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Paper on Space and Ecology, Acta Astronautica

After my presentation at the 66th International Astronautical Congress in 2015, my paper Beyond the Blue Marble: Artistic research on space and ecology has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Acta Astronautica.
It discusses my research on Biosphere 2 and 1970s’ Space Settlements in relation to contemporary ecological concepts, the Anthropocene and object-oriented theories. The paper’s publication coincides beautifully with the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the first mission inside Biosphere 2 on September 26th, 1991. A toast to all Biospherians – past, present and future!

The published paper is available here, or get a free draft version through this link.


Beyond the Blue Marble: Artistic research on space and ecology
Ralo Mayer

The paper discusses the relation of space and ecology through examples of artistic research on the closed ecological system experiment Biosphere 2 and the history of space settlements. While the idea of artificial ecological systems in space dates back to the first visions of space exploration, the best known link between ecology and space is probably the Whole Earth photos of the Apollo program. Following recent reconceptualizations of Ecology beyond the nature-culture divide I argue that this popular icon of ecology and space by now has become a limitation to both space exploration and a new ecological understanding in the Anthropocene. By interpreting Biosphere 2 as a model of our world that is not limited to biological relations but also includes socio-political aspects, culture, economy and technology, my performative research supports the idea of “Ecology without Nature” as proposed by Timothy Morton and others. Furthermore, through an artistic exploration of the local history and legacy of 1970s’ space settlement enthusiasm in the San Francisco Bay Area and its ties to the later digital frontier and Green Capitalism, the paper discusses the 1990s as a pivotal transformational period for space and ecology. While so-called “globalizations” have often been illustrated by the Whole Earth image, associated developments have essentially revealed vast dimensions of space and time that have unsettled our very concept of world and are characteristic issues of the Anthropocene. At the same time, this “end of the world” could be employed to relate the Anthropocene to space exploration and rethink ecology as a theoretical framework transcending planet Earth.

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