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Cans and Rockets, Part 3

20.06.14
5 min
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At the dawn of of rocketry, the work of the Berlin Verein für Raumschifffahrt (The Berlin Society for Space Travel) was particularly interesting. By the end of the 1920s, the Society’s launches at the ‘Raketenflugplatz Berlin’ (Spaceport Berlin) had garnered a fair amount of public the interest through newspaper articles and not least the fact that some of the rocket motors were loud enough to be heard from as far away as Potsdamer Platz. The German film industry had also taken note and at the time and director Fritz Lang was working on a big feature film for UfA titled Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon), tangible proof for the great public interest in the subject at the time.

Lang decided to involve the Society to create a realistic depiction of space travel. Hermann Oberth, credited as a scientific consultant, and his colleagues helped design the fictional space ship called ‘Friede’ (Peace), largely based on Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s sketches and to some extent on the Society’s own vehicles which at the time were still at the scale of today’s model rockets. In fact, at one point of the movie’s narrative, a model of the rocket Friede is scrutinized by experts before the actual voyage to the Moon, props of props.

The movie itself is remarkable in how much it anticipated images that were to be realized during the space race which was partly fought with cameras. (In ‘Fashioning Apollo’ Nicholas de Monchaux talks about how the American space program was largely to created for one photo – an American standing on the Moon).

Presumably because of the involvement of Oberth and his colleagues, Fritz Lang’s Frau im Mond pre-visualized with remarkable accuracy not only technological aspects things like rocket assembly facilities and launch pads such as the ones later erected at Cape Canaveral but also humans and liquids floating in weightlessness and even the famous earth-rise picture, taken on December 24, 1968 during Apollo VIII. Astronaut William Anders was so taken by surprise by this celestial photo-opportunity that it is safe to assume that he had not watched Woman in the Moon.

And there were yet more ways that UfA’s film project helped significantly advance early rocketry through a curious kind of fusing of the realities of fiction and engineering. Looking for a spectacle to promote and celebrate the first screening of Woman in the Moon at Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm in October 1929, UfA had intended to launch an actual rocket at the heart of Berlin and paid the Verein a significant amount of reichsmark towards design, construction, testing and launch. It would be been the first time for rocketry to cross the border from a functional model to an actual vehicle – funded by an industry which deals in fantasy.

The launch from Kudamm did not happen (luckily since according to Robert Nebel it might have resulted in a major disaster) and neither did an alternatively scheduled event to accompany the film’s premiere in the United States – the American release had overlapped with the emergence of ‘talkies’ and the interest in films such as Frau im Mond with all their over-acted jealousy and heroism immediately dwindled, turning it into the “last great silent film” – that never quite made it out of Europe. Its impact on space flight, however, was immense. The Society made rapid progress and was already making plans for the first manned vehicles when in 1933 the Nazis made it illegal for civilians to engage in rocketry. Tellingly, they also raided UfA’s production offices, seizing all props from the movie.

Meanwhile in the United States, Robert H. Goddard was launching rockets but nobody knew. Although he had published a range of scientific papers on the subject, his practical efforts at developing liquid-fueled rockets were unknown to Oberth and his Verein für Raumschifffahrt. They felt like true pioneers while in fact Goddard had made a first successful flight as early as 16 March 1926 in Auburn, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, there is only scarce evidence of the event, partially because the operator of the documenting movie camera had fled after apparently having been overcome by “fright” of the explosive device fuming in its metal launching frame. The rocket reportedly flew a short distance and then crashed into Goddard’s Aunt’s icy cabbage field. Years of experiments with ever larger vehicles followed until here as well the government realized the importance of the technology and stepped in.

In Germany, the Nazis had devolved rockets back into formidable and terrifying missiles, in part because of their randomness owed to imprecision and malfunction, especially the V-2. It was created largely under the auspices of Wernher von Braun (second from the right in the photo above) and manufactured by an army of slave workers.

