Format 1: 202 x 132 cm / 79.5 x 52 in, edition of 6 + 2 AP
Format 2: 102 x 67 cm / 40.2 x 26.3 in, edition of 6 + 2 AP
Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame
When the Russian inventor and pioneer of astronautic theory Konstantin Tsiolkovsky first saw the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 1895, the sight of it inspired him with a strange and rather quixotic idea. The American engineer and space scientist Jerome Pearson turned this idea into a model which he presented to NASA in 1969. Arthur C. Clark, science fiction author und creator of 2001 – A Space Odyssey took up Tsiolkovsky’s futuristic vision in his 1979 novel The Fountains of Paradise, introducing it to a worldwide audience. This vision was nothing less than a space elevator – a platform circling the Earth at a height of 36,000 km and attached to the Earth's surface by a gigantic cable. An elevator capsule travels up this cable at a speed of some 200 km an hour to the platform in geostationary orbit moving at the same rotational speed as the Earth. The journey into space would start from some point in the ocean, preferably some point near the equator, from a platform swimming in the sea or mounted on an island from where a gigantic cable would reach up into the heavens. The material composition of the elevator cable itself is the most essential requirement for putting an elevator into space. It must be extremely lightweight yet strong enough to withstand the tremendous forces to which it's exposed, strong enough not to snap under its own sheer weight. Such a cable could be fabricated from carbon nanotubes which are harder than steel yet much lighter and more elastic. So far attempts have only succeeded in producing nanotubes of a few centimetres in length in the laboratory, but this could well change in future. The Obayashi Corporation in Japan recently presented a detailed technical concept and plans to build a space elevator by the year 2050.
The work “ascension” visualises the utopian vision of a space elevator. The picture's composition brings the three elements of ocean surface, island, and clouds together forming a sublime landscape bathed in dramatic light. The picture is divided in the middle by a vertical black line which also serves as a connecting element and is reminiscent of Barnett Newman‘s famous Zip Paintings. Viewers approach the picture from a distance with a wandering elevated gaze which, as they draw near, glides over the surface of the water, confronts the island from where it is catapulted straight upwards. In the background the horizon softly dissolves into clouds, the surface of the earth merges seamlessly with the sky. The horizontal breadth, the elevated gaze, and the vertically rising line conjoin the terrestrial world with space above it. The natural landscape evocative of paintings by Caspar David Friedrich has an added disruptive technological element, the taut cable of the space elevator connecting Earth with outer space. While the landscape elements were photographed by the artist from aboard a helicopter, the cable itself is a peculiarity as it is based on an electron microscope shot of a tiny fibre of a carbon nanotube produced in the laboratory and digitally reworked into a giant sky-climbing cable. In reaching the upper edge of the picture and disappearing softly into the clouds, it opens an infinite transcendental space in which the viewer's imagination can freely roam.