The Aesthetics of Outer Space


Click to enlarge: Left – Hubble’s Eagle Nebula 1995. Right – The Carina Nebula 2010.

The hubble space telescope is 20 years old, and we are treated to new pictures, this time composed of six layers, three taken in infrared. The Carina Nebula – pictured right – is a cloud of dust and plasma residing around 10’000 light years from Earth. It is home to the Eta Carinae, one of the biggest stars known to man, at about one hundred times larger than our Sun.

These are big things. Yet somehow one wonders ‘is that it?’ Why do enormous intergalactic events always look like kitsch paintings of enormous intergalactic events? I doubt that it is simply because so many paintings exist of the said events. In fact, there are really relatively very few such paintings, being as representational art, especially that made in the image of ‘nature’, became unfashionable long before hubble started delivering such images to us.

I think perhaps the enormity of our Universe is just beyond imagination, and that leads to the viewer pronouncing a tired ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’ in front of images that we are told are of very big galactic explosions, or the suchlike.

What I do like the idea of though is perhaps claiming such constellations as ‘readymades’, in the way that Duchamp once famously claimed a urinal to be ‘art’ (Fountain, 1917). Though the Carina Nebula declared as ‘art’ arguably has the opposite effect of the urinal declared as ‘art’. Where the latter gesture confounded the judging panel at the exhibition to which Duchamp submitted the urinal, as it was deemed to bring art down to the level of the toilet – the pissing bowl – it is more likely, when applied to the Carina Nebula to confound the kind of people who want everyone to be equally enthused by the enormity of the Universe. At the least, it seems to reduce, make palatable, the Universe, rather than demeaning art.

Perhaps this ‘game’ – of declaring that ‘things’ are ‘art’ – has a useful role in this respect. To those Object Oriented Philosopher’s who argue that all objects are equal, perhaps it is worth seeing what effect is had on ‘art’ by declaring various differing objects to be ‘art’. Food for thought… and as close I have yet got to an ‘object oriented aesthetics’…

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Questo/a opera è pubblicato sotto una Licenza Creative Commons. This work is published under a creative commons licence. You may distribute but not sell or change the work. Credit Mike Watson.

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3 responses to “The Aesthetics of Outer Space

  1. Pingback: You Will Suffer My Love » Archive » Strategic Invisibility

  2. Pingback: Algorithm and Contingency / Is there such a thing as a Mundane Object?

  3. Pingback: You Will Suffer My Love » Archive » Strategic Invisibility (reposted)

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