Photo: Courtesy of Vincent Fournier
Vincent Fournier: General Boris V. (Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center [GCTC], Star City, Zvyozdny Gorodok, Russia, 2007
“We are all astronauts” is the motto of an interdisciplinary and international conference being hosted by the Institute for European Art History of Heidelberg University from 22 to 25 October 2015. Junior researchers in collaboration with renowned experts will analyse the changes the image of the space traveller and explorer has undergone since 1968 and what its future may hold. American architect and thinker Richard Buckminster Fuller coined the term “Spaceship Earth” in the title of his book, in which he compared the earth to a spaceship with limited resources travelling through space. Film scholar Vivian Sobchack of the University of California at Los Angeles will open the event with a keynote lecture on how film has long depicted American astronauts as the embodiment of what is called American exceptionalism.
“The sentence from Richard Buckminster Fuller’s book ‘Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth’ gives a sense of the status astronauts and cosmonauts enjoyed in the minds of the public in the second half of the 20th century. At the same time, however, the very words themselves probably figured significantly in shaping the space traveller as a symbol and reflection of humankind, ” explains Prof. Dr. Henry Keazor from the Institute for European Art History. “In analysing how this image evolved, we will focus on the arts and media that influenced the images they created and disseminated, making those images especially suitable for study.” Attendees of the “We Are All Astronauts – The Image of the Space Traveller in Arts and Media” conference include young scholars as well as experts in history, literature, media, music, film, art, visual culture and even comics. The junior researchers are from Germany and France, and the experts from Australia, the USA, Italy and Germany.
Presenters will cover a wide variety of facets, including “The Astronaut as Psychopath” by Italian literary scholar Umberto Rossi. Historian Monika Rüthers will discuss the character of the cosmonaut in Soviet popular culture. Stanley Kubrik’s film classic “2001: A Space Odyssey” is the subject of a talk by art and media scientist Nils Daniel Peiler. Other presentations include the image of astronauts in computer games. “All these presentations make important contributions towards understanding the changes in the image of the astro- and the cosmonaut and the underlying motivations, ” emphasises Henry Keazor.