On the morning of May 11, 1970, a bus brought a group of people, most wearing suits and carrying briefcases, from the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Los Angeles to Venice Beach, at the time a troubled neighborhood of hippies, surfers, people experiencing homelessness, and artists. They disembarked by the beach, wandered down a decrepit alley, stepped into a freshly made hole in the wall, passed by a pile of rubble, through a corridor, and into a large, dimly lit room…
What makes an environment human? That is, what aspects of human life beyond basic necessities (food, water, shelter) constitute who we are? We would love to invite you to consider this with us.
The advent of space exploration created a new—and unique—need to create habitable environments completely from scratch. But what does it mean for something to be “habitable” beyond its most material, biological sense? What makes a place worth living in?
In 1970, artist Robert Irwin and space program psychologist Edward Wortz designed NASA’s First National Symposium on Habitability of Environments, which brought researchers, engineers, architects and artists into Irwin’s studio to collaboratively tackle the challenge and reframe the ways in which we conceive, design and inhabit environments. Inspired by Irwin and Wortz’s collaboration, WAM will convene the Second National Symposium on Habitability of Environments in 2020. In preparation for the symposium, a cohort of collaborators from the arts, commercial space exploration, architecture, space medicine, anthropology and art history will gather in Minneapolis this October to consider the question: What fields of knowledge and ways of knowing are necessary to address the notion of a habitability beyond ‘life support’?
Please join us for a public conversation following the workshop, that will include an overview of the Habitability Project by WAM curator Boris Oicherman, followed by a screening of samples of Tektite Revisited: Meghan O’Hara and James Merle Thomas’ in-progress documentary about NASA’s underwater habitability research in the U.S. Virgin Islands between 1969-70, and a presentation about the commercial space platform Axiom Space by Christian Maender. The event will culminate with a roundtable discussion involving workshop participants.
About Tektite Revisited
The product of an eight-year collaboration between filmmaker Meghan O’Hara and art historian James Merle Thomas, Tektite Revisited is a forthcoming feature-length documentary about an underwater research station operated by NASA in the U.S. Virgin Islands between 1969-70. As the first critical re-examination of the Apollo-era attempts to model space station designs using underwater architecture, the project follows the futuristic aquatic habitat from its construction and deployment—atop the ruins of a remote former sugar plantation of the Caribbean tropics in the late 1960s—to its eventual demise. Framed as an essay, the film examines problematics of measuring human experiences, and ways that Cold War-era paradigms continue to shape our contemporary relationships to knowledge, information, architecture, and environment.
Tektite Revisited is supported by a Media Development Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
About Axiom Space (Designing the Next Generation Space Habitat)
Axiom Space is a Houston-based, private company which is building the world’s first internationally available commercial space station to eventually succeed the International Space Station (ISS). The Axiom Station is designed to be the primary destination in Low Earth Orbit for governments, private astronauts, researchers, and manufacturers seeking to leverage space for research, discovery and profit. Christian’s presentation will touch on safety, habitability and operability considerations in the next generation space station which are relevant to maximizing both the experience and the productivity of human occupants.
Habitability Workshop Participants
Aleksandra Stankovic, Director, Human Performance Laboratory, Harvard Medical School
Boris Oicherman, Curator for Creative Collaboration, WAM
Christian Maender, Director, In-Space Manufacturing and Research, Axiom Space
David Valentine, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota
Dawna Schuld, Assistant Professor, Department of Visualization, College of Architecture, Texas A&M University
Emmanuel Urquieta Ordonez, MD, Assistant Professor, Center for Space Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine
Interesting Tactics, architecture collective (Isaac Hase, Mary Begley, Anna Jursik, Drew Smith, Austin Watanabe), Minneapolis
James Merle Thomas, Assistant Professor, Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University
Marcus Young, artist, Minneapolis
Meghan O’Hara, Assistant Professor, Cinematic Arts & Technology, California State University Monterey Bay
Neal White, Professor of Art and Science, University of Westminster
Olga Bannova, Director, Space Architecture Graduate Program, University of Houston
Peng Wu, artist, Minneapolis
Stuart McLean, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota
Supported by the The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts through the Curatorial Fellowship awarded to Boris Oicherman
Image: A still from Tektite Revisited (courtesy of Meghan O’Hara and James Merle Thomas)