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Art Lasered onto Satellites Propel in Space

It's art that few eyes will ever see—human eyes, at least.

by Gabrielle Bruney
Feb 5 2016, 7:30pm

The answer to the the age-old question “If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?” is that, yes, of course it does. But does that sound matter, if no one’s there to respond to it? Autodesk’s Pier 9 Workshop poses a similar question with their new project, Art in Space.

Engineers, artists, and designers at Pier 9 partnered with Planet Labs to laser etch art onto satellites and send them into the cosmos. The satellites will spend a couple of years in orbit, and then burn upon re-entry to the atmosphere. It’s art that almost no one will ever see.

"Sending this art into space was an exercise in deeply enriching a largely technological endevour with art and creativity,” Charlie Nordstrom, a filmmaker at Pier 9, tells The Creators Project. "In other words, these aren’t just bumper stickers on the sides of satellites."

Of course, Art in Space isn’t exactly like that proverbial tree in the forest—thanks to photos, videos, and art-loving websites, you’re seeing the works right now. But would the team at Pier 9 have created Art in Space even if mass communication wouldn’t allow for the works to have an audience?

Screencaps via

"I think that for the artists, it was extremely validating just to know their work was in outer space,” says Pier 9 public programs manager, Sarah Brin. "Impossible things can be quite desirable, sometimes."

"I love that we're asking this question in the first place,” she continues.  "Because it implies that the public is an important part of art-making. So many artworks are super-commodities because they are rare objects or rare experiences, but I think that's not very interesting. So we staged an exhibition with replicas of the panels at a planetarium in Oakland, where we had the artists talk about their work and folks could really get up close and engage with the artworks.”

Brin also points out that the relationship between the satellites and everyone who worked on them isn’t over yet. "They’re going to continue sending images back to Earth for a few years, so it's really kind of a generative artwork in that way."

To learn more about Autodesk's Pier 9 Workshop, click here

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