffused with light because light is the physical optimum; and rationally it must be completely transparent because transparency signifies the cognitive optimum.’20
At the same time I think the sphere symbolises a blindfolded Fortuna…21 …who is precariously balancing on a globe not knowing where to go? An unstable and fickle shape I would say. The shape of optimal imperfection. Isn’t that a bit oxymoronic?
THE COSMIC GALLERY I think I’m going to get a few cold shivers down my spine for we have entered the deep and chilly cosmic spaces. I hope your exosuit has a nice exotic temperature option. A temperature regulator is included in the suit. Right outside the Oort Cloud you enter an entire new dimension. This applies to the rest of the cosmos. First of all, I have to say that time becomes latent. Time kind of
Nestor puts “sphaera lucis” out of the “God” context: Sloterdijk, P., The Aesthetic Imperative: Writings on Art, Polity Press (2017), p. 53. 20
Ibid., p. 53.
“she is standing on a spherical boulder, ready to fall when chance (fors) dictates so…” “she is ‘insana' because she is cruel, uncertain and unstable…” Miano, D., Fortuna: Deity and Concept in Archaic and Republican Italy, Oxford University Press (2018), p. 185. 11
dissipates into all kinds of directions. You lose your sense of time.22 This means that at the first moment you look back at the Milky Way you are witnessing the collision between our galaxy and Andromeda, our closest neighbour. It’s an intergalactic-specific* performance, the two Spiral Dancers*, where time plays no role anymore. It’s not a simulation, it’s happening right in front of you. Quite an overwhelming thrill I must say. After leaving the Milky Way you can basically experience everything that’s floating in the celestial galleries. Art that floats perpetually. Eternal art. Everlasting art. Savouring art. These are terms that come across when we have to talk about the role art plays or can play in the cosmic environment. For one point I can see that the choice of putting art in the vacuum of space has probably to do with the fact that art can ‘live’ forever out there simply because there isn't much cosmic debris in the voids. The voids are our galleries. We don’t exploit the natural readymades. We tolerate them as they are. They are artworks on their own. We leave them be. Except from Earth and the Moon… Apart from those. You could say extrasolar readymades (exoreadymades*). These readymades, the existing universal phenomena, are already a sight to behold. This is part of the exhibition. To submerge yourself in the unfathomable beauty of the Universe. The lack of cosmic debris or the lack of cosmic readymades is one of the reasons why we exhibit art in the voids. I’m getting goosebumps when I’m thinking of the everlasting phrase ’ars longa, vita brevis’.23 It seems to fit your concept… I’m fond of the Saturnian in Voltaire’s short story Micromégas who claims: 22
Nestor might refer to Bachelard’s saying: “…the void is an interruption, an interregnum in time, a moment when one’s being is liberated from duration.” Kotowicz, Z., Gaston Bachelard: A Philosophy of the Surreal, Edinburgh University Press (2018), p. 127. 23
“‘Life is too short, but the art is long,’ which have become an epigram of enduring vitality. It is now best known in the Latin version, ‘Vita brevis ars longa,’ and through the exclamation in Goethe’s Faust, “Ach Gott! die Kunst ist lang, und kurz ist unser Leben.”” Temkin, O., Hippocrates in a World of Pagans and Christians, JHU Press (1991), p. 44. 12
‘Our existence is but a point, our lifespan a moment, our globe an atom.’24 You see outer space is mostly…space. All the planets, stars and galaxies put it all together you’d end up with no more than about one atom in every cubic metre of space.25 So there’s enough space for art to ‘live’. We are all grateful vacuonauts when we move through this perfect vacuum. You could say your dedication to the void is to enlighten it with art, to make the voids visible?
‘Kunst ist Lichtsynthese.’26 Like the Sphæra Lucis attached to the CES we developed another SL. One that encompasses a vast amount of space. You could see it as white walling and installing ceiling lights in a white cube. This was initiated at a very early stage in order to realise all the vacuogallery projects, our very own vacuo-specific* art. To me it sounds quite abstract but if you put space into a cosmical context, El Lissitzky’s words ‘Space does not exist for the eye only:…’ ‘It is not a picture; one wants to live in it’.27 It resembles your thinking as well if I’m not mistaken? One wants to be one with art. Like we are one with the Universe itself, both in a physical and spiritual way.
Voltaire, Candide and Other Stories, Oxford World’s Classics (2008), p. 92.
“If we were to take all the matter on view in the Universe—all the planets, stars and galaxies—and smooth it into a uniform sea of atoms, we would end up with no more than about one atom in every cubic metre of space.” The Artful Universe Expanded (2011), p. 43. 26
“Wissenschaft ist Spektralanalyse. Kunst ist Lichtsynthese.” Iggers, W.A., Karl Kraus: A Viennese Critic of the Twentieth Century, Springer Science & Business Media (2012), p. 64 and “Science is spectrum analysis. Art is photosynthesis.” The Artful Universe Expanded (2011), p. 135. 27
Ferguson, B.W., Reesa Greenberg and Sandy Nairne, Thinking About Exhibitions, Routledge (2005), p. 218. 13
We human beings are one with space and you could say this for art in space. L’art n‘est pas dans l’espace, il l’habite.28 If I’m allowed to go along with your way of speaking, I have the following heavyweight phrase for you: ‘Man is the being whose plan it is to become God’.29 Is this somehow related to your artistic endeavour? My plan is to become aesthetically fulfilled with all the wonders of the Universe and our contribution. I wish to add more, more art.30 It feels like the Universe made some space for us. It’s keeps telling us: ‘You are welcome to use all the empty space between galactic clusters and superclusters. Feel free to add your own aesthetic creations.’ As I often stress, ‘the exhibition makes the museum’ is tantamount to ‘the stars and planets make the Universe’. A Universum aestheticus.31 By using the voids we add another layer to the Universe. The homo artifex32 comes into play. We are not world eaters, we are not explorers. We are here to celebrate the wonders of it all. We are decorating, aesthetically and playfully filling up the voids of space. You guide the homo artifex into taking part of this aesthetic Universe plan? I always like to emphasise the idea that the Universe must be
Nestor replaces ‘corps’ in favour of ‘art’ in “Le corps n’est pas dans l’espace, il l’habite.” The Aesthetic Imperative: Writings on Art (2017), p. 176. 29
“…the fundamental project of human reality is to say that man is the being whose project is to be God.” Sartre, J.P., Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, Open Road Integrated Media, Inc. New York (2011), p. 968 (epub). 30
Nestor disagrees with Douglas Huebler: “…Douglas Huebler’s ‘the world is full of objects. I do not wish to add any more.” Obrist, H.U., Ways of Curating, Penguin Books (2015), p. 18. 31
Nestor replaces ‘Homo’ in favour of ‘Universum’ in “…Homo aestheticus…” The Aesthetic Imperative: Writings on Art (2017), p. 93. 32
The Aesthetic Imperative: Writings on Art (2017), p. 104. 14
aestheticised.33 Bringing art into and creating art in outer space is our enchantment programme34 parallel to the natural existing enchantment programme of the Universe. It is aesthetic sharing,35 not only with our contemporary audience but also with future humanity. I start mouth watering because I found another expression: ’Art celebrates pushing the limits of creating beautiful or life-enriching experiences.’36 That is how the arts operate in the cosmic realm as well as on Earth? You could say universe-enriching too. Like they used to say ‘enrichissezvous’37 in the 19th century we also say enrich yourself, enrich yourself with all there is, universally speaking. Isn’t it true that art can be totally free out there? Free from any context? Like me as a space visitor being free out there apart from being sort of held captive in an exosuit. Free by all means. Independent from any context.38 And don’t get me wrong, ‘art does not aim at beauty. It uses beauty. Art aims ultimately at truth’.39 33
