The « Blue Marble » by Apollo 17, 1972

Images from space: History, theory, aesthetics

March 2017 to May 2017

Project led by: Christophe Kihm, Professeur, Arts visuels
Project applicant: Christophe Kihm
Gérard Azoulay, CNES
Elsa De Smet, Université de Bourgogne
Sebastian Grevsmühl, Université Pierre et Marie Curie Paris
Ségolène Guinard, Université Paris VIII
David Kirby, University of Manchester
Jérôme Lamy, Université du Mirail, Toulouse
Peter Szendy, Université de Paris Ouest-Nanterre
Partner: Claude Mettavant 
Funding: FNS

The conference “Images from space: History, theory, aesthetics” organised in association with the Space Observatory of the National Centre for Space Research (CNES-Paris) brings together researchers from various academic fields who base their interventions on images from space research that are drawn from the unique archives made available to them.

The conference aims to capture, in the science community that produces them, the forms and concepts of images in order to enter and situate them in the wider history of worldviews, at the crossroads of the history of science and the history of art. The scientific work introduced in this conference is based on the combination of two approaches: multidisciplinary, through open studies that include sociology, ethology, anthropology, the history of art and science and the philosophy of images, and pragmatic, since all intervention and experimentation is based on case studies and documents that are historically situated and understood within the context of their practical dimension.

The research introduced in this conference takes into account the necessity to situate and understand images from space research within the context of iconic synchronic or diachronic series. This assessment is based on the unique dynamics of activities associated with space research and on the circulation of its symbols, whether it lies within the process of scientific research or as an extension of it, especially in the arts: at the cinema (through collaboration between scientists and film directors), in fine arts (photography and painting), in architecture and design and in literary fiction.

This research also highlights a particular interconnection between science and the arts, not so much centred on techniques and technology (their use and applications in collaborations between artists and engineers, as it is understood most of the time), but based on and including images in their role as “intermediaries” and in their mediation function. This emblematic relationship between art and science marks a unique line in the history of worldviews, but on a different, more operational level. This is thanks to the collective work of researchers who for example lay importance on fabulation in the development of the iconography of astronomers (the projected outlook), the investment of space agencies and engineers in feature films (the diegetic projectile), alliances between space architecture and radical architecture (concrete utopias) and the creation of visiotypes and of an iconic rhetoric (spatial semiotics).

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