Cosmic Dancer – First Art Show in Earth Orbit on Mir Space Station

Posted November 18th, 2013

Russia, Science, Sculptures, Videos

On May 22, 1993, a sculpture called the Cosmic Dancer created by the Swiss/American artist Arthur Woods was launched to the Russian Mir space station on a Progress rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Cosmic Dancer – a painted geometric form made out of welded aluminum tubing measuring approximately 35 x 35 x 40 centimeters and weighing exactly one kilogram – was the first three-dimensional artwork to be specifically conceived for and officially realized in a space habitat. The purpose of the project was to investigate the properties of sculpture in weightlessness and to evaluate the integration of art into the human space program.

After its arrival on the Mir space station the Cosmic Dancer was allowed to slowly spin and freely float in the weightless environment. Freed from the force of gravity which causes any sculpture on Earth to rest or be positioned in a certain way, the sculpture could be viewed from any perspective and angle. The cosmonaut crew interacted with the sculpture and evaluated the contribution and importance of having it included in their environment. They provided a photographic and a video documentation of this experience.

In the words of crew member cosmonaut Alexander Polischuk: “The Cosmic Dancer is an angular and unusual sculpture in the classical understanding of art, nevertheless it made us pleasure. Contemplating the sculpture turning in weightlessness while listening to music resulted in an effect which is possibly totally unknown on Earth. It is difficult to describe this effect. Particularly interesting was to dance with the Cosmic Dancer to music. Dancing is meant symbolically as we circled around it and it, too, moved freely on its own and looked like it circled around us for some reason. That we can really call dancing!”

Concept, project and video production by Arthur Woods

Music: Pavane in F-sharp minor РComposed by Gabriel Faur̩
Publisher: Public Domain – Recording Licensed from the
UniqueTracks Production Music Library Inc.

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Photograph: Mir space station