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Missions to the Outer Fringes

Missions to the Outer Fringes explores the imagining of outer space and the shaping of outer space imaginaries. The research focuses on the production and narration of outer space, the nature of popular visions for space futures, and the relation of human activities in outer space to Earthbound issues. The primary interest is human spaceflight as a technological project inseparably entangled with the social, where historical precedents and ideological values are embedded in the representation and materialisation of contemporary space programmes. The central concern is the reimagining of outer space, responding to the premise that collective ‘cosmic’ imaginations have become normalised by particular visions of progress.
The research is informed by cultural anthropologists and others who articulate the imaginary - a collectively held and publicly performed vision or narrative - as a powerful social, economic and political force. Outer space is further described as colonised by repeated master narratives and pervasive aesthetics, which continue to shape imaginaries around grand technological projects. Here, persistent ideologies and visions advocating for human expansion, exploitation and settlement in space become not only out-dated but highly problematic.
The aims of the project are twofold. First, to examine how and why outer space is imagined in contexts spanning the artistic, commercial and institutional - questioning why the dominant imaginations are as they are, how they are performed, and why is it important they are disrupted. Second, to explore modes of imagining outer space, through artistic practice, as means for critiquing and disrupting these dominant spaceflight imaginations.