Situated: Space Films Programme

Last weekend I curated (in absentia) a short film programme with other ex-residents of the White Building around the theme of Situated. I prepared a couple of short films about space, and since I never got to see them all together as I coughed up bits of lung from my bed and there was some interest in the programme, I've decided to post them here. Enjoy.

A Trip To The Moon - Georges Méliès - 1902

This film precedes a gargantuan list of 'firsts' - almost definitely the first science fiction film at least. It was an adaptation of various works by Jules Verne and HG Wells and kind of epitomises the fantasy of the era with space and the unknown. The film was made at a time of peak imperialism and you get a pervasive sense from the film that the makers realised the world was conquered and it was only a matter of time before we were aiming outside our gravitational well - perhaps there was a message hidden in the way the explorers are chased off by the angry lunar natives. It's only ten minutes but includes some fascinating animation and artistic direction.

NASA Space Colonization - NASA - 1975

73 years later and we're introduced to a new projection of space colonisation. This one isn't born of colonialism but of science-fiction. This may as well be a low-budget Kubrick fan flick for all they lifted from them. The swagger of NASA at this point is beginning to wane as the moon missions fall out of popular approval and so NASA began to aim higher in terms of PR by promising us all utopic orbital platforms and space craft. I wonder how many at NASA gritted their teeth at the watering down and selling of sci-fi for another public relations distraction to prop up the cold war.

Mars One Introduction - Mars One - 2013

And here we are in the real state of space colnisation now. Perhaps the most realistic vision. A competition funded by angel investors, big tech and reality television. The watering down of all those colonial dreams through the golden age of sci-fi and into the golden age of celebrity. Of course, they skirt round this stuff in the promo but the point is that what we're looking at here is the real, rather unromantic and brutal reality of the beginnings of our galactic empire.

The One Way Ticket - Joseph Popper - 2012

Joseph Popper was examining this idea of the one way trip that the Mars One 'astronauts' will undertake last year when he was using space psychology, architecture and Hollywood special effects techniques to work on his idea of 'zero gravity with zero budget.' The point here is that much like the NASA colonisation film, most of the impression we have of space is lifted from science fiction, and it's sold that way. We have very little grounding or concept of the realities of life and psyche under different physics.

Into Orbit - Joseph Popper - 2011

I actually prefer some of Popper's earlier experiments with his 'zero gravity with zero budget' hypothesis. This one sees our lone fantasist re-enacting his perception of space and we're transported to his dream space with him. I think this taps into something more grounded about our dreams for space. And about how the normal can be made fantastic through this science fiction lens.

Attention Weightlessness - Arts Catalyst - 2000-2003

Attention Weightlessness documents the journeys of several of the groups artist's experiments in weightlessness. I first saw Gravitation Off! - the original version of this film - at Kosmica some time ago. Although it's not an amazing film, it does bring into focus the interest in space amongst artists and the seriousness with which we can take these little forays into zero gravity as portents of the future.

(Space Exodus - Larissa Sansour - 2011)

I didn't actually get to put this in because we couldn't find a hard copy but I really wanted to. Sansour takes the role of a Palestinian astronaut, planting the flag of the demi-country on the moon. There's not much more you can say really. She's raising issues around sovereignty and the domineering vision of the west, but as with all the best stuff dealing with the Middle East, it's humorous and easy to grapple with.

Space Oddity - Chris Hadfield - 2013

For this first time in half a century we have a new space hero. Recently I watched Paxman berating the British replacement for Hadfield for not being charismatic enough. Hadfield came to represent a new face of space travel. Not so elitist, not so distant, not so alien. His very simple broadcasted experiments and live chats were a far cry from NASA's beaten, scratched record of 'give us money for stuff you couldn't possibly understand.' It became 'give us money because we're meant to do this stuff. Because it feels right.'

Other interesting reading/watching/seeing that I didn't get to include in the programme includes Peckham Outerspace Initiative's Ships Not Shelters - GTFO of Earth, extolling the virtues and necessity of getting used to living a transient life through space, Vincent Fournier's Space Project exploring the day-to-day life of NASA and First on The Moon, a 2005 Mockumentary about a 30's Soviet moon landing. Do also consider Agnes Meyer-Bradnis' Moon Goose Analgoue which is being shown around the UK this year and Cristina De Middel's Afronauts, which made it's Kickstarter target to be turned into a film.