ALEKSANDRA BORYS– SPACE SNAKE
Aleksandra Borys is not your average artist. A choreographer graduated from University of Arts in Rotterdam, Holland, she chooses to work with the human body in a very specific location: space. Intrigued by the possibilities and limitations of human bodies in zero- gravity, recently she used her time at Central Saint Martins (where she just completed a MA in Arts & Science) to further develop projects that investigate the relation of human bodies in the experience of space and zero-gravity and then back to Earth.
“SpaceSnake”, the piece Aleksandra exhibited at the Central Saint Martins Degree Show back in May, is the culmination of her research. Using the Instant Lab and Impossible film to print 175 pictures, she then arranged them in a 18,5 metres long installation, whose shape is supposed to replicate the experience of being outer space (where one’s sense of direction and mobility would be completely new) and spark the sense of wonder that must be seeing Earth from above. We caught up with the artist to check more about her outstanding piece.
Can you tell us how the idea for ”SpaceSnake” originated?
For the past two years while doing my MA in Art & Science at Central Saint Martins, my practice and research focused on the relation of choreography and astronomy, mainly the physical experience of space travel, functionality and concept of a human body in zero- gravity, and their affects on human life in relation to Earth. I had a dream/idea to embody the zero-gravity experience on Earth without additional technology. I was not interested in recreated or fake minimum gravity environment, but mostly I wanted to experience mentally and physically how does it feel to be weightless.
What kind of research did you conduct for the project?
Following NASA and ISS research and available documentation, a few facts became rules for me. What seems extremely important as an experience for astronauts is the so called “The Overview Effect”, where humans for first time see Earth from the distance, and that strongly affects their relationship to the planet. This became a starting point for the collage images included in the installation. I wanted to put Earth with other celestial bodies into impossible constellations to visualise that our planet is a part and already is in the Universe. That is understood from a scientific point of view, and in theory it is obvious but still I was just starting my obsession with looking at the Earth as a whole. At the same time I started to collect the blank black pictures that in my understanding managed to capture “nothing”, or the empty space.
The collage of pictures became a representation of dark matter, which also strongly impacts the experience of seeing Earth from distance in a middle of big nowhere.
Were there any other elements that inspired your work?
The other rules for the piece are connected to the physical experience of being in minimum gravity environment, where there is no body space orientation or relation for describing the movement. This means directions like up or down, back or front and sides lose their meaning. Following this, the concept of falling and rising does not exist either. This idea challenged me to think on how I would display the piece. At the end, standing in one place you could see images all around, and no matter in what position in relation to ground you would be there would always be images next to you, but also 8 meters above you, there were some below, above and on your sides.
How did you come to the decision to use the medium of instant film your work?
I used NASA’s images of Earth, Saturn’s moons and rings, solar eclipse, Moon eclipse and Earth and Moon. All the final images are constellations of two or three images on one picture, in non-realistic relations. I would play with the constellations until I found a perfect combination that satisfied my eye. At the same time I wanted to make them welcoming and accessible. This was the reason to use Impossible film, most of us knows Polaroid pictures as an accessible documentation of family events. By putting Earth onto instant film I hoped the image will become more homely, not so uncanny as it could be. And the Instant Lab became a great tool to play with and give the great possibility to get highly digital pictures from Space be seen in an analogue version as an instant photograph.
Can you tell me more about the shape of the piece?
The whole SpaceSnake installation is created out of 175 individual collage images mixed with the dark pictures. They are hand sewed together in a sequence. The idea was to make it look like 18,5 meters long film with individual shots. The final shape is connected to the anatomy of the human body, specifically what became a centre for understanding movement on minimum gravity – which is a spine that is also a collection of individual modules connected together creating one structure of bones.
What are your future plans?
I want to keep on finding analogue ways to experience zero-gravity mentally and physically on Earth, but whether the Instant Lab will be included I do not know. But I always do use my SX-70 Polaroid camera with Impossible film as a tool for documentation. I hope one day to take a picture of Earth using instant film from the board of International Space Station.
Thanks to Yessica Klein from Impossible Project London for the interview.