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Space and Art. Shelli Brunswick

Shelli Brunswick

What is art for you?

Art is a way to express yourself. It can be in the form of music, writing, performance, or visual art. It shares ideas, feelings, and experiences and can be admired for its beauty or emotive power.

As a hobbyist photographer, I capture the world in new ways by experimenting with light, composition techniques, and perspective. I enjoy showing how nature, wildlife, and everyday scenes compel us to become aware of our world. These silent photographic stories might address diversity, equity, and inclusion, or the need to preserve our world and its biodiversity. The camera allows me to focus on a scene that creates authentic images and emotions to inspire change and action. The camera lens is my tool. It acts as my artist’s brush, painting a canvas of experiences.

Astronaut William (Bill) Anders captured an image aboard Apollo 8, titled Earthrise, that has been shared around the world and has changed how we see the connection between Earth, space, and photography. This famous photo was taken when Bill piloted the first-ever manned spacecraft to circle the moon. It shows Earth peeking out from behind the moon’s surface and has been called “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.”

Many astronauts and cosmonauts experience a change in awareness and point of view when they view Earth from outer space. People who have this experience often feel awe, wonder, and a sense of connection and responsibility to the planet and its people. This is called the ‘overview effect.

William Shatner, whom many know as Captain James T. Kirk from the original Star Trek television series, went to space with Jeff Bezos in a Blue Origin capsule. He felt an overwhelming sense of sadness during this experience and shared, “It was the death that I saw in space and the lifeforce that I saw coming from the planet—the blue, the beige, and the white. And I realized one was death and the other was life.” What he experienced was the ‘overview effect.

From space, Earth looks like a small, fragile, blue marble in the middle of a huge, dark void. This point of view helps one realize that Earth is a humble, interconnected living system, and that all people–no matter their race, religion, or country of origin–share the same fate.

When they returned to Earth, many astronauts said they felt a stronger sense of duty to take care of the planet and its people. Some have said that the experience changed their lives so much that they now work for environmental and social causes.

Some astronauts have said that the ‘overview effect’ is a new way to see the world and oneself, while others have described it as a spiritual or transcendental experience. This phenomenon has been studied by scholars, scientists, and philosophers who are interested in how it affects the way people think, feel, and act.

Fortunately, one does not have to leave Earth to experience the ‘overview effect.’ Instead, there are accessible astronomical images and research of the ‘overview effect’ available online, in addition to viewing artistic images and interpretations of Earth’s humble home within our solar system to further contemplate the all-encompassing nature of space.

How art and science are working together?

Art and science have a unique relationship when it comes to space exploration. Art can show the beauty, mystery, and awe of space in a way that goes well with scientific data and images. Art can also be used to explain and share the experience of space exploration with a wider audience.

One way that art and space exploration work together is through the use of ‘art in space’ missions. NASA and other space agencies have asked artists to write or create pieces that will inspire and teach people about space exploration. NASA’s Art Program, for example, asked artists to create works of art inspired by space travel and space-related science. These works have been displayed in museums, galleries, and other showrooms across the world.

Another way that art and science are working together is through interdisciplinary collaboration. Artists and scientists are working together on research projects and experiments, combining their different skills and ways of looking at the world to learn more about and understand it. Amanda Lee Falkenberg, a world-renowned composer and pianist, is an excellent example of such an interdisciplinary approach to art and science. Her most recent work, THE MOONS SYMPHONY, is a cinematically rich visual experience that intermingles art and science. This piece is made up of seven movements that explore the moons at the edge of our solar system. It also celebrates past, present, and future space missions involving some of the best scientists in the world from NASA, European Space Agency, and the International Space Station. In a four-part interview with Space Foundation, Amanda shares some of her pieces as well as talks about what inspired her and how she sees this truly global collaboration:

Space Foundation is in collaboration with the Islamic World Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ICESCO), an international organization headquartered in Rabat, Morocco, that encompasses more than 50 member countries. The goal of ICESCO is to combine education, science, and culture so that people can have more opportunities and be able to take advantage of them. In this regard, Space Foundation and ICESCO have co-organized various programs and conferences such as the Global Space Science Forum, the International Satellite (CANSAT) Training Workshop, and the International Aerospace Symposium, as well as developed educational programs that promote awareness of space and its related scientific applications.

