Art in Outer Space

John R. Blakinger is the 2018-2019 Terra Foundation Visiting Professor of American Art at the University of Oxford. His book Gyorgy Kepes: Undreaming the Bauhaus was published by The MIT Press in June.

In 1977, the scientist Carl Sagan created a gold-plated record for NASA’s two Voyager spacecraft. The purpose of this interstellar LP was to communicate with extraterrestrials through sound and image; it contained 116 encoded photographs celebrating human civilization. In 2012, the artist Trevor Paglen transformed Sagan’s project, launching pictures of death and disaster into space on a satellite that will orbit Earth for billions of years. This talk explores what it means to send images into space. Sagan’s and Paglen’s projects are radically different, but both reflect faith in the power of images to cross profound distances—the spans dividing forms of life, galaxies in space, and the arc of time between our present and a remote future.