How to Paint What You Can’t See:
Astronomical Illustration in the Space Age
Lois Rosson (University of California, Berkeley)
Thursday, 24 February 2022, 12:00–13:30 EST
For much of the twentieth century, the quickest way to produce a high-resolution image of outer space was to hire someone to paint it by hand. This talk examines the history of American astronomical illustration, and the process by which it moved out of the observatory and into broader commercial markets. Collective understanding of what outer space looked like increased dramatically over the course of the Space Age, but the creation of visually coherent pictures still required a high degree of manipulation. The astronomical illustrators that professionalized this task developed a specific set of visual conventions to signal the accuracy of their images and changed the look of space landscapes in both the popular and scientific imagination.
The Cosmo-Political: Rethinking the Political in Outer Space
Rory Rowan (Trinity College Dublin)
Friday, 8 April 2022, 12:00–13:30 EDT
What happens to the political in outer space? A number of influential thinkers of the political, including Hannah Arendt, Carl Schmitt and Bruno Latour, have not only taken the Earth to be an implicit backdrop for their theories but have explicitly framed the political as fundamentally earthbound. Further, all three have figured the extension of human activity into outer space as introducing a dangerous disorientation into the foundations of the political. For such thinkers the boundaries of the Earth provide stable markers for the boundaries of the political. This paper questions the position of outer space in such earthbound conceptions of the political whilst pursuing the idea that the expansion of social relations off-Earth may indeed fundamentally reorder the conditions of the political with profound consequences.