This LASER ZURICH will feature artists and scientists who will present their thoughts on this exciting existentialist topic. Arthur Woods (Astronautical Artist), Dr. Marco C. Bernasconi (Astronautical Engineer) and Jayanne English (Astrophysicist and Astronomy Image-maker). The discussion will be moderated by Prof. Dr. Jill Scott (Media Artist and Art Science Context Provider-Zurich


“Since, in the long run, every planetary civilization will be endangered by impacts from space, every surviving civilization is obliged to become spacefaring — not because of exploratory or romantic zeal, but for the most practical reason imaginable: staying alive…” – Carl Sagan

Three speakers will talk about how artistic work can help to marry philosophy with astrophysics and astronautics to create new modes of communication about the nature of space and the significance of space development. They will show how astrophysics, astronautics, art and philosophy are not opposing entities, represented by a thesis and antithesis, but rather how they welcome synthesis. The speakers will describe how they merge these apparent disparities in their explorations. These disciplines combine common truths that can be reconciled to form a greater and more profound thesis: one that reinforces the fact that space and time, as well as and the observed and the observer, are all inseparable. Furthermore, there is an intimate connection between one’s scientific understanding of the world, the ethical values that guide one’s behavior and the creative process. Space is attractive for artists because it reveals a crucial paradox: Our non-central location in the cosmos teaches humility yet an almost unimaginable universe cannot be comprehended without the understanding of our unique place within such a dynamic existence. Can artists engaged with scientists and engineers illuminate this paradox? How might this paradox catalyze an optimistic path to a sustainable and prosperous future?

Arthur Woods

is early practitioner of the astronautical arts. From 1959 -1970 he lived near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where he held summer jobs 1967 & 1968 during the Apollo program. In the mid 1980’s he introduced a number of art-in-space projects including two that were realized in outer space: on May 22, 1993 his Cosmic Dancer sculpture was launched to the Mir space station to investigate the properties of sculpture in weightlessness and, in 1995, in the framework of the ESA’s Euromir’95 mission, his OURS Foundation organized “Ars Ad Astra – the 1st Art Exhibition in Earth Orbit” which sent 20 artworks from different artists to the Mir space station. He is a member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), and co-chaired the IAA sub-committee on the arts and literature and from 1996 – 2003. He has co-organized and managed several studies initiated by the IAA and the European Space Agency (ESA). Greater.Earth is his current project which is virtual environment and video blog where he has created his own personal space program complete with rocket launchers, satellites and a space station and where he resides as a virtual “resident artist”. | |

Dr. Marco C. Bernasconi

is an astronautical engineer. An expert in lightweight expandable structures and astronautical systems he is also an authority on astronautics and society assessments. He has repeatedly served as a consultant to the European Space Agency (ESA) for futures assessment (1995-97, 2001-2003), and contributed to a number of study groups within the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA). Dr. Bernasconi has collaborated with various artists in their development of space-oriented, advanced-technology projects.
Publications: (PDF)


Arthur and Marco began their collaboration in the mid 1980’s when Arthur was developing a project called O.U.R.S. – the Orbiting Unification Ring Satellite – proposed to celebrate the new millennium by placing “a circle in the sky” in the year 2000. This was a large expandable structure and Marco contributed technical advice to the project. They will talk about how they set up the OURS Foundation – a cultural and astronautical organization with as primary purpose “to introduce, nurture and expand a cultural dimension to humanity’s astronautical endeavors. How has their experience led them to “The Space Option” – an evolutionary plan to meet the basic and anticipated needs of humanity through the utilization of near Earth resources? They will reflect on how since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, humanity has gradually expanded its civilization beyond the atmosphere within this region. By creating the technological infrastructure to harness the plentiful resources available in Greater Earth, they believe that many of Earth’s current terrestrial problems may be mitigated or resolved.

Prof. Dr. Jayanne English

Dr. Jayanne English has been an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manitoba, Canada, since 2000. She uses the Hubble Space Telescope and state-of-the-art radio telescopes (JVLA and ALMA) to investigate how the structure of galaxies evolve. She studies their halos of radio radiation, the peculiar shapes and filaments of gas that develop while galaxies gravitationally interact with each other, and elusive Dark Matter. With respect to popularizing science, her forte’ is producing striking astronomy outreach images that appear in prestigious magazines, popular and educational books, and numerous websites. English coordinated NASA’s Hubble Heritage Project’s first 2 years of image production. Her outreach work is well-served by her education (Ontario College of Art and Design University and astrophysics at University of Toronto (B.Sc) and Australian National University (Ph.D)). She currently is a Guest Professor in the Institute of Computational Science at the University of Zurich.


How do we react to the images from space? As Immanuel Kant suggested there are two things that fill the mind with ever increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above us and the moral law within us. What can we learn from these images we see of space? Are they realistic and how are their aesthetics manipulated? What do they tell us about the evolution of galaxies? Prof. English will talk about how astronomers use images to discover facts about galaxies. These astronomy images are not snapshots – they are acquired through filters, the noise is reduced, and exposures are added together to improve their quality. She will describe how professional astronomers assign colours and combine images to create images for public outreach. However, she will mainly focus on 2 collaborations with renowned artists Nicole LIzee (composer) and Alexandra Mir (visual). Both wished to interact with these images and share an artist’s understanding of astronomy image production. Their audiences do not traditionally follow astrophysical research. What is the effect of these images on such a broad audience’s perception of the universe and our world’s place in it? |