The launch operations at Peenemünde in northern Germany took further cues from Woman in the Moon, such as the countdown, the black-and-white markings of spacecraft, which were still found on ships like the Space Shuttle. Presumably to avoid more fright of camera operators von Braun’s engineers also gave CCTV to the world.

After the war, von Braun was whisked almost immediately to the United States as part of ‘Operation Paperclip’ and the American and German efforts at rocketry thus somewhat converged, leading to both the creation of intercontinental ballistic missiles and the Apollo program. Throughout his whole career at NASA he was mostly depicted with models of the creations of his agency – toys and trophies of an engineer.

In 1946, the first staged version of the V-2 called Bumper became the first human-made object to travel to space above the desert of New Mexico. Not only did this prove Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s rocket equation right, it was also painted in the same black-and-white pattern of the rocket Friede and carried instead of a warhead a film camera, like in a scene of Woman in the Moon.

berlin 1920

Berlin oder Juste Milieu

by
Carl Sternheim
20.06.14
80 min
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(W)hole

19.06.14
4 min
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I glance at the tip of my clitoris every time I go to the toilet and think about the glans it could have been. I follow my clit’s covered part with my fingers, that tiny stick full of nerve endings that ends in that micro-glans and think of the phallus that could have been and how big it would be, how large. I feel like I fell short during my stay at my mum’s uterus, that there’s something wrong, something missing. I wonder if that emptiness I feel is related to that. Freud may have been a misogynist asshole for a lot of things but maybe he was right about this. I also feel a bit like an asshole when I think this way about it; when I think this way about it and observe how beautiful women are, and how strong and all the incredible things they do and how hard I find it to be a woman sometimes even though I love it and how much of a fool and weak I am, don’t forget oversensitive, and sometimes I would just love to have a cock hanging from my body, because better too much than too little. And that amazing sensation of relieve and satisfaction when a phallus fulfills all that emptiness and how I would love for it to stay in there forever and then never feel again that it is too little nor too much. Men don’t feel it’s too much; they just see that too-muchness coming out of their body but embrace it fully as part of it. They don’t feel something’s missing either, that their penis should always be embedded and belong to that another huge missing part called woman. He finishes and everything finishes, that emptiness of having to surround themselves by the walls of an obscure and humid cavity which is surrounded by the body of another being also finishes.  A woman starts and her body demands more…Or less. Less emptiness. No emptiness at all, ever. Women get used to the emptiness as time goes by, it even seems that everything gets closed up to pretend nothing ever happened there and that nothing was nor is ever needed, in order to maintain their own mental health. Another concept in which I believe and also makes me feel a bit of an asshole, but I believe in it due to my own experience, is hysteria. I really get hysterical and it’s only completely soothed when the missing part gets inside my body. I don’t know how real is this and I also observe that women adapt to calmer times but I also feel they lose their glow and when their awfully called (but sometimes super real) emptiness gets fulfilled, that glow comes back and hysteria, although it has been soothed, truly vanishes from under their skin where it was hidden. Men also have this problem, but they have an easier way to solve it, I think…Sometimes they don’t really need quantity and sometimes not even quality, whereas women need both. I wonder if I would really feel better if my ovaries would’ve come all the way down to the labia and turn into testicles, if that clit and minor labia would have continued their development to turn into a penis, if the only fluid coming out of me would show up only in times of pleasure. I think about how similar feminine and masculine bodies are and how our development inside the womb makes us so different, noticing this similarity in details like how the clit looks like a tiny glans and major labia like testicles and how both of us have nipples even though men don’t really use them and how good they look on them anyway. I think about how we really are only one genre whose parts developed differently.

Keep the Party Alive

Jamal Ghosn about World Cup
15.06.14
2 min
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Most people don’t like a partypooper. The only people who do are those who would like to partypoop but are too constipé to do it themselves.

