UCR ARTSblock Exhibition Focuses on Citizen Space Exploration

The exhibition opens Jan. 19 with a panel discussion and reception

Artists simulate weightlessness in space

Kitsou Dubois performance during zero gravity on parabolic flight.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – “Free Enterprise: The Art of Citizen Space Exploration,” the first contemporary art exhibition in the U.S. to explore implications of civilian space travel, opens Jan. 19 and runs through May 18 at UCR ARTSblock, located in the 3800 block of Main Street in downtown Riverside.

A panel discussion on the exhibit is scheduled Saturday, Jan. 19, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., with an opening reception to follow from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.

In the planning stages since fall 2009, the exhibition celebrates the arrival of privately funded space travel, which represents a major political and cultural shift away from sponsorship by the federal government and toward a free-market, private-enterprise model. They include the successful launch in May 2012 of the Falcon 9 vehicle by Space X, a company based in Hawthorne, Calif., and its rendezvous with the International Space Station; and the soon-to-be-completed spaceport in New Mexico that will be the launch site for Virgin Galactic’s space tourism program.

“All these developments are a clear sign that we are at a dawn of a new radical change toward near-Earth space exploration, and we believe that engaging artists directly in this discussion at an early stage is extremely important,” said Tyler Stallings, artistic director of the Culver Center and director of Sweeney Art Gallery.

The exhibition is split into several components over several years, ranging from separate exhibitions to a major publication. The project is scheduled to culminate in 2014 with the hopeful fulfillment of Google Lunar X Prize’s launching of a competition to land a robot on the Moon by 2014 by a group of private entrepreneurs.

“Free Enterprise” appears in all three venues that constitute the University of California, Riverside ARTSblock: California Museum of Photography, Culver Center of the Arts, and Sweeney Art Gallery. The exhibition is co-curated by Stallings and by Marko Peljhan, associate professor of art and media arts and technology at UC Santa Barbara and co-director of University of California Institute for Research in the Arts.

Major support is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, University of California Institute for Research in the Arts, Projekt Atol, C-Astral, Republic of Slovenia – Ministry of Education Science Culture and Sport, city of Ljubljana Cultural Department, Moderna Galerija Ljubljana, French-American Cultural Exchange Program, city of Riverside, and UCR College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Wendy Brown, Annick Bureaud, Greg Esser, Roger Malina, Azure Carter and Alan Sondheim, Dragan Živadinov, Miha Turšič, and Dunja Zupančič have provided individual in-kind support.

The exhibition is officially endorsed by The International Astronautical Federation Technical Activities Committee for the Cultural Utilization of Space (ITACCUS) and is part of Arizona State University’s Desert Initiative:Desert One program.

“Free Enterprise” is comprised of 25 artists, collectives, organizations, and initiatives, which includes several commissions for the exhibition and additions to the permanent collections at UCR ARTSblock. A variety of media will be represented: drawing, photography, video, sculpture, painting, and artifacts by: The Arts Catalyst (London, U.K.), Lowry Burgess (Pittsburgh, PA), Center for Land Use Interpretation (Culver City, CA), Richard Clar (Paris/Los Angeles), Skeith De Wine (Santa Ana, CA), Kitsou Dubois (Paris), eteam (New York), European Space Agency Topical Team Arts and Science (international participants), Final Frontier Design (New York), Cultural Center of European Space Technologies / KSEVT (Vitanje, Slovenia), Agnes Meyer-Brandis (Berlin), MIR – Microgravity Interdisciplinary Research (international participants), Forrest Myers (New York), Trieste Constructivist Cabinet (Italy/Slovenia), Nejc Trošt (Slovenia/Houston, TX), Trevor Paglen (New York), Carrie Paterson (Los Angeles), Frank Pietronigro (San Francisco), Bradley Pitts (New York), Cosmokinetial Kabinet Noordung – Postgravityart (Ljubljana, Slovenia), Projekt Atol Flight Operations (Santa Barbara, CA and Ljubljana, Slovenia), Connie Samaras (Los Angeles), Christian Waldvogel (Zurich, Switzerland), Arthur Woods (Zurich, Switzerland), and XCOR Aerospace, Inc. (Mojave, CA).

The exhibition’s structure of linking artists with aerospace entrepreneurs harkens back to the groundbreaking Art & Technology program at Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1967-1971, almost the same time span as the flight years of the Apollo program, Stallings said. It paired artists with high-technology corporations of the time in the hope that new art forms might arise. The program was one of the milestones — with influence to this day — in probing the dense associations of art to technology and science.

“Recent developments in the aerospace industry mark the dawn of a new space race,” Stallings said. “Outsourcing of space travel to private business represents a refocus from the Cold War mentality of the 1960s in which space exploration was a grand, national assertion of collective identity, and ownership of the ‘final frontier.’ In contrast, President Obama emphasizes private development of commercial sub-orbital flight and lunar exploration, signaling a shift from space as an abstract concept for exploration into a de-regulated realm, unconstrained, and exposed, to both socialization and capitalization. International artists will explore these untested territories with aerospace experts, engineers, scientists, visionaries and entrepreneurs.”

The center of these businesses is in the American Southwest, particularly in Southern California, with most of the research conducted at the Mojave Air and Space Port near Edwards Air Force Base, about 115 miles north of Riverside, and part of the companies nested in the defense industry cluster in El Segundo, adjacent to Los Angeles International Airport.

Southern California has been at the center of the world aerospace industry and “Free Enterprise” will explore questions of westward expansion and the frontier spirit; valuing or balancing individual initiative above/with/against the needs or well-being of the collective; the impact of market forces and free enterprise versus those of government protection and regulation, Stallings explained.

“Although the private-public partnership is a somewhat novel model for space exploration, it is not new in the course of Western history,” he said. “In fact, it has been the prime model for exploration and western expansion: the state sets goals and takes initial risks, followed by entrepreneurs, privateers or venture capitalists, who assume the ongoing burden of exploration. The legacy of this model is technological achievement, but one fraught with the exploitation and destruction of cultures and resources. It is exactly this schism on which ‘Free Enterprise’ is focused, reflecting the current state of privately funded space exploration, and critically considering it from divergent perspectives, leaving room to explore utopian visionary roots where the arts and space collide.”

The goal of this conceptual collaborative matrix between the industry and artists is to match the enthusiasm, sense of adventure, and creative process that is shared by both the space exploration entrepreneurs and visionaries and the artists who have explored the subject for many years, Stallings said.

“Both take the risk to expend personal intellectual, immaterial and material capital, never knowing quite what the return will be on their dreams to expand the reach of humanity beyond Earth — a dream, which has to be noted, historically started in the arts, philosophy and literature and not in the basic or applied sciences and technology.”

The California Museum of Photography, Culver Center of the Arts and Sweeney Art Gallery are open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., and from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for First Thursday ArtWalks. Admission is $3, which includes entry to all three venues, and is free during First Thursday ArtWalks.

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-7847
E-mail: bettye.miller@ucr.edu
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Tyler Stallings
Tel: 951-827-1463
E-mail: tyler.stallings@ucr.edu

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