Nestor alters Novalis’ saying: “…’The world must be romanticized,’…” The Aesthetic Imperative: Writings on Art (2017), p. 306. 34
Nestor semi-cites from: “Romanticism was the first backlash. It was against Enlightenment, reason, science, technology, and industry; it was the first re-enchantment programme.” The Aesthetic Imperative: Writings on Art (2017), p. 313. 35
“Works of art are exhibited as aesthetic shares.” The Aesthetic Imperative: Writings on Art (2017), p. 257. 36
Tegmark, M., Life 3.0: Being human in the age of Artificial Intelligence, Allen Lane (2017), p. 203. 37
“…enrichissez-vous, ‘enrich yourselves’.” The Aesthetic Imperative: Writings on Art (2017), p. 224. 38
“the ‘operating system’ of art, is independent of the social context, the institutional situation and the state of discourse.” The Aesthetic Imperative: Writings on Art (2017), p. 305. 39
Nestor quotes philosopher Victor Zuckerkandl: The Artful Universe Expanded (2011), p. 229. 15
Look, if I may be so bold, with all the stars, the planets and what have you, it’s ‘only a light frosting on the cosmic cake; modest buoys afloat in a vast cosmic ocean of something that looks like nothing.’40 With all our art exhibitions we make that frosting on the cake a bit more stern, more apparent, sweeter if you will. One truth for now is that the cosmos is a wonderful playground without boundaries. One wants to live in it like art naturally does. I’d like to get a grip on your floating art… We tend to keep as much art as possible out of the CES by the way. They impart much yet they are reminiscent of the museal tradition. One of our closest galleries, the Local Gallery, has various smaller vacuo-galleries within it, contained with mechanical and mostly analogue based artworks. It comes across as if there are works exhibited similar to the metamechanics of Jean Tinguely. Always a great inspiration. We have the Delphinus Gallery, only room for diaphanous inflatables. In the Sculptor Gallery we installed contemporary dynamic sculptures. Think of works inspired by, let’s say, David Spriggs and Mona Hatoum’s ‘Dark Matter’41… Good luck finding her piece without a Sphæra Lucis. It would be interesting though if only your exosuit would be able to detect its magnetism… Each gallery has its own peculiar dimension and operating mind so to say. We like to call it Vacuumystics.* So it happens that in the Airsphere,42 a small gallery within the Boötes Gallery, which is the biggest Supergallery,
deGrasse Tyson, N., Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, W.W. Norton & Company New York (2017), p. 85. 41
“an installation of mild steel, iron fillings and magnets.” https://www.artimage.org.uk/ 31870/mona-hatoum/dark-matter--2019 42
Similar as in: “The Airspheres are mobile space habitats of unknown origin. They consist of enormous atmosphere-filled membranes, with artificial light sources providing heat and illumination to their interiors.” https://theculture.fandom.com/wiki/Airsphere 16
sound finds a way to travel. Encountering such gravitas and mystery would somehow seem to be pretty enough for me I think. Just experiencing universal mystery would seem too abstract and not entirely palpable for you I think. I thought you’d like to get a grip on vacuo-art? I’d like to get a grip on my anxious and capricious mind while I’m floating through the numb yet perfect vacuum of space. Does humour belong in the vacuo-gallery? It is quintessential to us. Before entering the opulent Capricornus Gallery you have to wear a Fool’s Cap.43 In this gallery we have a big batch of ‘Pataphysicalities. Full of immersive jocularities, kinetic merriness and spatial-temporal jumbo foolery. For all ages. It’s interhaptic*; between passive and interactive senses of touch. It sort of resembles a not horrific but playful and turgid Bosch44 tableau. Not everybody likes to get their hands dirty though, not everybody is a homo ludens… Deep down everybody is a playful being. One of our own conceptual readymades is ‘A Needle in a Void’. That one speaks for itself. We also 3Dprinted a tree that keeps ‘falling’ around. Referring to George Berkeley’s
“The association of the world with this comic figure may be interpreted as a representation of the world as an irrational, dangerous, and foolish place to be living in.” Mingren, W., Cartographic Comedy in the 16th century: The Fool’s Cap Map of the World (19 April, 2017), https://www.ancient-origins.net/artifacts-other-artifacts/cartographiccomedy-16th-century-fool-s-cap-map-world-007923 44
Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450-1516), Dutch painter. 17
philosophy.45 In the Airsphere of the Boötes Gallery we installed an audio piece called ‘Man is Comical’. Since there’s an atmosphere we are not only able to listen to it but even the sound waves can be seen through the whole space. The content of the piece is a human constantly laughing out loud in a loop. Based on the definition of the comical by Novalis: ‘the comical is a mixture that amounts to naught.’46 In our case, it really is the nothingness that surrounds you when you laugh.
CURATING THE COSMOS If you put any object in the void of space does it become art? In my opinion, art is about conversation. It’s about questioning, discussing its aesthetics. Art is mysterious. Art should have a bit of a mysterious veil hanging over it. Like the vacuum of space is a veiled mystery. We also call our potential cosmic art ‘Vacuumystical Art’. So ejecting for example the Voyager Golden Record into space was pretty much just sending information into space? However it can be perceived as a thing in itself which has a mysterious quality to it. It was a message in its broadest sense. As we talked before, I started out with a CES packed full of earthly art and information. You can see it as an art object on its own too. But it has a different purpose. Just like a CES exposing a painting or sculpture inside is not the ultimate goal either. 45
“…there is nothing easier than for me to imagine trees, for instance, in a park, or books existing in a closet, and nobody by to perceive them.” “When we do our utmost to conceive the existence of external bodies, we are all the while only contemplating our own ideas. But the mind, ‘taking no notice of itself’, is deluded to think it can and does conceive bodies existing unthought of or without the mind, though at the same time they are apprehended by or exist in itself.” Berkeley, G., The Principles of Human Knowledge With Other Writings, Collins ClearType Press (1972), sec. 23. pp. 75-76. 46
Novalis, Notes for a Romantic Encyclopaedia: Das Allgemeine Brouillon, SUNY Press (2012), p. 40. 18
Multi-sensorial, kinetic and mixed-media installations that envelop the mind excites my psyche more. When I hear the term installation I instantly feel the metal of a dense art piece in my hand palm. To say it very broadly, an installation is a construction of any kind to demonstrate an experiment. You’re saying the artworks you produce are primarily experiments… The art we come up with is mostly non-figurative multimedia art. Not only multi-sensorial but also synesthetical;47 all works purely based on all kinds of phenomena. Some explicitly related to and some not so much related to stellar phenomena. Related to, for example, Ann Veronica Janssens’ ‘RR Lyrae’?48 That acts more as a representation of a pulsating star rather than a galacticspecific* work that only might suit in that space. My collective curates work that transcends the representative visible world. We aim at running into new unknown worlds. We are namely confronted with unknowns almost every day when passing readymades.