The World Cup of Football is always a big party. Even when its games were held in Pontiac, Michigan it was still a party. This year the matches are held in cities whose names alone get you swaying with how musical they sound. Belo Horizonte…Fortaleza…Curitiba…Salvador de Bahia…and of course Rio de Janeiro. So, basically, think of the biggest party you’ve been to; multiply it by the biggest number you know and then raise it to the Lambadath power and you’ll get how big the party in Brazil is.

So how do you raise awareness about real abuses and unjust evictions without sounding like a bitter partypooper? Especially since FIFA is big shit, and it’ll be hard to out-stench it.

Also let’s not lose sight that Brazil is a country that has made huge strides when it comes to economic growth and combating poverty over the past decade. Healthcare and Education naturally follow the same trend. The government must be doing something right, but try convincing someone who lost their home that.

I don’t know how you can be heard at a party that won’t be pooped. But I have a solution that would make football fans happy, justify Brazil’s massive investment in stadia, and, most importantly, it would forever take FIFA and its bribery process out of the picture.

Hold every World Cup in Brazil!

I know people are looking forward to see Vladimir Putin posing with the trophy in 2018. He can do still that on Copacabana Beach. Hey, if he does it there, it’ll be more likely that he’ll do it topless. Everybody wins.

The alternative is to continue burying heads in the sand.

John Holten
People

John Holten. The name says it all. Well, actually not, if you don’t know John Holten it will say nothing, but once you meet John Holten, the name will say it all once you hear the name John Holten. To me, hearing the name John Holten, a strong image will appear in my mind. I’m not saying he is Messiah, Jesus, or Steve Jobs, I’m saying he is John Holten. John Holten wears a suit, sometimes not. John Holten wears a coral-blue towel on his head, but most often not. John Holten has a beard, most often always a beard with real honest substance. John Holten meets you in a cafe on a cold January day and tells you that you are the first person he encounters after having spent several months working in a warzone. Not figuratively, but literally, a warzone. John Holten, recently also went to Warzaw, not a warzone, but a rhyme, to play a character in a performance. John Holten was not in Warzaw to play John Holten, but something similar. John Holten played another person within the body of John Holten. But nevertheless I insist, on this strong honest fact: there is nothing but one John Holten. One Holten for one John. So, what do you say, how about meeting John Holten, soon? You should. You should put a face to the name, a figure to the sound. John Holten. I can highly recommend a meeting with John Holten, whether its January or June. Meeting John Holten is a pleasure, in both temperatures.

 

Photo by Pedro Jardim

Sascha Pohflepp
by
Mercedes Bunz
People

Sascha Pohflepp is an artist and writer based in Berlin and elsewhere. In his work and research he aims to probe the role of technology in our efforts to understand and influence our environment, extending across both historical aspects and visions of the future. His artistic practice more often than not involves collaboration with other artists and scientists. Sascha’s writing has appeared in magazines such as Under/Current and Volume and he is an editor with VVVNT. For the book Synthetic Aesthetics: Investigating Synthetic Biology’s Designs on Nature which is out now on MIT Press he has co-authored an essay on the notion of living machines.

God's Singing Quartet

Jonah Go Down to Mosul

Jamal Ghosn about Iraq
10.06.14
2 min
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News is breaking today that the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)–an al-Qaeda affiliate funded by allies of the Democratic West–took full control of the Tigris river city of Mosul. Mosul has its own rich history, but the ruins on the edge of the city go further back. There sits what was once the city of Nineveh. Some 2700 years ago, the capital of Assyria was the largest city on earth.

Even back then, cosmopolitan areas proved elusive to God. There’s something about people mixing that makes them less prone to having imaginary friends. Jonah was handpicked by God for the mission of reining in the big city debauchery of Nineveh. God sent Jonah his message via a singing quartet. Unfortunately, the original message was recorded on Betamax and thus forever lost. But God learned his lesson–turning Jonah into a whale of a lesson in the process. From then on God would only use Youtube.

The audio is a bit choppy, but the message is clear. Jonah shoulda obeyed the Lord.

