Irish artist lands first-of-its-kind space agency role

3 Aug 2016

Aoife van Linden Tol has been awarded artist-in-residence at the ESA, image via Aoife van Linden Tol

Irish artist Aoife van Linden Tol has been named artist-in-residence of a project being undertaken by Ars Electronica and the European Space Agency (ESA), the first person ever to take on this key role.

Destined for a long stay at the ESA, where she will watch several missions alongside some of the world’s leading scientists, Van Linden Tol will then move on to Ars Electronica’s Linz base to complete her work.

A Cork native, Van Linden Tol saw off hundreds of other artists to secure the position at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC).

Future Human

She will now rub shoulders with ESA scientists and watch as Rosetta completes its mission to the surface of Comet 67P.

Aoife van Linden Tol

Future missions to Mars and Saturn will be worked on as Van Linden Tol watches on, with up to six weeks at ESA the first half of this project.

A trip to Linz follows, with Ars Electronica – an art centre focused on technology and science – her home for a  month to complete her project.

“What impressed us most about Aoife van Linden Tol is her highly-distinctive approach to fundamental questions having to do with the universe,” said the organisers, with her project ‘Star Storm’ winning her the position.

Portraying the lifecycle and physical characteristics of stars, Van Linden Tol will develop this project further throughout the residency.

Explosive reactions are at the crux of many of Van Linden Tol’s works – she once considered a design formed by dropping bombs on a landscape.

“Humans create all kinds of tools to help us to achieve all kinds of objectives. I wanted to turn the objective of the bomb around. I wanted to show that power can create beauty and peace,” she said.

“‘Star Storm’ will see explosives describe the physics of the stars and our sun, with research at ESA potentially leading to one ‘performance’ showing the journey undertaken by stars.

“ESTEC is very much about learning for me,” she said. “Absorbing information, asking lots and lots and lots of questions. I am a little worried that I am going to drive them crazy!”

The following stay at Futurelab will “very much be about experimenting”, she said, with her final work presented at Ars Electronica 2017.

Six ESA facilities will also house Van Linden Tol’s ‘Star Storm’ performances, as well as modular travelling exhibitions appearing at the seven member institutions of the European Digital Art and Science Network.

These are the Center for the Promotion of Science, Serbia; DIG Gallery, Slovakia; Zaragoza City of Knowledge Foundation, Spain; Kapelica Gallery, Kernikova, Slovenia; GV Art, the UK; Laboral, Spain, and the Science Gallery Dublin, Ireland.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic