Michael Najjar & Outer Space – Shooting for the stars
Michael Najjar – liquid gravity, 2013, Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame Liquid gravity explores linkages between space, gravity, and the human body. A cosmonaut levitates above the ground in what seems at first sight to be an industrial environment. In fact, it’s the world´s largest hydro lab at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.
Published: July 6, 2019
Michael Najjar’s galactic trip
Michael Najjar is slated to be the very first artist to travel to space in an exploration of his craft and artistry. His work, Outer Space, was actually created while Najjar was training for the Virgin Galactic project1. The Virgin Galactic Project is the brainchild of founder Richard Branson. The project was created under the company, Virgin Galactic, which is aiming to make the first commercial flight to the edge of space.
Michael Najjar – outer space (2011–ongoing), installation view, Museo Es Baluard, Palma, Spain
Outer Space, 2011
Najjar began working on the series, Outer Space, in 2011 after the American Space Shuttle Atlantis was launched. The work was created to explore and keep up with the most recent developments in space exploration, as well as how space exploration will shape life on earth, and life in outer space. So far, Outer Space is made up of 25 photographs and 4 video installations. To gather the photographs and videos, Najjar traveled to various vital spaceports situated in various parts of the world such as the Kennedy Space Center, as well as the Guiana Space Centre located in French Guiana.
Michael Najjar – outer space (2011–ongoing), installation view, Moscow Biennial, Russia
Collaboration with astronauts, engineers & scientists
Throughout the project, Najjar has collaborated with numerous astronauts, engineers, and scientists and he has witnessed the construction of new telescopes, satellites, and spacecraft during his research. Thanks to this collaboration, Najjar has been able to gain special access to locations that are typically kept secret from the public. As a result of these close interactions, Outer Space manages to offer a detailed sneak peek into the world of space exploration. In the end, it is expected that Outer Space will culminate in Najjar’s own trip to space. Najjar is one of the pioneer astronauts that will be embarking on Virgin Galactic’s Space Ship Two, which will make him the first artist to ever do so.
Michael Najjar – outer space (2011–ongoing, installation view, Wemhöner Collection, Berlin
Although the photographs Najjar’s work almost appear lifelike, the images used in his exhibitions are actually multifaceted digital creations that are created with assistance from computer renderings, an assortment of images collected from satellites and rovers, as well as actual scientific data. These images are created by Najjar with the intention of envisioning the future of space travel so that scientists, artists and concerned parties can continue to explore the implications of space travel for humanity.
Michael Najjar – outer space (2011–ongoing, installation view, Wemhöner Collection, Berlin
In Outer Space, Najjar manages to display a multidisciplinary attitude owing to the manner in which he blends together various sectors of science, art, and technology into ideas and images that are representative of future social structures that will emerge thanks to the rapid growth of today’s cutting-edge technologies.
Michael Najjar – ignition, 2019, Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame The artwork “ignition” visualizes a Soyuz launcher taking off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 5th April 2019. Mission V22 delivered its payload of four communication satellites into orbit. The launch vehicle is 46 meters high and weighs 300 tonnes. The picture captures the rocket at the exact moment it leaves the launch pad. All four boosters are ignited before lift-off to reach full thrust. To capture this unique image, a sound-triggered camera was installed directly on top of the launch tower, a mere 80 meters from the rocket during its critical lift-off phase. No camera has ever been installed before at such close range on a launch pad of the Spaceport.
Michael Najjar – f.a.s.t., 2017, Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame The work pictures the largest astronomical radio telescope on earth. China built this staggeringly large instrument called the “Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope” in the remote and barely accessible southern mountainous region of the country. Inaugurated in 2016, the telescope was constructed in a natural sinkhole surrounded by the extraordinary mountains of the Pingtang valley. The composition of the artwork f.a.s.t. focuses on the relationship between the natural environment and the cutting edge astronomical instrument which for the viewer evokes a sublime experience simply because of its overwhelming size and proportions in relation to the surrounding mountains.
Michael Najjar – desert sky, 2014, Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame desert sky shows an out-of-this-world landscape from the central region of the Atacama Desert in Chile, one of the most arid places on Earth. The desert lies in the rain shadow of Chile’s Coast Range, which squeezes moisture out of the atmosphere and provides a clear sky almost the entire year. The Mars-like landscape is one of the world’s best sites to look into the universe. The artwork desert sky depicts the vastness and infinitude of this remote place on Earth. The little station in the center is an observation station that has long been measuring the moisture in the atmosphere.
Michael Najjar – orbital spy, 2016, Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame The U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, is working on plans for a novel telescope technology. The development program Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploitation (MOIRE) aims at replacing conventional glass optics with lightweight polymer membranes that will pave the way for a foldable plastic orbital telescope. The artwork “orbital spy” visualizes this futuristic space technology. Based on what little information is now available on the internet, a 3D model of the telescope was rendered and combined with an Earth view. This technology will not only revolutionize the way images are captured but will also prove a watershed in terms of the capability of military and state-controlled surveillance to monitor the planet and the people who live on it.
Michael Najjar – serious anomaly, 2015, Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame On October 31, 2014, Virgin Galactic´s suborbital spaceplane SpaceShipTwo crashed during a test flight in the Mojave Desert, California. The artwork “serious anomaly” is a depiction of the experience of failure which is a fundamental part of human existence. The composition is a reinterpretation of Caspar David Friedrich´s iconic 1824 painting Das Eismeer – Die gescheiterte Hoffnung (The Sea of Ice – The Wreck of Hope) widely considered the supreme incarnation of the idea of human failure. The expeditionary ship in Friedrich’s painting is replaced by the seat of the pilot who survived the crash. The work questions the relationship between man and machine, and the pushing back of frontiers through technological innovation.
Michael Najjar – moon mining, 2016, Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame Our Moon possesses an abundance of helium-3, a precious isotope which could be the energy source of the future for fusion reactors. One ton of it could supply all the electricity needs of a city the size of London for a whole year. The artwork “moon mining” visualizes the future importance the Moon will have as a source of energy for the Earth. The major part of the composition is taken up by Moon sand, known as regolith, in which the helium-3 gas is embedded.
Michael Najjar – sands of mars, 2014, Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame “sands of mars” focuses on the idea of the future colonization of the planet Mars. Once a science-fiction fantasy, it is now the subject of serious feasibility studies. The Red Planet is unique in that it has the resources required to support a population of sufficient size to create a new local branch of human civilization. The artwork “sands of mars” visualizes the future scenario of a Mars habitat, merging the image of a remote and endless Mars-like landscape with three geodesic cupolas. In the early days of Mars colonization we will have an entire new planet to live on, but very little space to live in.
Michael Najjar – space debris I, 2012, Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame “space debris I” visualizes the population of defunct objects now in various orbits around the Earth and including everything from spent rocket stages and dead satellites even through to nuclear reactors. There are now some 600,000 objects ranging from 1 to 10cm in diameter and some 21,000 objects larger than 10cm orbiting the Earth at speeds of approximately 28,000 kmph. The artwork visualizes the amount of space debris from low Earth orbit through to geostationary orbit in the year 2012. Drawn from a data archive, each spherule in the picture represents a real object orbiting in space.
Michael Najjar – spaceport, 2012, Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame Spaceport shows the first private space hub on the planet, Spaceport America, located in the New Mexican desert west of the White Sands missile range. This futuristic building was designed by world-famous architect Lord Norman Foster. The artwork is a fusion of daytime and nighttime scenery, whose digital recomposition reinforces Foster’s lead idea of reducing the visibility of the building by merging its architectural structure with the natural environment.
Michael Najjar – space garden, 2013, Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame Based on photographs taken at the Eden Project, a complex of artificial biomes in Cornwall in the south of England, “space garden” visualizes the idea of future greenhouses in space. The giant multidome greenhouse is related to Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic structures andhouses over 100,000 plants collected from all over the world. The artwork is a highly complex digital montage and recomposition of the many photos the artist took at the Eden Project. The pictures were stitched together so as to make the plants float in the air, and grow towards the two opposite light sources.
Michael Najjar – volcanic resublimation, 2018, Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame In nearly every culture volcanoes have always been magical mysterious places and the seat of the gods. However, they are also a vital area of research for scientists, and not just the volcanoes on Earth but also those in the solar system. With the new findings about supervolcanoes on Mars and extinct craters on the moon, researchers are hoping to learn more about the history and creation of our own solar system and Earth. The work “volcanic resublimation“ visualizes the creation of sulfur through volcanic activity. The motif of the work was taken in the bizarre crater landscape of the Whakaari volcano, New Zealand’s only active volcanic island. Due to the complex composition of the artwork it seems to be weightlessness and floating through space – but at the same time it is enormously powerful and energetic.
Michael Najjar – gravitational-rotator, 2013, Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame gravitational rotator shows the world’s largest centrifuge at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, considered the “mother” of all centrifuges. Centrifuge TSF-18 (its radius is 18m) has been used since 1980 for the selection and training of cosmonauts. The artwork shows the entry doors of the round capsule where cosmonauts sit for g-force exposure. The work underscores the disruptive effects of strong g-forces and loss of orientation such as tunnel view and loss of color vision.
Michael Najjar – orbital debris_2020, 2013, Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame orbital debris_2020 shows a full scale mock-up of the Russian module of the International Space Station (ISS), humankind’s most distant orbital outpost. The mock-up is housed 12m below the surface in a gigantic hydrolab of five million liters of water in Star City, the Russian space training center near Moscow. The artwork shows a vertical view of the Russian ISS module from 10m above the surface. Visually linked to “space debris I,” the work is a digital recomposition of various perspectives of the module merged into each other.
Michael Najjar – starbot HR4DSE, 2017, Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame starbot HR4DSE pictures the most advanced humanoid robot in the world. NASA and the University of Edinburgh are currently collaborating on a very ambitious futuristic project: to build an autonomous humanoid robot for future deep space exploration on Mars. The artwork starbot HR4DSE shows the humanoid robot in all its technical precision and motion abilities combined with the output of the robot’s 3D scanning processes, the point cloud which provides the robot with a digital elevation model of the terrain and allows it to move autonomously in its surroundings. The work also raises a critical human concern: how much autonomy should we grant the robots which will share our daily lives in future?
All images & work descriptions by Michael Najjar unless otherwise noted.