ESA has its portrait taken – see it at London exhibition

Interior of the Large Space Simulator (LSS) Vaccum Chamber
17 April 2014

A comprehensive photographic survey of ESA installations around the globe goes on show at a London gallery next week.

Portuguese-born photographer Edgar Martins is exhibiting his new collection The Rehearsal of Space and the Poetic Impossibility to Manage the Infinite at the Wapping Project Bankside in London, from Friday 25 April to 29 May.

In 2012 and 2013, Edgar Martins was granted unparalleled access to ESA establishments and those of its partners, spanning some 20 classified facilities in the UK, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, Russia, Kazakhstan and French Guiana. ESA’s objective in the agreement with the artist is to use art as a means to reach out to segments of the public who might otherwise not be aware of European space activities.

Variously capturing test centres, robotics departments, space simulators, laboratories, launch sites, astronaut training centres and satellite assembly rooms, the photographs were shot in long exposures  of up to one hour using a 10x8 inch, large format camera.

Inside Vega's mobile launch gantry

Their clean composition and hyper-real sharpness contrast greatly with the veils of secrecy or obscurity that can often shroud space-related activity.

After London, the exhibition will proceed to many galleries and museums including Gallerie Melanie Rio in Nantes, France from 12 June 2014, The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, Portugal from 28 June 2014, The Wolverhampton Art Gallery in Wolverhampton, UK in January 2015. This exhibition will also travel to Germany, Brazil, the USA and Japan.

Although rarely seen by the public, the technology and facilities in The Rehearsal of Space and the Poetic Impossibility to Manage the Infinite can often look strangely familiar, underlining popular culture’s influence in shaping our understanding of space exploration – the artist himself often cites fortuitous influences such as Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity or Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

Martins’ rigorous survey reveals the sheer scale of global space exploration efforts, perhaps the greatest scientific endeavour of our time. Altogether, there are over 86 photographs in the series, ranging from the macro – rockets, satellites, training modules, cleanrooms – to micro-components barely visible to the human eye. 

Space Glove

The exhibition in London also coincides with the launch of Edgar Martins' new book The Rehearsal of Space and The Poetic Impossibility to Manage the Infinite which will be released in May 2014 by La Fabrica / The Moth House.

The book  is available in a hardback, clothbound edition, with 184 pp., 86 colour plates and essays by author and astrophysicist John Gribbin, CERN physicist João Seixas and curator Sérgio Mah, in both English and Spanish.

The Rehearsal of Space was supported by a variety of public and cultural organisations such as The Arts Council England, The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, The EDP Foundation, Instituto Camões Portugal, The Macau Cultural Institute and Faculade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Unversidade de Coimbra.

For any enquiries regarding the London launch of this project please contact the artist's gallery, The Wapping Project Bankside.

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