Edgar Martins spent the past two years exploring the facilities of the European Space Agency (ESA) and photographing the weird, clinical spaces he came across. His project marks the first time in the ESA's history that an artist has been granted exclusive access to the agency's staff, programs, and technology. The resulting series looks like a mood board for the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Born in the late 1970s, Edgar wasn’t a child of the space race, but he's always been enthralled by the Apollo program. "I grew up wanting to become an astronaut—not an easy accomplishment for a European in communist China—and still have recurring dreams where I'm propelled into space, though can never remember how," he says. "In the dream, I get into Earth's orbit, float in zero G, look down at the planet for the first time from afar, and become overwhelmed with the experience.
"Space and all the mysticism and technological marvels that surround it have an immeasurable resonance on our social and individual consciousness. It’s a topic that constantly throws me, and us, into the antinomies of perception and existence, toward the exploration of boundaries and unstable geometries."
Over the course of his time in the various ESA centers, Martins has witnessed the sustained focus on exploratory programs—projects that allow us to peer farther into deep space, helping us to better understand our surroundings and origins.
"We are slowly getting a new picture of the universe that is pushing the limits of our understanding of current cosmological theories, making the confluence of the infinitely large and the infinitely small an ever more viable proposition," says Martins. "I have no doubt that we are entering a new golden era of space exploration. But perhaps the most interesting realization for me, throughout this process, was coming to terms with two simple ideas: The void and vacuum of space has become the busiest concept known to mankind; and for all the advancements in technology and robotics, space exploration is still inherently dependent on the individual."