Top Picks: Space-Themed Art Projects at MIT

From the majestic beauty of a multi-arm spiral galaxy or a star-forming nebulae, to the awe-inspiring allure of the Milky Way on a clear night, the cosmos beyond our Earth possess an undeniable aesthetic appeal. To share this beauty with the MIT community, astronomers in MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research are running an Astronomy Art/Multimedia Contest during MIT’s Independent Activities period (IAP). And best of all, they will be awarding $700 in cash prizes. Here are our top picks (in no particular order) for space-themed art to get those creative juices flowing.

1. Trevor Paglen’s “The Last Pictures”

Working with materials scientists at MIT, 2011 MIT Visiting Artist Trevor Paglen developed an artifact designed to last billions of years— an ultra-archival disc, micro-etched with one hundred photographs and encased in a gold-plated shell. The disc was mounted on a communications satellite and launched into geostationary orbit in 2012, becoming an enduring artifact of human civilization for all eternity.

2. GZA’s “Dark Matter”

In 2011, the superstar rapper, a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, met with scientists in labs across the Institute. Among them was MIT professor David Kaiser, with whom the rapper chatted about quantum theory, the nature of time, black holes, and cosmology — all topics hopefully to find expression in GZA’s upcoming concept album, “Dark Matter.”

3. Terry Riley’s “Sun Rings,” Performed by the Kronos Quartet

Legendary minimalist composer Terry Riley created “Sun Rings,” commissioned by NASA, using sounds collected and transmitted by NASA space probes from the farthest corners of the solar system. The chamber ensemble Kronos Quartet, Riley’s long-time collaborators, performed the piece. Both Riley and The Kronos Quartet performed at MIT in 2011 – Riley with CAST Director and MIT Professor Evan Ziporyn and his Balinese ensemble, Gamelan Galak Tika, and the Kronos Quartet at the wildly popular Festival for Art, Science & Technology.

4. Tavares Strachan’s “Orthostatic Tolerance”

2010 MIT Visiting Artist Tavares Strachan collaborated with MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s 3D Optical Systems Group, and the MIT Sea Grant College Program’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Lab to explore the body’s capacity to withstand deep-sea and outer-space pressure. The residency culminated in the MIT List Visual Arts Center’s 2010 exhibition, “Orthostatic Tolerance: It Might Not Be Such a Bad Idea if I Never Went Home.”

For more inspiration, check out these examples of astronomy art that run the gamut from a ballet performance of gravitationally interacting planets, to star trails over Cambridge, to the sonification of supernovae. Artwork must be submitted by Wednesday, January 29th by 5 pm. An exhibit of all submitted artwork, and an announcement of the winning entries, will take place on Friday, January 31st from 4:00-5:30pm in MIT’s Memorial Lobby. For more information, check out the IAP site.

Posted on January 23, 2014 by Anya Ventura