Getting into space

The Man Who Flew

While in Gent last weekend, I came across this book that I couldn’t resist – and it has a timely aspect, being almost exactly the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight into space. (The Russian Gagarin was first to orbit the earth in a launch on April 12, 1961).

Russian Space posters

The book by Boris Groys is part of the Afterall series on single works of art, this one being “The Man Who Flew into Space from his Apartment”, an installation by Ilya Kabakov constructed in 1985. The work consists of a small room, walls covered with Soviet space posters, in which the occupant has installed a slingshot-like apparatus that has apparently sent him right up and out through the roof. The cover shot above shows one half of the room.
Here are some lines from the book that I especially liked:

The only things that distinguishes this undertaking from a strictly scientific experiment is the supreme importance of the right moment. The positive sciences regard time as homogeneous, which by definition means that any experiment is capable of being repeated. The hero of this installation, on the other hand, has to identify the exact moment when certain, otherwise dormant, cosmic energies enter a period of activity. This is the type of science pursued by revolutionaries and artists – it’s a matter of not missing the right moment, of allowing it to propel one into the unknown.

We’ve all felt it – a moment of opportunity opens up, and either we grab it, or we let it go by, and in retrospect see that what was possible at one moment is no longer possible. Is the repeatable in some sense only the most trivial?

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