Art imitating space: ESA seeks artists for new space science residency

20 Apr 2016

Ars Electronica Centre, Linz, Austria. Image: N Ferrando and L Lammerhuber/ESA

The European Space Agency (ESA), in partnership with Ars Electronica, has announced Art&Science@ESA, an art residency designed to explore the connection between art and space science.

The winning artist, who will be selected by a jury made up of representatives from ESA, Ars Electronica and Futurelab, and members of the European Digital Art and Science Network, will take up a residency of two parts.

Initially, the artist will spend between two and six weeks at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), becoming familiar with ESA’s space science programme and learning from mentors.

Following this, the artist will move on to the Ars Electronica Centre in Linz, Austria, where they will spend time with the institution’s Futurelab team and another mentor. Here, the artist will develop their work.

The connection between art and science is not as flimsy and tenuous as you might think, though it is certainly an ideological one. Both realms are driven by a desire to explore, investigate, push boundaries and understand the unknown.

“Ultimately, science and art are different manifestations of the same human urge to enquire, explore, and understand our place in the universe,” said Mark McCaughrean, senior science adviser in the ESA Directorate of Science.

“In recent years, we’ve enjoyed working with artists, musicians and other creative individuals inspired by our missions to help open wider engagement with the public, and this exciting collaboration with Ars Electronica will take things to the next level.”

ESA: where art and space meet?

This residency draws attention to the intersection between art and science, and reminds us that one does not need to leave this planet, or even to have a background in science, to explore the universe.

This is something that Inspirefest 2015 speakers Ariel Waldman and Susan McKenna-Lawlor understand.

In her 2015 keynote, Waldman remarked on the power imagery can have, saying: “These images show how space exploration often changes the view of ourselves and our place in the universe.”

For Waldman, the famous ‘pale blue dot’ image was a catalyst, reminding her that exploration was open to everyone: “One of the most important things I learned while being at NASA was that I didn’t actually need to work at NASA to explore space. And so I left.”

McKenna-Lawlor, on the other hand, is bringing art and space closer together. In Inspirefest 2015’s most surprising moment, McKenna-Lawlor announced the intention to launch Ireland’s first space mission.

Giving more detail at an Astronomy Ireland event last August, McKenna-Lawlor spoke about the importance of art to the mission: “Music, poetry and literature will form part of the onboard activities. We have two sides to the brain, and we need to have everybody taking part.”

An already-commissioned sculpture will be part of the payload of the mission, which will be called Cumar.

The Art&Science@ESA residency is open to artists across multiple disciplines, including interactive art, digital music and sound art, computer animation, film and visual effects, digital communities and social media, hybrid art, performance and choreography, and digital design.

Artists must submit a short video introducing themselves and describing the themes they would like to explore. They should also outline a possible concept and plan for their proposed artwork.

The application period is open from today (20 April), and will close at 9.59pm (GMT) on 6 June.

The competition is open to artists from around the world. Applications can be made via the Ars Electronica website.

Kirsty Tobin was careers editor at Silicon Republic