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  • Between the earth and the sky: planetary borders in Vija Celmins’ Untitled (Desert/Galaxy)

Curran, Fiona, 2017, Conference or Workshop, Between the earth and the sky: planetary borders in Vija Celmins’ Untitled (Desert/Galaxy) at Border Control: On the Edges of American Art, Tate Liverpool, UK, 25 - 26 May, 2017.

Abstract or Description:

This two-day conference brought together new scholarship exploring the edges and borders of post-war American art before 1980, the varied acts of traversal and attempts at containment that have shaped its histories. Presented as the culmination of the three-year Tate Research project 'Refiguring American Art', and coinciding with a related display at Tate Liverpool, the conference brought together historians of art and visual culture engaging with American art in its global contexts.

Paper Abstract
Vija Celmins Untitled (Desert/Galaxy) from 1974, presents a dual image drawing of a dark night sky filled with stars and other illuminated celestial objects juxtaposed with a close-cropped view of a desert floor. As well as using her own photographs of the deserts surrounding her home in LA, Celmins also gathered a number of her photographic resources from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. This work will act as a provocation to trace the entangled histories of the Cold War ‘space race’ with the development of satellite technologies and atmospheric/meteorological monitoring beyond earth’s borders in the post war period. A picture emerges of the material significance of the earthbound landscapes that supported the growth of these technologies and their extra terrestrial destinations, recoupling the earth with the sky, the present and the remote, and the temporal dimensions of past, present and future. Far from representing an untouched ‘natural’ realm that transcends the earthbound to present us with a heavenly firmament, Celmins’ image captures a particular historical period. It signifies a moment when space became a new frontier for US technological development, cultural and territorial expansion, and in which the cosmos became thoroughly militarized.

Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art
School or Centre: School of Material
Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2017 15:56
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2017 15:56
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/2897

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