Experimental feature

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Experimental feature

Robots are roaming London’s Tate Britain at night this weekend. Four camera-equipped machines, co-developed by a company that creates technology for space exploration, can be controlled by computer users worldwide. While After Dark uses space technology to allow humans to experience art on Earth, we have long been sending art beyond our world:

1. The Moon (1971)

Belgian artist Paul Van Hoeydonck created an aluminium figurine, “The Fallen Astronaut”, which was placed on the moon by the crew of Apollo 15. Believed to be the first work of art in space, the figurine was placed face down on the moon, next to a plaque bearing the names of 14 astronauts who had died on missions.

2. Mir space station (1993)

A 1kg sculpture by Arthur Woods, “The Cosmic Dancer”, became a fixture in the Russian Mir space station. Its twisted geometric shape was designed to investigate the properties of sculpture in zero gravity. Woods instructed cosmonauts – including Alexander Polischuk – to let the sculpture float around freely and to take photographs and record videos of their interaction with it.

3. Space shuttle Columbia (1986)

Four oil paintings were placed on board Nasa’s seventh Columbia mission; a five-day orbit around Earth. American artist Ellery Kurtz wanted to test how pigments and paintings were affected by space flight. The project was partly masterminded by psychologist Howard Wishnow, who wanted to research how aesthetic pleasure might change the experience of being in deep space.

4. Beagle 2 mission to Mars (2002)

One of Damien Hirst’s spot paintings was attached to the Beagle 2 spacecraft, which was meant to travel 250m miles to the Red Planet to search for signs of life. Hirst said that if Martians did exist, they would be impressed with his work: “If they’ve got eyes, they’ll love it.” Scientists lost contact with the vessel before it reached the planet.

To control the ‘After Dark’ robots, visit afterdark.tate.org.uk

Photographs: Nasa; Arthur Woods; Vertical Horizons; Chris Young/PA

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