“Synesthesia is the perceptual-cognitive condition in which intermodal relations are involuntary experienced as a characteristic aspect of perception or as a voluntary expression of the unity of the senses in the form of a creative act using language, audiovisual imagery or any other combination of media.” Evers, F., The Academy of the Senses: Synesthetics in Science, Art and Education, ArtScience Interfaculty Press The Hague (2012), p. 7. 48
“In astronomy, RR Lyrae are pulsating stars usually found in globular clusters. They are of use particularly in defining distances within the Milky Way.” http://i-ac.eu/downloads/ gdv_avj_english_bat_2.pdf 19
Since space has its Vacuumystics as you claimed before, the term unstable media49 comes to mind. Do you also see your art like that as such? I consider the cosmic readymades being unstable media as well. They are very fickle. A star is getting born, it lives for a while and then it dies. We see ‘The Universe’ as an experiment where everyone has the everlasting opportunity to uniquely experience all these outputs, outcomes and interactions with these ephemeral phenomena. Instead of talking about the cosmic gallery you could talk about the immense expanding white cube. Absolutely. Funny enough, our nearest supercluster of readymades and some vacuo-galleries is called Laniakea, meaning immense heaven.50 What is the correlation between the white cube and the Universe? Foremost, I see a difference between the museum concept and exhibition space or say the art gallery concept. The museum is the Universe, the Vacuumuseum*; a uterodrome,51 with its natural and transient readymades and the vacuo-art gallery space, the white cube in a way, is the Universe
The term ‘unstable media’ in the Universe context is for some parts related to: “The Muses have to do with all art forms based on movement, rhythm, repetition, ephemerality, onceonly-ness: unstable media.” Mulder, A., Shared rejoicing from: Book for the Electronic Arts (2000), https://v2.nl/ archive/articles/unstable-media 50
or ‘immeasurable heaven’ as said in: nature video, Laniakea: Our home supercluster (Sep 3, 2014), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rENyyRwxpHo 51
Nestor makes a link with the earthly museum since the Clairevoyager tour primarily passes by (without stopping) the readymades in the Vacuumuseum: “Museums are the ideal modern institution for playing the game of fast-in-and-out, the game that is vital for life. The museum is our official uterodrome, the circular racing arena of the uterus.” The Aesthetic Imperative: Writings on Art (2017), p. 240. 20
with its human contribution. ‘The outside world must not come in, every object placed is kind of sacred.’52 To speak with Brian O’Doherty’s words. Space is the most literal outside you can think of. How do you see this outside? In the vacuum of space you cannot really speak of outside and inside. Nor about up, down, left and right. It acts in both ways and yet in now way at all. Every art object is liberated from in and out so to say. Even the readymades which are sacred to us. Since art is free in a white cube how much space is there to breath for cosmic art? The artworks will not be lonely, they will be in solitude which expresses the glory of being alone unlike expressing the pain of being alone which is loneliness.53 I mean they have a tremendous amount of breathing space. Even more so without the traditional CES. In the beginning the transparent casings were often clustered together. As an addition to all that, each vacuogallery helps us curating these freestanding and breathable works. Are you referring to the untouchable Vacuumystics? In terms of ‘vacuums can change; vacuums can fluctuate; vacuums can have strange symmetries, strange geographies, strange histories’?54 52
“The outside world must not come in…esthetic conundrum.” O’Doherty, B., Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space, The Lapis Press, San Francisco (1986), p. 15. 53
Nestor quotes theologian Paul Tillich: “Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.” Kull, R., Solitude: Seeking Wisdom in Extremes: a Year Alone in the Patagonia Wilderness, New World Library (2009), p. 203. 54
Barrow, J.D., The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the Universe, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (2009), p. 296 (epub). 21
Since we are not dealing with a four wall construction, we don’t talk about architecture when we are vacuo-curating in a vacuo-gallery. We talk about Spatial Confusionism* which consists of spatial consciousness and spatial subjectivity. That sounds tricky… It’s playing around with the void itself. Every gallery behaves in a certain way. You could say they are conscious. A vacuo-gallery is like a trickster. It toys with us. We present the art to the gallery. Then we decide how and where to put it, where to float-position* the art. Then it is up to the ‘mind’ of the gallery how we individually perceive the art in the space. The gallery tricks you into uniquely perceiving the art. It lets each individual experience the art differently. Only in matter of size and floating-speed though. The floating motion of an installation and its scale become unimaginably subjective. In other words you cannot really curate a conscious cosmic gallery? Our effort is choosing the work, setting up the work and deciding its floating-position and then we have to let it go. There’s always work we can do, yet we can never tell to what degree the vacuo-gallery is going to spatially confuse us. Someone might not even sense the installation if the trickster gallery is very eager to make it nearly invisible small. Or it might rush its speed so you won’t get enough time to experience it. Unpredictable and intangible it may seem. It’s a give and take. The vacuo-gallery is constantly challenging us… ‘The void exists as a complete, legitimate part of a work of art, and, in a more active
sense, an ‘unpainted painting’.’55 Put it in your context, wouldn’t you say that a vacuo-gallery is a readymade as well? Tough question. It seems we are allowed to experience art in it. It likes our art very much. It is being kind to our malleable interactions with it. The void is open for communication. It’s like ‘a nothingness that allows everything.’56 Although it won’t allow us to have a collective subjective experience in it. Rather it is conducting each floating soul into sensorial stupefaction. The gallery that shape-shifts the art only once in front of you. As it is in digital culture ‘protective glass, ropes, and “do not touch” signs seem very much out of place in contemporary art spaces where the experience of art stretches beyond the limits of ocular perception.’57 In this case it seems out of place since the so-called trickster gallery can influence and distort these would-be elements as well? You get the gist. It would be too confusing, having all this included information. There’s only the trickster vacuum and the art together in its purest sense. Obviously in combination with an SL and in some cases hosted by a CES. Apropos, CES’s in the vacuo-galleries differ in size for each person too. As a counter-argument, a CES could also be non-transparent. It could mimic the white cube space or oblong shaped room closed from the outside world. In that case you wouldn't know you are floating around. You can work with the element of surprise in a way. 55
Morley, S., The Sublime: Documents of Contemporary Art, Whitechapel Gallery and The MIT Press (2010), p. 102. 56
Nestor derives it, out of context, from: “…looking back at the world that arose and was exhibited and blinking forward into a nothingness that allows everything,…” The Aesthetic Imperative: Writings on Art (2017), p. 246. 57
Van den Akker, C. and Susan Legêne, Museums in a Digital Culture: How Art and Heritage Become Meaningful, Amsterdam University Press (2016), p. 41. 23
Then it’s just the same as on Earth. Our propensity is to experience art while floating. To sense the fact that you are not grounded but are levitating. The idea of you living while floating is in a way a sensorial experience on its own too which is part of the whole mission. We’d like to see the visitor engulfed by the installations. Not much different from ‘contemporary museums where the visitor gets caught up in the theatrics of its installations, get enraptured and overcome by spectacle.’58 There are similarities. There’s no denying. Could you claim that like in modern museums and galleries where the glass façade openness is related to a non ideological agenda,59 the vacuum and its puzzling nothingness is regarded as the same principal? It comes naturally to us. The almost completely empty void is just there, open and clear. There is no agenda to fill in. It produces its own reality60 to say it like that. We are just carefully playing with the behaviour of the space. We are not here to alter the void’s components entirely. As I derive from it you have no choice. The void alters your senses.
