The Aesthetics of Astronomy: A Subjective Look at Cosmographical Depictions through Time

michael-benson-space-photography-planetfall-jupiter-moon-io-erupting-into-spaceHumanities Forum, CIRCA, History
Tuesday, April 1 | 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture

Sponsored by the Dresher Center for the Humanities. Co-sponsored by the Center for Innovation, Research and Creativity in the Arts, and the Department of History.

Writer, photographer and artist Michael Benson presents a retrospective look at the visual legacy of space exploration, covering fifty years of space travel, from the American Mariner probe fly-by of Venus in December 1962 to the latest images from the Mars Rover. His images are not so much otherworldly as abstract, modernist creations of lush imagination.

Benson works at the intersection of art and science. A photographer, writer, filmmaker, book-maker, and exhibitions producer, in the last decade he has staged a series of increasingly large-scale shows of planetary landscape photography internationally. Benson takes raw data from NASA and European Space Agency archives and processes it, creating large-format landscapes. He edits, composites, then frequently mosaics, and then finally optimizes these images, producing seamless digital C prints of landscapes beyond direct human experience. He is also an award-winning filmmaker, with work that straddles the boundary between fiction and documentary practice.

Thanks to the photographic output of a small squadron of interplanetary spacecraft, we have awakened to the beauty and splendor of the solar system. Since the publication of Benson’s highly acclaimed Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes, new, more powerful cameras in probes with greatly improved maneuverability have traversed the wheeling satellites of Jupiter; roamed the boulder-strewn red deserts of Mars; studied Saturn’s immaculate rings; and shown us our own ravishing Earth, a blue-white orb with a disturbingly thin atmosphere, as it plunges deeper into ecological crisis. These new images are the subject of Benson’s Planetfall, a truly revelatory book that uses its large page size to reproduce the greatest achievements in contemporary planetary photography as never before.

His book Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle was heralded in the New York Times as an extraordinary achievement: “If you don’t have your own Hubble Space Telescope, this book is the next best thing.” Of Planetfall, The New York Times has written, “All retrospectives, art and otherwise, should shock us awake the way this one does…Planetfall is a book of science through and through, but it also deepens our sense of the miracle and the mystery of the universe, of our eye-blink lives.”

Admission is free.

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