This partnership:

  1. Promotes space technology research, innovation, and application as well as space diplomacy and policy through various partnerships with academic and research institutions.
  2. Organizes scientific and cultural events to promote exchange of ideas and knowledge among space science experts from different countries.
  3. Develops educational programs that integrate space science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with art and culture.

Art, science, and space exploration all work together in different ways, such as by piquing people’s interest, helping them understand and share data, and inspiring new ideas and missions.

How do you see art in the next two decades?

Art is influenced by many factors, such as changes in culture, society, and technology. It’s likely that the lines between different kinds of art will continue to blur, like when artists use technology in more traditional forms of art like painting and sculpture. We might also see more artists and viewers use virtual and augmented reality to create and enjoy art. Also, it’s likely that we’ll see more art that deals with social and political issues, as well as art that puts more emphasis on being open and accepting of everyone.

Art and science can also collaborate in the field of education. Integrating art into science education can make subjects more engaging and effective. Using art to explain scientific concepts can also make them more relatable, memorable, and easier for students to understand.

Art can be used to spark people’s imaginations about space exploration and inspire new ideas for future missions. We can also hold art contests for the next generation to get them interested in space-related careers. One example is the Art in the Stars art showcase, a partnership between Space Foundation and Boeing. On an upcoming Starliner Crew Flight Test, digital art will be sent into space. For each piece of art that a student artist sends in, they will get an official “Certificate of Flight.” Young artists between the ages of 3 and 18 were asked to create original pieces of art based on the theme “Breaking Boundaries in Space.”

Space unites and inspires people from across the world, and space exploration requires people from every background to join their talents and efforts together around a common purpose. Space also makes people want to learn, and gives them a desire to explore that is not limited by race, nationality, religion, or culture.

How will art find its place in space?

Art in space can take many forms, such as sculptures, installations, or performances. As space travel and exploration become more common in the future, artists will likely have more chances to develop and showcase their work in space. Some such potential ways include:

Space-themed art exhibits on Earth, featuring works created by artists inspired by space and the cosmos.

Art installations on the International Space Station (ISS) or other commercial space stations, created by artists in collaboration with NASA or other space agencies.

Artists’ performances or events held in space, such as concerts or theater productions. This is already taking place on the International Space Station, where we’ve seen astronauts create and perform music. The ISS’s first-ever video performance, of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” was famously recorded by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield in 2013. He announced this on Twitter and posted it on YouTube, where it reached more than 52 million views. However, as our technology advances, we will likely see more large-scale performances and events in space.

Public art installations on celestial bodies such as the Moon or Mars, created by artists specifically for those environments.

Space-based observatories, telescopes, and other scientific instruments that are designed with aesthetic principles in mind.

Artists and scientists can work together on research projects and experiments, using different approaches and skills to explore and understand the natural world. One such example that combines art, emerging space countries, and science is being done by the Kuwaiti Moon Village Association. They have brought together six Kuwaiti artists to participate in an analog mission. The program will be conducted at the Analog Astronaut Training Center (AATC) in Poland. The AATC focuses on research in human physiology and trains scientists, engineers, and aspiring astronauts. The idea behind the mission is to have the artists live in the habitats and use art to learn about what it’s like to be alone. Before the mission, the artists will produce art, which they will then replicate while on their analog mission. They will be able to amend the artwork based on their experiences in isolation during their analog mission. They will then compare their artwork from before and during the mission.