Schubert, K., The Curator’s Egg: The evolution of the museum concept from the French Revolution to the present day, Ridinghouse (2016), p. 168. 59
“The glass façade had become an important architectural shorthand, signalling openness, transparency and declaring that there was nothing concealed within, no hidden ideological or political agenda.” The Curator’s Egg: The evolution of the museum concept from the French Revolution to the present day (2016), p. 53. 60
“Exhibitions, I believe, can and should go beyond simple illustration or representation. They can produce ‘reality’ themselves.” Ways of Curating (2015), pp. 167-168. Nestor draws a parallel with that quote and the trickster ‘mind’ of a vacuo-gallery that is creating its own reality; a conscious exhibition. 24
There you go. It confuses you gargantuanly in order to get a one-of-a-kind experience. I can feel the sweat running down my body and filling up my exosuit. Anyways…can we touch the subject of everlasting art then if everything seems fickle? The trickster gallery makes the work, just for you as a spectator, spatially unstable and in a way temporal; its tendency to vary and deceive the motion of the ‘planted’ works. All unstable media are in fact stable and vice versa. It is all in a cycle, everlasting. There’s always time for play. Some installations, like readymades, undergo a process with a limited durability.61 Yet our and nature’s own unstable art will perpetuate as long as unseen time will exist. To add to that, a lot of installations are spatial, stable, work. But it is, as you indicate, the vacuo-gallery who is the stirrer-up, the one that makes stable work unstable. And therefore a co-creator of play, a co-creator of interactivity that elevates the art experience. The Universe is the most spacious gallery space there can be although I wonder how much art there actually is? Not much compared to the readymades. We have produced an enormous amount already for some time and more will come since the gallery spaces keep expanding naturally. What is the procedure of quantity versus quality? Good question but we can only talk about quality since quantity is relative. We may produce a lot of works because there’s a lot of space. No matter what, with every work we look firmly for its design, concept and materiality
“Unstable media on the other hand are themselves transient, time-based, once-only. They do not deliver a durable structure; they initiate a process. They transfer their consumers to another realm or space or mentality than that of mortality, of ordinary life. They are playing a game in the sense Huizinga defined.” & “Unstable media, playful. Stable media, serious.” https://v2.nl/archive/articles/unstable-media 25
because the trickster spaces have tricky requests in order to float-position the art. Furthermore, we have enough time or actually, no time at all, to make it of good quality.
HOMO IN VACUO You are in a Clairevoyager ship traversing through the cosmos and passing by readymades along the cosmic highway. As a Clairevoyager I can float while experiencing the subjective harshness of vacuo-art in space. Is that how it primarily differs from experiencing art within four walls? You float around it. You are investigating it. From a distance, from close-up, from within and a 360 perspective. Besides, in a void you are not distracted by anything else. It’s you and the art piece without any walls around it. In order to experience it fully we provide the audience neckology* lessons. In most voids your body is extremely flexible like time, your neck acts like an owl’s head. What happens is that the seven bones of your cervical vertebrae become quite loose from each other hence they can rotate more freely, roughly said. In a lot of cases trickster galleries let art installations move faster than you can follow. So you have to learn how to move your head in a full revolution in order to successfully experience it. As I spoke briefly with someone from the test audience a while ago, this person mentioned after the three-day medical check up on the Moon base and after this extensive neckology, while experiencing vacuo-art, and I quote “my body seemed to be completely numb, physically I wasn’t there anymore. Another strange thing was that I felt mentally more alive than ever, my mind took over my whole body in a way and it seemed I gained an olfactory of a bear combined with the eyesight of an eagle and the hearing of a moth.” If I go up there would I acclaim these super senses myself too? Every body and mind is different. For some people the hearing improves but for others it’s mostly their sense of smell that improves. Most people don’t feel their physical body anymore when they are immersed in a vacuo26
gallery. You wouldn’t feel physical pain or if there’s internally something wrong so you have to rely on the health check system of your exosuit which is directly linked to the medical lab on each Clairevoyager. I feel a bit stifled by this spatial-temporal vacuous environment but it nonetheless invites the public to participate.62 Be it in a bit more extreme way, both mentally and physically. It’s obviously participatory. Since we deal mostly with installations, you are inspecting them. You interact with them in all kinds of ways. You are a spectonaut* guided by a guidonaut* to be immersed by a vacuo-specific* installation made by an artonaut.* If these cosmic terms may seem odd to you, it is because you have to remain crystal clear in deep space. In astrophysics you have graspable terms like ‘worm hole’ and ‘brown dwarf’. So it doesn’t surprise me. As I told you, there’s no in and out in a vacuo-gallery. You, as a spectonaut, have to enter a gallery under the supervision of a guidonaut. In other words, a vacuo-gallery is like a Centre Pompidou, visitors can enter from all sides?63 Although there are no ‘sides’ in a vacuo-gallery, every spectonaut has the chance to enter a vacuo-gallery from any direction with the aid of a guidonaut. Is it always a human guidonaut that guides you?
“…in Barr’s own famous phrase, ’a laboratory; in its experiments, the public is invited to participate.” The Curator’s Egg: The evolution of the museum concept from the French Revolution to the present day (2016), p. 45. 63
“…’the public will enter from all sides’; ‘the visitor should be tempted to go everywhere’.” The Curator’s Egg: The evolution of the museum concept from the French Revolution to the present day (2016), p. 58. 27
Each Clairevoyager ship has its guidonauts. On board there are human guidonauts. In each gallery non-human robotic guidonauts are constantly floating around. Mainly to steer you to a certain work and it helps you with time distancing. If a vacuo-installation appears to be the size of, say, 3km in diameter for you thanks to that trickster gallery mind and therefore the art is moving too fast for you, you can order the non-human guidonaut to pull you back to a distance of 800km in an instant. That is still extremely close but it might just be the right and pleasant distance for you to experience a more reasonable timespan of the installation. It’s called vacuo-art distancing*. Didn't your try-out spectonaut spilled some beans on that matter? There was no time anymore. Besides, he said he needed some time to find out what he actually felt and experienced. I’m sure he’ll come back for more to experience. Anyhow, human guidonauts primarily inquire you about the artwork itself. Apart from SL’s operating as separate entities in the gallery, every guidonaut has a portable SL. As you come close to it, the artificial sun lights up the ‘hidden objects of curiosity in the dark’. That’s how I picture vacuo-art from time to time. Cinema is also known as the moving image. I can interpret vacuo-art as the moving hidden then? Floating is moving. Yet every art piece has its coordinates and is space anchored. Indeed, it looks like it’s nighttime all the time and all the galleries seem to be closed unless a guidonaut turns on the SL or carries an SL towards the zero gravity exhibited works. I’d like to smell the starry and abundant Universe fragrance. A perfume I wouldn’t get enough of, a flavour that would distract me from all the nothingness that surrounds me. There’s no such thing as a universal perfume. At least not yet. Our scent team made a dozen of various palatable smells extracted from the cosmic
cauldron.64 Each spectonaut gets a personalised scent as a gift just as soon as they sign up for the Clairevoyages.* How will children experience the grand Universe tour? To highlight one: we made a mimetic art piece called ‘Benign Bug’. A huge enlargement of an ordinary bug with a smile on its face… I can’t help but also smell the giant dropped ice cream cone of Claes Oldenburg… Only this one is specifically meant for children to enjoy. It is a friendly and colourful looking bug. One can hover over it and ‘ride’ it like you’re flying a dragon. On the Clairevoyager we have special activities for our very young ones. What is not possible to experience in the cosmic galleries? I’m afraid you are not able to touch natural readymades since we let them evolve and expose naturally, without any interference by us. Readymades are not tactile works. It’s been nagging me for a while but how do we criticise it all? Is there room for critique and if so, will changes be made in the work and or gallery? Can it develop, can it be changed, do you go back to a specific gallery or work to adjust? Reviewing and modifying, it’s all part of our daily routine. Like the Universe, change is inevitable. Our non-human robotics mainly execute the changes inasmuch as we can operate them from every distance possible. To the critics, I can only recommend them to hop on the ride. As da Vinci would say ‘experience is a truer guide than the words of others.’65 It’s all about first-hand experience. Using just the Terrascope won't suffice. 64
Nestor refers to: “…odors of the extra-atmospheric environment.” Garber, M., What Space Smells Like (July 19, 2012), https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/07/what-space-smells-like/ 259903/ 65
Nestor cites from “…they do not know that in my subjects experience is a truer guide than the words of others,…” da Vinci, L., Thoughts on Art and Life by Leonardo da Vinci, e-artnow (2012), sec. 24. 29
THE SUNYATA You reside on the Sunyata*,66 the toroidal-shaped spacecraft which is home to all the artists and engineers working for The Universe. Our very own art and fab lab. What would we be without the Sunyata? You live together in one confined place with divisions of artists, planners, scientists, engineers, researchers…you name it. At this moment Blaise Pascal pops up in my mind; ‘the eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me.’67 How do you manage to keep up, I wonder, to keep going, to find the motivation? I’m not here to motivate. They have enough intrinsic motivation themselves. The Sunyata is our home and we do our best to keep it convivial. Of course there is the occasional humdrum and gloomy thinking now and then. Yet there’s no time pressure, you take your time to do what you want to research and create. There’s so much else that distracts us from dreading around. Benevolence is prevailing. We keep discovering and experiencing the most unexpected things. For instance, we found out that the Fornax Gallery only allows us to curate reflecting glass related installations, mirror art. How do you see yourself as a curatonaut?* I may seem like a mugwump with some blarney. In honest truth, I’m flexible with doing different tasks68 but I mainly give the green light to works. Everything passes through me and I set up plans for galleries with 66
“‘self-emptying’ (‘sunyata’ in Sanskrit)” The Sublime: Documents of Contemporary Art (2010), p. 103. 67
Pascal, B., Pensées and Other Writings, Oxford World’s Classics (2008), p. 73.
“‘The curator has to be flexible. Sometimes he is the servant, sometimes the assistant, sometimes he gives artists ideas of how to present their work; in group shows he’s the coordinator, in thematic shows, the inventor’.” Ways of Curating (2015), p. 110. 30
the aid of my fellow curatonauts. You cooperate a lot with scientists. There’s this conjunction between art and science you focus on, yet it’s predominantly pure physical and also your work you create is not quite digital, as I understand? The Universe is a physical place. It’s a metaphysical place. It’s a pataphysical place. Not a digital place per se. We like to blend with the elements of the Universe, play with the cosmic rooms which happen to be physical in the strangest ways. We do work with digital interfaces. We have floating holographic projections and we video-map certain readymades like extrasolar moons. But using space only as a canvas is not the goal. It’s not quite vacuo-specific. It will not ameliorate or enhance the outer space experience. Was there ever a discussion of automating everything? Why would humans even be involved in the creative process of art while your robots are already perfectly capable of doing that labour? What would we humans do otherwise? Creative manual labour gives meaning. Art and science go hand in hand but science and technology play supporting roles next to art, our undying protagonist. The triumphant trumpet from when you see the Enterprise ship for the first time in the Star Trek movie enters my ear because to me it sounds like you are spending time at a hyperactive art laboratory on a weightless and mobile interdisciplinary campus, to boldly go where no…artist has gone before. Hyperactivity in the void.
INTERVOID TRAVEL The Sunyata is not only your home, it is in constant flux… 31
It can circumnavigate the entire Universe. While you’re ‘swimming’ around in a vacuo-gallery you tend to forget the fact that all these artworks had to be brought there in the first place. As if I’m not too busy getting dizzy from the ‘once-in-a-lifetime-experience’ vacuo-art, I apparently have room to wonder about the logistics of it all. We have self-driving art cargo ships (ACS)* we deploy into space. They not only distribute CES’s, they also manufacture them. They use the intergalactic tunnels to find their way in the Universe. In the beginning I thought something like: ’Damn the solar system! Bad light; planets too distant; pestered with comets; feeble contrivance; could make a better myself.’69 But on our first voyage, as soon as we got out of the Oort Cloud, everything was in turmoil. Before we even could properly navigate we were right in the middle of Centaurus, our neighbour constellation. It seemed that, once you rush through the intervoid* medium, you get sort of catapulted into deep space, not able to control a thing whatsoever. We lost the first ACS by the way. It flew right into the deepest of the cosmic depths. You’re dealing with ultra celerity. So in order to slow down the speed of our ships we came up with hauling in bald asteroids, used for cargo in our spacecraft. That way you would be able to adroitly navigate. So we learned how to tame the cosmic energies and learned how to anchor ourselves and our spacecraft. Thus they are very parsimonious space itinerants. Bald asteroids? We only haul in asteroids that are plain rocks, rocks without having complex chemical components. It depends on the weight of each ACS but each one carries an asteroid that varies in size from 50 to 500 meters. Then they are off on the intervoid highways and every ship uses certain pulsars
The Artful Universe Expanded (2011), p. 39. 32
as navigational beacons. They are in fact cosmic lighthouses.70 Pulsars are functional readymades I guess then. Is there more functional readymade art I can get my hands onto? Once we bumped into an ovoid asteroid and to our surprise it contained a strange liquid. This fluid composition creates super eyesight. Once you put some drops in your eyes you are able to see planets and stars from enormous distances in focus. It’s like you’re carrying an internal telescope. Only functional for the Vacuumuseum exhibited works and it is the choice of the spectonaut to take it in or not. You no longer imagine with your retina. You imagine with a far more powerful faculty.71
GALACTIC INTERACTIONS I noticed that there are exceptions to the rule. Sometimes it is inevitable to interact with asteroids and what not… There are always exceptions. We were captivated by these asteroids and other galactic flotsam.72 Since their number is incalculable we had the urge to make orbit-specific* work. We went to an asteroid belt and picked the baldest ones and covered them with fluorescent light. One belt has a multiple light installation in orbit; spicy photons on the Asteroid Lighting Belt*. 70
“Because they emit some radiation while they are rotating, they act like a cosmic lighthouse in outer space. We see them as a blinking star, or ‘pulsar’.” Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension (1994), p. 220. 71
Nestor contradicts Bachelard: “Bear in mind that we imagine with our retinas and not with some mysterious and all-powerful faculty.” Gaston Bachelard: A Philosophy of the Surreal (2018), p. 27. 72
“…galactic flotsam permeates intergalactic space,…” Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (2017), p. 67. 33
Not sure if astrophysicists can beat you on that name giving… Art is not just exposing a fancy installation, it is an interaction, it is performative, it is a collective workout…I can assume you ‘exhibit’ also other artistic disciplines? Spacious space for every discipline possible. But firstly, by void, we also mean the space between planets in a star system. Part of the regular tour is to experience the infamous Nemesis star73 which has an influence on our Earth, only to be seen from within a Clairevoyager. Alike works that use planetary ellipses. Planets are balancing acts.74 A lot of works in orbit are about balance. Since we tend to fuse several disciplines, we consider these works Orbital Eclectics*; multifarious experiences in orbits. It may sound like a spectacle or a ride from a theme park but we believe in the playelement of art. This is a separate tour you can sign up for. How can I picture balancing acts? I’ll give an example. We found a specific exoplanet which radiates a mysterious energy. An ‘Expoplanet’.* We have installed some zero gravity spacecraft right above the planet which is white cube styled. You can enter with maximum ten visitors.
