Rachel Hill (UCL) - 2021-22 Students

“Rocketing Imaginaries”: Futurity and Planetary Environments in the Visualities of Spaceflight

My project will investigate the visual histories of spaceflight. Spaceflight visualities—‌which include everything from paintings and digital renderings of speculative technologies through to photography of (and from) space vehicles—‌use the bombastic hypervisuality of space technologies to tell complex stories around how the planet, cosmos and human destiny are increasingly intertwined. Rather than objective depiction or neutral documentation, these visualities are composed of particular aesthetic refrains which trumpet technological progress in the space domain as linear and inevitable. And yet, despite the powerful role visualities play within understandings of spaceflight, a sustained interrogation of these infrastructural and cosmic aesthetics remains overlooked. My work addresses this lack of aesthetic analysis, in order to unearth spaceflights multiple environmental histories. From the terrestrial lift-off of rocketry and their orbital sojourns to their final Pacific splashdowns: spaceflight infrastructures span multiscalar and transnational territories, threading all together in a transplanetary ecology of technological processes. Prioritising archival material from European and U.S. space programmes, my project contends that these new techno-environmental entanglements might best be interrogated through their visual modes of representation.

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