The experience of being isolated in space is an important area to study as we look to create new communities in space, on the Moon, and on Mars. NASA has been looking at the effects of isolation and confinement on both individuals and groups. This is useful, though, as we come out of the COVID pandemic and get over the feelings of isolation and separation it caused. Because of this, it is of the utmost importance to understand how space and isolation affect people. The Moon Village Association of Kuwait’s project combines space, art, and isolation.

It’s important to keep in mind that making art in space will have its own set of challenges, such as the lack of gravity, radiation, extreme temperatures, and the cost of getting the art and the artist to space. Still, as technology improves and space travel becomes easier to do, more art is likely to make its way to the final frontier.

Which art form touches your feelings most?

I enjoy all kinds of art, from painting to photography to performing, and I’m very interested in learning how we can utilize more technology, like artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR), in art. The use of AI and VR will break down age-old barriers that have prevented people from experiencing art in person.

Virtual art galleries could be created that allow people to visit from anywhere in the world. This can make it possible for people who live in remote areas or are unable to physically visit a gallery to experience art in a realistic and immersive way.

AI can be used to enhance art and make it more accessible to people with disabilities. AI can be used to tell a blind person about a piece of art or make a 3D model of a sculpture so that a person who can’t move can see it.

Artists can use VR technology to create immersive, multi-sensory art experiences that allow viewers to interact with the art in new ways. People can feel more connected to and interested in the art when they have these kinds of experiences.

One of my favorite artists is Vincent Van Gogh, a Dutch post-Impressionist painter who lived from 1853 to 1890. He is considered a pioneer of the modern art movement. Thanks to technology, I had the opportunity to experience Van Gogh’s masterpieces like Starry Night in a new and immersive way. The Original Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit, which was curated by Massimiliano Siccardi, demonstrates how VR and AI are changing the way art is created and brought to life. This experience was further augmented by music produced using spatial audio technology. With these kinds of technologies, Van Gogh’s paintings of sunny landscapes, night scenes, portraits, and still lifes can be seen in more cities. This is a new way to enjoy traditional art.

By giving everyone more chances to experience art, we will spark new ideas for future space activities. This could get people all over the world to think about how space exploration, technology, and innovation could help us here on Earth.

Shelli Brunswick

Shelli Brunswick, COO of Space Foundation, brings a broad perspective and deep vision of the global space ecosystem — from a distinguished career as a space acquisition and program management leader and congressional liaison for the U.S. Air Force to her current role overseeing Space Foundation’s three primary divisions: Center for Innovation and Education, Symposium 365, and Global Alliance.

Advocating for space technology innovation, entrepreneurship, diversity, and inclusion, Shelli collaborates with organizations around the world to connect commercial, government, and educational sectors. Her work to champion the inclusion of underserved groups stems from staying true to the values instilled while she was in the military: a passion to share her journey, give back to the space community, and contribute to the development of the next-generation workforce.

She has published articles in consumer, technology, and space-related journals, including SpaceNews and Forbes Technology Council. She is a highly sought-after keynote speaker. She has delivered more than 100 speeches and presentations in 2022 alone on navigating career success and workforce development to audiences in Africa, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North and South America. As a thought leader, she is invited to speak at various think tanks, such as the Hudson Institute and the Wilson Center, to discuss innovation, technology, and workforce development. And she has participated in research projects for both NASA and ESA to better understand the future of the global space system and its implications over the coming decades.

Brunswick was named the 2022 Chief in Tech Award by WomenTech Network, the World Women Organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Top 100 Leaders Award, The Most Influential Women in Leadership 2022 by March8 Magazine, and a Top Aviation and Aerospace Professional to Follow on LinkedIn in 2022.

Shelli plays an active leadership role with various international organizations such as: Space4Women Mentoring Program, an affiliate of the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs; the WomenTech Network; the Islamic World Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ICESCO); the World Business Angels Investment Forum; the G100 Global Chair for Space Technology and Aviation; the Global Policy Insights – Global Policy, Diplomacy and Sustainability (GPODS) Fellowship program.

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