Nestor refers to the Yuga theory/cycle of the ages: “The cycle theory strangely asserts that humanity’s periodic gain and loss of knowledge is caused by a galactic magnetic field generated at the heart of the Milky Way by the dispersion of a subatomic substance called prana, which affects, among all other things, the human cerebrum and nervous system.” & “Astrophysicist Richard Muller further theorized that periodic extinctions may caused by a star, which he named Nemesis, revolving with our sun in twenty-six-million-year cycles and pulling the earth out of its normal cone protection against comets and asteroids, making the planet vulnerable to extinction-level events.” Saranam, S., God Without Religion: Questioning Centuries of Accepted Truths, BenBella Books, Inc. (2016), pp. 86, 96. 74
“Planets are balancing acts in which interatomic forces…are strong enough to resist the inward crush of gravity.” The Artful Universe Expanded (2011), p. 58. 34
Does that mean it actually represents a normal functioning white cube? An exception to the rule? Apart from the zero gravity, another rule-breaker. There’s nothing to sense at first hand. After a while you start to see the orbital patterns of the exoplanet in relation to its neighbouring planet, its nexus. Similar to the dance of Earth and Venus.75 A planet that is performing its choreography for us, the audience. How about the ‘harmony of the spheres’?76 Musica In Vacua* is our modern harmony with the spheres. You cannot leave out The Planets by Holst or even Le Diatope by Xenakis,77 I guess? Two out of many. As Mahler said of his 8th Symphony: ‘Imagine the universe beginning to ring and resound. It is no longer human voices, it is planets and suns revolving.’78 One of the problems with music performances is that I’d like to hear it live. Ultimate would be experiencing it in the complete darkness of a void. I agree with maestro Celibidache. Music is about feeling it live. You have to taste all the emotions that come with it, get nearer to the truth. Music has to come directly to the ear.79 We came up with the idea of bringing in a whole orchestra on one of our art cargo ships. That ship would go in orbit around this binary star system with 75
as portrayed in: Francesco Carpinteri, The dance of the Earth and Venus around the Sun (Aug 19, 2018), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_DYZWpp95g 76
“…”Musica Mundana," the music of the Worlds, or Spheres.” Godwin, J., The Harmony of Spheres: A Sourcebook of the Pythagorean Tradition in Music, Inner Traditions International, Ltd. (1993), p. xii. 77
Cosmogony in Sound: Iannis Xenakis’ “The Legend of Er” https://acousmata.com/post/ 536583109/the-legend-of-er 78
Newlin, D., Bruckner - Mahler - Schoenberg, Read Books Ltd. (2013), p. 143.
Nestor loosely paraphrases conductor Celibidache: 1Furtwangler, Sergiu Celibidache on his Philosophy of Music (April 20, 2013), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SthKs40ClCY 35
its seven planets. The orchestra is in front of this wide rectangular window so you are able to see the dancing planets through it. After the planetary ballet comes dancing with the stars? I would say dances with black holes. ‘Ad Vortex’* is a choreography for dancers who perform extremely near the centre of black holes. Picture yourself a kind of ‘Mechanics of History’80 dance. Bring your preferred chair, attach it to your exosuit and enjoy the performance. How about interacting with normal stars, are there stellar performances to say it like that?
Without a doubt. We got a kind of Dyson sphere81 showing off a stroboscopic array of light. It’s a ‘Type 1 Stroboscopisation’.* Our plan is to build Type II and III Stroboscopisations82 that can be seen from Earth. The arms of the light installation are immensely high and dense, separated from the stellar body. Still they move insanely fast up and down in front of the star. Thus creating a stroboscopic effect. It’s not for the faint hearted. For this project we only look for tiny red dwarfs because of its feasible size. The thing is that I have seen stroboscopic lights before. To me this sounds a bit like you are doing a copy and paste; copying from what we know on Earth and pasting it 80
Staugaitis, L., Dancers Demonstrate the Perpetual ‘Mechanics of History’ in a Performance by Yoann Bourgeois (Oct 26, 2017), https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2017/10/anonymous-dancers-demonstrate-themechanics-of-history-in-a-performance-by-yoann-bourgeois/ 81
“…a Dyson sphere, first proposed by Olaf Stapledon in 1937 but later analyzed by physicist Freeman Dyson. A Dyson sphere is a gigantic sphere around a star, designed to harvest the energy from its massive amounts of starlight.” The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality and Our Destiny Beyond Earth (2019), p. 249. 82
Nestor draws a parallel with: “Harnessing the energy of a planet, a star (with a Dyson sphere, say) and a galaxy correspond to civilizations of Type I, Type II and Type III on the Kardashev scale, respectively”…”Type IV should correspond to harness our entire accessible Universe.” Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (2017), p. 224. 36
into the cosmic canvas. I’m giving you familiar terms like ‘stroboscope’ in order to get a picture of what it is like out there. While in fact, cosmic scales and masses are simply indescribable using plain earthly vocabulary.
FLOATING-AS-ART I noticed some artonauts are performers in space. What is their drive to go into the cosmic vastness? We give artists the opportunity to live-as-art. Some artists do performance work in the galleries that lasts a lifetime. They become the artwork themselves. Exactly what Alfred Jarry83 was aiming for. Could you give an example? Some of our artonauts seem like psychonauts.* They dare to challenge space hazard. In the Leo Gallery we have a work called ‘Hypersilence’*, a typical horror vacui84 work. It is not for the timid I tell you. I have not and will not try it ever if you’ll excuse me. One gets very deep into this void and gets to experience the complete voidy silence. You can ‘hear’ the hyper silence. You can think of an anechoic chamber wherein all sound is muted. You will hear your inner blood stream while gazing into the utter darkness of nothing. It might feel as if there’s hyperactivity all around. In that sense it may feel like the opposite of 83
Nestor refers to Alfred Jarry’s living-as-art goal: “…the many colourful stories about Jarry tend to give the impression that he was some kind of experiment in living-as-art. It is certainly true that making life “beautiful like literature” was one of his goals.” ’Pataphysics: A Useless Guide (2015), p. 192. 84
“‘horror vacui is the fear, or abhorrence, of empty space.” Thompson, K., Art Term Tuesday: Horror Vacui (June 26, 2018), https://fwmoa.blog/2018/06/26/art-term-tuesday-horror-vacui/ 37
nothingness. Our audacious performance artonauts undergo this hyper silence themselves as a daily practice. Their magnanimity is unprecedented. A harrowing thought… Such artists go back to da Vinci. They quote his words ‘among the great things which are found among us the existence of Nothing is the greatest’.85 They put it in practice and the strangest results come out. We have the Occulta Spatia*, the hidden outer galleries where we don’t curate because those spaces shrink and expand continuously. They are inhaling and exhaling so to say. Only daredevils enter them. In result, one of our artonauts is doing a lifetime and probably beyond that performance. In such an outer gallery it allows you to expand, to enlarge yourself. You are able to stretch your body until you become this enormous body the size of a red giant. A whole metempsychosis if you will. They are artists who leave their legacy behind in the shape of their body as I understand? Believe it or not, there are some who turn, in every way, invisible and completely disappear corporeally and then pop back into existence again after a while. All because of these severe trickster spaces. They alter you more than just influencing you on perceiving art. They don’t feel anything at all, physically, like the try-out visitor said to me? It becomes an addiction, gaining this mental independence and not feeling any physical hardship. Not only these artists sacrifice their whole life to be in deep space but also the audience. I presume they have to sacrifice at least one earth year up to a whole decade or several centuries in order to… Float-around-art. When it comes to art one doesn't worry about time anymore.