The question is if Jonah was asked again today to go “save” Nineveh, would he volunteer to swim in the gastric juice of the big fish? Because sure as hell it beats whatever ISIS might have in store for the man who disobeyed God.

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Queen Victoria's Public Secret: Chapter 6, Part 3

09.06.14
2 min
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Golden Jubilee: 21 June 1887, at Buckingham Palace
Part III

Ekstasis: at the door of Westminster Abbey, a hole in my wall, you cause me to stand. I was received by the clergy, with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Dean at their head, their swollen capitation, in the copes of rich velvet and gold, which had been worn at the Coronation. My bloated pronoun leaks privately. The crowds from the Palace gates up to the Abbey were enormous, and there was such an extraordinary outburst of enthusiasm as I had hardly ever seen in London before; all the people seemed to be in such good humour. (She aches internally clawing for not enough): scanning a set of words for who’s inflected conditional; scanning pics for a future past infidelity like whose? The old Chelsea Pensioners were in a stand near the Arch (of my aching back). The decorations along Piccadilly were quite beautiful, and there were most touching inscriptions (in lower case). Seats and platforms were arranged up to the tops of the houses, the scaffolding of face and threshold, and such waving of hands, those who could not find a face, a wild groping. I offer mine, sore and picked on, apparently open. Many schools out, and many well-known faces were seen and unheard, notorious.

Just Beg For It

Jamal Ghosn about Slavery in NCAA
07.06.14
3 min
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One of the defining moments of transition into adulthood is when a person stops asking parents for money. Some sense of pride kicks in and makes it difficult to ask for compensation for the mere fact of being an offspring.

Of course, shit happens and circumstances may force the once proud to swallow that pride and ask for money, and even beg for it. A genuine beggar, who does it out of need, is a defeated human. I am not going into the reasons behind it, which could be individual or societal, but the sympathy a “defeated human” generates makes the act of begging possible as it tends to pay off in cash.

Naturally, where there’s an opportunity to make money there are opportunists willing to make it. It starts at an individual or a small business level with “defeated human” acts that prey on genuine sympathy or hypocritical piety. Those going after the latter tend to congregate outside houses of worship.

Then there is institutionalized tax-deductible begging. My alma mater masters that type of begging. Since I graduated from the University of Miami 15 years ago, not a week goes by where I don’t receive at least one email from “the U” in which they ask me for money.

This past week the begging cycle was peaking with the end of the school year, so the University resorted to using multiple senders in order to bypass spam filters.

Unlike the “defeated human” model, the University doesn’t swallow its pride when begging. It flaunts it. “Hell yeah I spent all the money you gave me and I want more!”

It uses the image and accomplishments of alumni as well as those of exploited athletes as motivators for U to dish out cash to “the U”.

Three decades ago the U’s football team invented school pride. Actually, it went beyond the school’s fancy campus to involve an entire marginalized community in the ghettos of Miami. Pride evolved into swagger.

The U’s football players didn’t beg for acceptance by the racist culture dominant in the US back then. They ran, rapped and tackled their way onto the scene.

Over the past 3 decades, and partly due to the U’s swagger, US college athletics became very popular. Since it’s the US we’re talking about, popular means it’s also automatically big business…big corrupt business that exploits star athletes.

Universities used unpaid athletes to create school pride and then banked on monetizing it. The University of Miami trademarked swagger, and alumni–desperate for pride–paid up.

In one email received during the end-of-school-year blitz I am informed that the sum collected by the Momentum 2 campaign has surpassed $1.3 billion from 137,000 donors.

Nasser Al Rashid, a Saudi billionaire, contributed $10 million of that sum. A century ago, the Rashids used to rule the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula before they were ousted by the Sauds, who were backed by a British Captain that goes by the name of William Shakespear…without the e…but that’s a different exploitation story.

Let’s get back to the U.

The University of Miami, just like all the other universities, does not pay its sports stars. The creators of swagger get compensated with shitty cafeteria food and free higher education. Free higher education? Hmmmm…What a novel concept?

