By Santiago Fernández
The artwork of Eduardo Kac (pronounced Katz) briefly summarized in this entry has some similarities with the previously reviewed works by Arthur Woods. Both were conceived for and carried out in a space habitat. Nevertheless, while Mr. Woods refers to his artwork as sculpture, Mr. Kac prefers the term Space Poetry.
According to Mr. Kac, Space Poetry is poetry that requires and explores weightlessness as a writing medium. Space poems are closer to the visual arts than to literature since they are not meant to exist in a book, but in weightlessness. It is performative, since the body of the reader is weightless and thus engaged in a whole body reading experience. Few words are used and they, Mr. Kac says, produce new syntaxes.
On an essay published in 2007, Mr. Kac coined the term “gravimorphism” for the process through which gravity conditions all forms and behaviors created on Earth, including art and poetry. Though it’s obvious to state that gravity has a fundamental effect on our sensibility and perception, it’s far from obvious to imagine what new artistic and poetic forms and experiences can be created if both creators and audiences are free from this constraint. Materials and living organisms behave differently in weightlessness. For example: a letter “O” can be created as a sphere by the release of water in open space, and another letter “O” can be created as an air bubble within it, writes the artist.
On February 2017, Mr. Kac finally realized his dream by creating an artwork in outer space. He had the support of the National Center for Space Studies (CNES) and the collaboration of French astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Mr. Kac´s idea was to create something simple, with materials already available on the International Space Station (ISS). His work only requires two sheets of paper and a pair of scissors. The artwork is a piece of paper cut into an M, and another piece of paper rolled into a tube and stuck through the middle of the M.
Viewed with a certain amount of imagination, the paper construction spells the word MOI (French for ´me´). According to Mr. Kac, this “moi” means not an individual “me”, but more in the collective sense of “us”. The piece itself is called “Inner Telescope”, for reasons that become clear only when you look through the O formed by the paper tube and view a tiny portion of Earth. “We point a telescope to the stars” he said. “But this is a telescope that from the stars we point at ourselves”.
Mr. Kac also offers an alternative reading of the paper construction, viewing the M as a human figure with stretched arms and the O as an umbilical cord. This symbolises the birth of a new space era. He believes access to space is no longer exclusive domain for governments but is moving into private hands, for example, through companies offering space tourism. This process will have extreme implications in the near future. He compares it with the early days of room-sized computers controlled by governments to contemporary portable handheld devices in the hands of children.