The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the Universe (2009), p. 67 (epub). 38
Some ‘living-as-art’ artonauts are floating-as-art* around the very membrane of our spherically closed Universe. They are among the cold spots86 so to say.
I believe a cold spot is related to the Phantom Universe,87 a parallel one? Probably more than just one Phantom Universe. Right now there is a whole team working on installing the ribbon for the opening. It’s a straight line, as straight as can be, through the middle of the cosmic expo. It’s not only a ribbon to cut by me eventually, it’s a measurement tool. To measure the surface of our Universe.88 In order to reach the edge of the Universe our team has to get ultra close to the portals that lead to the Phantom Universes. It’s not child play. But they don’t mind going through these ostensible impervious and jarring Occulta Spatia. Their motto is ‘have more faith in the unknown.’89 That keeps them weightlessly standing so to speak.
INTERVIEW WITH THE UNIVERSE Curating a Phantom Universe would be the next step? Let me put it this way. Since the heyday of intervoid travel we covered most space in space. We encountered the cold spots, seemingly voidy spaces where Phantom Universes kissed our Universe a long time ago. It’s still quite theoretical but it looks like that by entering these 86
Ratner, P., Scientists discover possible first proof of parallel universes: A study on the strange Cold Spot in space may prove that we live in a multiverse (18 May, 2017), https:// bigthink.com/paul-ratner/scientists-find-what-could-be-the-first-proof-of-paralleluniverses 87
“Are we feeling the ordinary gravity of ordinary matter crossing the membrane of a phantom universe adjacent to ours?” Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (2017), p. 89. 88
Somewhat related to: “The final chapter of ‘Faustroll’ attempts to calculate the surface of God,…” ‘Pataphysics: A Useless Guide (2015), p. 224. 89
“Let us have more faith in the unknown!” Tarde, G., Underground Man, Hyperion Press, Inc. (1974), p. 84. 39
interdimensional portals you enter a quantum universe. You have to see it as an immense challenging spiral staircase to another floor in the museum building. This will be our next step, to have a look-see at this incredible microcosmos, the Quantumverse. A quantum gallery that opens up new dimensions and new challenges. We probably need ångström90 sized spherules to scrutinise it but who knows. I’m not sure if I’m ready to encounter my parallel self in the end, supposedly that’d be the case. Since the voids, as you claimed, are conscious, isn’t the Universe itself ‘alive’? You are ahead of me. The most realistic next step is, oddly enough, an audio piece. It will contain questions we artists like to ask our dear Universe. For that we need to interact with the arguably conscious Universe itself. I cannot say more for now. We have to think of appropriate questioning and find the tools to receive the truth or truths the Universe conceals from us. Wouldn’t that be a scientific matter rather than an artistic one? An art-scientific matter. See it as an interactive performance piece. Interactive in the sense of cooperating with scientists and interactive in the sense of awaiting response from the Universe ‘installation’. I might have a question: ‘If space is something, what can it be in?’91 But I suppose this riddle from Zeno is solved because we now know the Universe is a closed sphere. 90
“When you sit in a chair, you are not actually sitting there, but levitating above it at a height of one angstrom (a hundred millionth of a centimetre),…” Bryson, B., A Short History of Nearly Everything, Random House (2010), p. 184. 91
Huizinga, J., Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture, Martino Publishing (2014), p. 115. 40
I think it’s a tantalising and viable question to ask. For we are still in doubt as to what kind of something all the possible Universes may float in. So I will bear it in mind and bring it to the Sunyata. With your contribution, the voids of the Universe become not so voidy anymore. The vacuum of space is not that empty at all anyhow with all its fickle readymades of course. Our vacuo-galleries keep expanding, they are more than flexible. Even when people want to partake in our artistic journey. In fact, ‘every human being should be an artist. Everything can become beautiful art.’92 They are more than welcome to, the tentacular Universe will not hold them back. I picture the Universe as an unstable medium in itself. The right verbatim. The more unstable the Universe, the more you undulate in it. Yet I sense some ideological construct in the tone of ‘everybody should be an artist.’ Whilst people are undulating through space, they also preferably should be part of your enchantment programme. Or is that too far fetched? You can be an artist. You musn’t.93 We humans, undeniably, have an urge to create certain goals but it’s up to anyone to want what they favour the most in the end. Do you have a favourite art piece?
“What Joseph Beuys proclaimed had already been advocated earlier by Novalis: Every human being should be an artist. Everything can become beautiful art.” The Aesthetic Imperative (2017), p. 312. 93
“Art is the anti-serious tendency: it crosses the threshold from ‘you must’ to ‘you can’. This lends art the seriousness of great relief” The Aesthetic Imperative (2017), p. 260. 41
For now I can tell you which readymade I really admire. It is the scintillating and whimsical Roche lobe.94 Despite I’m in an impressive spacesuit moving smoothly through the curated voids I still think I would be completely fulfilled already with just being among the stars. Bear in mind, you have to keep some distance to see these wonderful arduous works. With your artistic space journey, quite indisputably, ‘art would not be a universal activity if there were no universal emotional responses and resonances that it could pluck from.’95 Spot on. Art is universal in its most complete sense. It is brewed by ‘stellar alchemy’.96 The Universe is art and an art space at the same time. The Universe may make no sense to you but you sense it.97 ‘Imagination encircles the Universe’.98 We are a natural part of it. ‘We are made of starstuff.’99 You cannot say that it will be insatiable, more likely plethoric. But you will be enthralled…
Not only that, you will learn your place in the Universe. It is about furthering knowledge…
“The Roche lobe is a theoretical, dumbbell-shaped, bulbous, double envelope that surrounds any two objects in mutual orbit.” Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (2017), p. 138. 95
The Artful Universe Expanded (2011), p. 122.
The Artful Universe Expanded (2011), p. 42.
Nestor loosely paraphrases:“The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.” Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (2017), p. 13. 98
Nestor quotes Albert Einstein: Isaacson, W., Einstein: His Life and Universe, Simon and Schuster (2007), p. 387. 99
Nestor quotes Carl Sagan: White, F., The Cosma Hypothesis: Implications of the Overview Effect, Frank White (2019), p. 13. 42
I thought it was all about aesthetics? I’ll give you the honour to be the first vacuo-art critic. I’m obliged. I just wanted to add that during your tenure in the cosmos you may lose your sense of time and place. But once you’re out there you will likely be clinging onto the Universe and what it has to offer. You will learn its truths through experiencing its alluring artistic narrative. It seems all very ungraspable but it is probably for the better. Isn’t it also to be okay with living while knowing you will never find the truth? Being fine with some mystery lurking in the dark? The Universe is forever bound to develop and morph itself into the most incomprehensible ways. No worries, there’s plenty of room for mystery in the Universe. To conclude, art and space is the ultimate combo. Space is not just a canvas. It’s not just a tool. It is an artwork you’re interacting with. It’s your medium, your stage. You share it with your imagination. This eminently pliable yet unstable universal readymade is ours to mould with grace. You have been truly circumlocutional. I cannot wait to soar into space and join you in the grand exhibition of the unstable Universe. I’ll be delighted and this was a very comfy chair to have sat on.
