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Curator Picks – Into the Unknown

Monday 31 July 2017

We set our Into the Unknown curator, Laura Clarke, the unenviable task of choosing her favourite objects from the exhibition. With a background in visual arts, her chosen objects explore how art has looked to science fiction – and vice versa – to realise what we do not, and cannot, know about the universe and beyond.


Share your favourite objects from Into the Unknown in the comments below.


Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction takes place from 3 June –1 September.

Dara Birnbaum, Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978-9)
'One of the first artists to use the medium of video to expose the language and ideology of television, Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman deconstructs one episode from the popular syndicated US television programme, Wonder Woman. Birnbaum’s work interrupts the narrative flow through the repetition of particular moments from the episode in order to expose the protagonist’s transformation - an early form of special effect - a flash of light then matched with the turning and spinning of Wonder Woman’s body. Whilst television as a medium hypothetically offered the possibility of transforming the representation of women, Birnbaum makes visible that such transformation was limited to the shift from one singular identity (‘ordinary’ woman) to another (technologically augmented superhero).'
Trevor Paglen, ORBITAL REFLECTOR (DIAMOND VARIATION) Freestanding Model for Inflatable Spacecraft (2017)
'We are very excited to have had the opportunity to commission a new work by Trevor Paglen for the exhibition. ORBITAL REFLECTOR (DIAMOND VARIATION) forms part of the ongoing Nonfunctional Satellite series, which was developed in collaboration with aerospace engineers to imagine what orbital structures might look like if they were designed to be visible from the earth’s surface by the unaided eye. The Nonfunctional Satellite series is a continuation of Paglen’s investigation into the corporate and military interests that underlie the aerospace industry, which has also included tracking and photographing all of the classified ‘invisible’ spacecraft in earth’s orbit.'
Isaac Julien, Encore II (Radioactive) (2004)
'Encore II: (Radioactive) is inspired by a character from the writings of Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006), an American science fiction writer best known for her recurring exploration of genetic manipulation, contamination and hybridity. Using super-8 footage from Julien’s earlier video experiments which were shot in 1980, whilst he was studying at St. Martin’s School of Art, Encore II: (Radioactive) manipulates the Icelandic landscape and its domestic architectural surroundings, imbuing them with a visual and sonic electronic aura that dislocates the setting from a specific time and place.'
Larissa Sansour, In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain (2016)
'Inhabiting the visual language of science fiction, In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain blends archival photography, CGI and video, and explores the construction of national identity and historical fact as a blend of myth and fiction whose legitimacy is predicated upon the existence of material fact.'
Collection of original aerospace industry advertisements (1957-60) from the collection of the Prelinger Library and Archives, San Francisco
'The technological breakthroughs of the late 1950s and 60s fuelled the imaginations of science fiction creators around the world. These original aerospace industry advertisements from 1957-60 draw upon the iconography of popular science fiction defined in the previous decade by illustrators such as Arthur Radebaugh and Chesley Bonestell, as well as referencing the geometric and abstract tropes of Modernist painting.'