I guess if you didn’t see anything wrong with paying exorbitant amounts of cash for university education in the first place, then there’s no reason to think that you wouldn’t continue to pay forever just to purchase pride.

SP_thegoldeninstitute1

Cans and Rockets, Part 1

05.06.14
4 min
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This series of posts, based on an artist talk delivered in April 2014 at LEAP Berlin, will focus on the role of scale models and simulation models, the former making something large or complex, past or not yet existing tangible, the latter constituting a computational abstraction which through its predictive qualities may end up having an influence on the world itself. Two projects will serve as examples, both collaborations with New York City-based Chris Woebken, created during a joint residency at Eyebeam Art & Technology Center: The Society for Speculative Rocketry and Elsewheres.

In its larger scope, the discussion also relates to another artistic research project, The Supertask, a collaboration with Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg initiated by the University of Southampton – an investigation into whether it would be possible to create a model of the whole world, or a world from models.

Scale models entered my world in 2009 when working on a piece titled The Golden Institute, a counterfactual history scenario set in the United States of a parallel universe. Here, Ronald Reagan has lost the presidential election of 1980 and Jimmy Carter remained in office. History tells us that Reagan swiftly abandoned Carter’s tender efforts at research and development of alternative sources of energy (perfectly embodied in the de-installation of a solar heating unit on the roof of the White House). In my narrative, Carter goes-all out on such technologies, turning the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO into The Golden Institute.

Carter, channeling his inner JFK, publicly states his ambition to make the United States independent from foreign oil before the end of the 1980s and endows the Institute with funds comparable to an Apollo-age NASA. Granted such powers, it pursues all kinds of projects, ranging from planetary scale weather-engineering in order to harness the power of thunderstorms in Nevada’s new ‘Weather Experimentation Zone’, all the way down to subsidizing individual Americans’ efforts to draw electricity from the artificial skies, an entrepreneurial vision of the mythical experiment that founding father Benjamin Franklin performed with his kite in 1752.

I chose to partially materialize parts of this narrative through objects for Douglas Arnd’s office, the fictional chief strategist, who is modeled after the likes of RAND Corporation’s notorious Herman Kahn. Scale models that are in fact trophies of the projects that make the Institute the most proud. One of them, a 1985 Chevrolet El Camino roughly at a scale of 1:20, is fitted with a huge lightning rod and towing a trailer full of supercapacitors to hold the electricity. It is everybody’s older cousin’s car, but modified to go lightning harvesting for profit, at approximately $400 per strike. The perfect demonstration of the way in which the Institute’s work has affected the lives of ordinary people.

Looking at the model’s 3D-printed parts, just moments before they were sent for chrome coating by the same London company that gilded C-3PO for Star Wars in 1977, I realized that I had created not a trophy but a toy – in fact one that very much resembles the ones I had been assembling as a child, mostly of American fighter planes.

Scale models do occupy a curious space between both past, present, future and in terms of our personal and collective imagination. My American fighter planes, often manufactured by Revell Plastics GmbH, a German subsidiary of a Californian company, are for instance in essence an iconic manifestation of real technologies. They were, gleefully appreciated, projecting American air power right into my kinderzimmer, billion-dollar projects distilled into a few grams of cast grey plastic. And, after successful assembly and decoration they may advance to being toys, elevated by imagination, and thus gain a performative function. But they rarely do fly.

Cans and Rockets, Part 3

20.06.14
5 min
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Berlin oder Juste Milieu

by
Carl Sternheim
20.06.14
80 min
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(W)hole

19.06.14
4 min
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Keep the Party Alive

Jamal Ghosn about World Cup
15.06.14
2 min
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Jonah Go Down to Mosul

Jamal Ghosn about Iraq
10.06.14
2 min
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Queen Victoria's Public Secret: Chapter 6, Part 3

09.06.14
2 min
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Just Beg For It

Jamal Ghosn about Slavery in NCAA
07.06.14
3 min
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Cans and Rockets, Part 1

05.06.14
4 min
share