I would like to thank Matthijs van Boxsel for introducing me to the peculiar world of â€˜Pataphysics, the ArtScience teachers, my coach Michiel Pijpe for pushing me into pata-radical thinking, the University of the Arts The Hague, my thesis coach Merel Boers, my academy friends and colleagues for giving me useless and useful tips and for proofreading, and Max Bruch for composing his Violin Concerto No. 1 in G-minor which got me through writing. â€¨
space touring dance performance by the Celestial Schwung dance group that uses black holes as a stage.
Art Cargo Ship (ACS)
fully automated spacecraft that distributes art to the vacuo-galleries by passing through intergalactic filaments.
artist who works exclusively for The Universe and has the Sunyata as his living and workplace.
Asteroid Lighting Belt
orbit-specific installation which is part of the Orbital Eclectics project; fluorescent-lighted asteroids.
art tour through The Universe on the Clairevoyager.
public spacecraft from ClaireArs (the art-in-space enterprise of the Universe founder and curator Nestor Claire). Also referring to a visitor from The Universe exhibition
art that is specifically set in and meant for star systems. From the term ‘site-specific’.
Cosmic Exhibition Sphere (CES)
spaceship in the shape of a spherical showcase, mostly transparent. Used for exposing and preserving artworks in space. Equipped with a Sphæra Lucis and an automated art restorer. The first CES was launched with donations from the crowdfunding campaign of ClaireArs and the EVA (Extra-telluric Ventures Agency).
curator who works exclusively for The Universe and has the Sunyata as his living and workplace. Nestor Claire is head of the curatonaut team and its exhibitions.
solar system that is home to i.a. Earth.
personalised spacesuit for vacuonauts with a personalised scent, health check system and temperature regulator. It shields space radiation and is able to detect and 46
makes you experience gravitational waves and stellar quakes. Exoreadymade
cosmic readymade outside of our solar system; extrasolar. See: readymade.
exoplanet that exposes art by projecting its mysterious energy to the audience in a white cubetransformed Art Cargo Ship.
coordinating art installations in a vacuogallery by determining its floating-rotation and floating-motion. See: space anchoring.
some performance artists (psychonauts) live-as-art in the Occulta Spatia. They perform without an audience. Float-around-art is the first phase of the float-as-art training.
art that is specifically set inside a specific galaxy and meant only for that galaxy.
tour guide who works exclusively for The Universe and has the Sunyata as his living and workplace. It also refers to 47
a non-human artificial intelligent robotic guide which operates in the vacuo-gallery and physically supports spectonauts experiencing vacuo-art and cosmic readymades. Hypersilence
natural installation in which you are able to listen to the silence of a vacuo-gallery.
art that is specifically set in-between galaxies and meant for galaxies. See: Spiral Dancers.
between interactivity and passivity in experiencing artworks. Mainly installations in the Capricornus Gallery are interhaptic.
art that is specifically set in-between star systems within a galaxy.
similar to interstellar. Referring to space travel; travelling from and to vacuo-galleries.
Musica In Vacua
live musical performances primarily set in the Vacuumuseum.
study in revolving human heads 360 degrees in order to experience fast float-rotating artworks in the vacuo-galleries.
vacuo-galleries in the outer and hidden regions of the Universe. Unstable spaces that both expand and inflate. Suitable for (interactive) performance art. Not suitable for public vacuo-art exhibitions. You lose complete sense of your body; it feels like you are one gaseous substance.
collection of works that are orbit-specific and interact with cosmic readymades. Also known as galactic interactions or installations.
art that is in orbit of stars and planets. See: Asteroid Lighting Belt and Orbital Eclectics.
term Nestor Claire uses for daring performance artonauts.
cosmic object like a star or planet that is presented as art, naturally created without human interference. 49
often used for coordinating spacecraft in the voids of space instead of vacuo-art. See: floatingposition.
the architecture of a vacuo-gallery. Consisting of spatial consciousness; vacuo-gallery behaviour (the gallery is a trickster and therefore has a mind of its own) and spatial subjectivity; vacuo-gallery influencing the perception of a spectonaut in terms of an art installation’s scale and floating-speed.
art visitor from a Clairevoyager who is able to experience The Universe and its exhibitions whereby he/ she loses his/her sense of time. The present is gone and past and future are one and the same.
Sphæra Lucis (SL)
spherical light source that illuminates not only a CES but also a (or part of a) vacuo-gallery. Portable versions are carried by non-human guidonauts. It harnesses energy from passing photons in the voids. It can illudify (modify its illumination). 50
readymade-dance performance by the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy. See: intergalacticspecific.
stroboscopic light installation in the shape of a Dyson sphere around a tiny red dwarf star; stellarspecific work.
Toroidal-shaped spacecraft that is home to all the vacuonauts working at The Universe. It is both a human-constructed living place and an art and science laboratory that traverses the entire Universe.
the cosmic art gallery that houses all the vacuogalleries and the Vacuumuseum (with its readymades). Also known as ‘the Great Exhibition’.
art installation that is specifically meant for a vacuo-gallery.
Vacuo-art distancing (VAD)
a non-human guidonaut can pull back or push forward a spectonaut in a vacuo-gallery in order to get the right distance to experience a reasonable timespan of a vacuo51
artwork having a particular duration. Vacuo-gallery
art gallery in the void of space without readymades i.e. Local Gallery which is located in the Local Void. It exhibits Sunyatadeveloped art installations. It’s a trickster gallery. See: Spatial Confusionism.
vacuo-art specifically meant for a specific vacuogallery.
part of The Universe that exhibits only the cosmic readymades.
peculiar dimension and physics of a trickster gallery. See: Spatial Confusionism.
List of selected vacuo-galleries, which names are actual names of the voids and supervoids in the Universe: Boötes Gallery, Canes-Major Gallery, Capricornus Gallery, Corona Borealis Gallery, Corvus Gallery, Cygnus Gallery, Delphinus Gallery, Eridanus Gallery, Fornax Gallery, Gemini Gallery, Leo Gallery, Local Gallery, Microscopium Gallery, Sculptor Gallery, Taurus Gallery. To give an example of the size of a vacuo-gallery, the diameter of the Local Gallery is ± 150 million light years: “…the Local Void has to be huge, at least 150 million light years across.” “Living next to a void that’s 150 million light years across may sound unsettling. All that nothingness, so close. But that’s just the way it is.” (Gough, E., Meet Our Void, The Local Void. Gaze Into It, Puny Humans (July 22, 2019), https://www.universetoday.com/142923/meet-our-neighbour-the-local-void-gazeinto-it-puny-humans/)
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© April 2020
firstname.lastname@example.org Written by Daan Westerheide as ArtScience Interfaculty Master Thesis in 2020. Interview transcribed and edited by D.O. de Loor. Published under the title ‘The Universe is the Greatest Exhibition Space’ in the Spiralling Into segment of Gap Light, 2nd edition, 2020. © April 2020
GAP LIGHT MAGAZINE FOR MODERN ARTSCIENCES
Master Thesis ArtScience Interfaculty, The Hague 2020