What is your Space Tapestry project?
It is a room-size immersive graphic novel that tells a story about contemporary Space. Parts of it will be displayed across two parallel sites: Space Tapestry: Earth Observation & Human Spaceflight at Modern Art Oxford and Space Tapestry: Faraway Missions at Tate Liverpool.
How did it come about?
Space is a really good mirror for what is going on with us on Earth at any given moment in time. I wanted to make an artistic assessment of a realm that is still dominated by technology, science and commerce, but is also undergoing great expansion. There are now 70 spacefaring nations worldwide, and wealthy civilians can already participate in spaceflight. Despite the difficulty of justifying the cost, the arts and humanities should not stay too far behind.
Who have you been collaborating with in the process?
I have attended Space industry conferences for the past three years and published my drawings alongside my interviews with 16 people – engineers, policy-makers, geologists, biologists, medics and others who work on Space today – in the companion book We Can’t Stop Thinking About The Future.
How were the pieces made?
I collaborated with a temporary community of 25 young artists who came together in the studio to lend their hands, energies and opinions. This required a great deal of pre-planning and logistics, but there is always a point in each such workshop when the group has gelled and we all start tripping. You can see exactly when it happens, as the drawing completely changes and ‘lifts’ beyond any rational preconception or reason.
What do you hope visitors will take away from the experience?
An inspiration on which to act. This is not a sci-fi fantasy, but our shared reality. We are now entering a truly participatory Space age, and there is lots of room for people to get involved. It is not enough to have astronauts tweet us and shoot images back to Earth. We also need trained image-makers and story-tellers to deliver a level of intellectual scrutiny and a new aesthetic about Space – and hopefully even from there. We need poets to confront the blackness and bleakness of Space, not by imagination, but through first-hand experience. Space travel is not for me – my work is just a step in that direction by offering Earth-bound commentary – but something I wish for the next generation of thinkers and artists.