October 16, 2016

Propulsion: On Changing Futures round table/symposium

University of Applied Arts Vienna
Rick Guidice, Reflections, 1977. Illustration, cover image, Space Settlements. A Design Study, NASA 1977. Public domain). Courtesy the artist.

After last year’s first Round Table Humans Make Nature about ideas of landscape in the Anthropocene, the department’s Round Table 2016 addresses past and possible new futures.

November 2015: four decades after “The Limits to Growth,” US president Barack Obama signs a law permitting American citizens and companies to exploit the virtually unlimited resources of asteroids.

August 2016: scientists announce the discovery of Proxima b, an Earth-like exoplanet orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, 4.2 light-years from us. Liquid water may be present on its surface, and one day, robotic probes may be sent there at one-fifth the speed of light.

Outer space was a pivotal point of reference throughout the 20th century; today, it has again come into focus due to recent scientific, technological, and economic developments. Current discourses of discovery, expansion, and resource exploitation bear a striking resemblance to terrestrial ideologies of past centuries and raise many transdisciplinary issues: how can we investigate the future cultural heritage of space without repeating colonial patterns of conquest? What do designs for space settlements and the architecture of Earth have in common? Who owns celestial bodies, and what responsibilities arise from our interactions with extraterrestrial places, objects, and materials even in the absence of alien life?

Meanwhile, on Earth we are facing economic, ecological, and social transformations whose intricacies and consequences are hard to grasp. With experts from the disciplines of archaeology, anthropology, law, architecture and cultural studies, we want to discuss how we can think about the future today while we are in the midst of a crisis of “futurity” as a linear, progressive, Western concept. Do transdisciplinary artistic practices offer an openness within an altered gravitational field where not only the complexities of our present can be addressed but also a “potential past futurity” beyond simplifications?



Alice Gorman
Haunted Houses at Hypervelocity: Orbital Futures

Ralo Mayer
E.T.E.–”Extra-Terrestrial Ecologies, the Undergrowth”

Douglas Murphy
Giant Envelopes and the Total Interior

Vera Tollmann
Picturing the Universe: On Scale, Calculation, and Composites

Saskia Vermeylen
The “Invasion” of Chaos Theory and Science Fiction in Space Law

Book launch 
Humans Make Nature 

The Round Table-format is an annual mini-symposium organized by the Department of Site-Specific Art at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. For this year’s edition we invited Claudia Slanar who worked together with Ralo Mayer on the concept and its realization.

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