ART

IMPOSSIBLE OBJECT | ART IN SPACE

By Yasmine Meroz and Liat Segal

International Space Station, Low Earth Orbit | April 2022

Video by: Naomi Meroz and Assaf Arviv

Impossible Object is one of the few contemporary artworks ever made and sent to Outer Space.

 

It is a sculpture made of liquid water. The liquid’s three-dimensional form does not get its shape from any vessel and as such cannot exist on Earth, but only in Outer Space in the absence of gravity. The sculpture is built as a composition of brass rods and tubes, through which water flows. With no gravitation to direct the water downwards, the water clings to the sculpture’s metal structure, forming a dynamic three-dimensional liquid composition, shaped by the water’s surface tension and adhesion forces. The sculpture’s composition of rods and tubes resembles a wavy staircase that has no directionality. The work questions shape and form. In the absence of gravitation, what is the shape of a piece of sea or a handful of a wave?
‘Impossible Object’ is a research-based artwork, where micro-gravity physics is the medium.

‘Impossible Object’ was activated and documented on the International Space Station (ISS) by astronaut Eitan Stibe during mission AX-1, April 2022, as part of Rakia Art Mission. Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) was the first private astronaut mission on the International Space Station (ISS), a collaborative effort between SpaceX (shuttle) on behalf of Axiom Space in cooperation with NASA, in which four crew members conducted science, art and outreach activities.

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The main forces which govern the form and dynamics of water are surface tension, adhesive forces, and gravity. On small scales on Earth, surface tension and adhesive forces dominate gravitational forces, leading to interesting elastocapillary effects, crucial for both the survival and function of plants. For example, plants transport water from root to crown (spanning great distances) using capillary forces, while cactus needles harvest water droplets in the morning mist. In the case of micro-gravity, adhesion forces and surface tension dominate on all scales, and elastocapillary effects, observable only in small scales on Earth, govern the behaviour of water on a macroscopic scale, allowing large spherical drops or two-dimensional films of water. This concept is at the basis of the artwork ‘Impossible Object’. 

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The work was created as part of Rakia Art Mission (Ramon Foundation) with support by Mifal Hapais, Asylum Arts, European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program (GrowBot), and The George S. Wise Faculty of Life Science, Tel Aviv University.

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TROPISM

By Yasmine Meroz and Liat Segal

Genia Schreiber Tel Aviv University Art Gallery | January 2020 - December 2021

Curators: Dr. Tamar Mayer and Dr. Sefy Hendler

Video by: Naomi Meroz and Assaf Arviv

A field of robotic plants is positioned at the gallery space. Inspired by natural plant behavior, the large-scale shoots slowly move in response to the changing light. Tropism, plants’ motion in response to stimuli, is expressed by the carbon-fiber mechanical shoots as they follow the artificial magenta sunrises and sunsets.

Curators Text | Dr. Tamar Mayer and Dr. Sefy Hendler

We have before us a field of robotic “plants,” which traces the characteristics and behaviors of real plants. The artist Liat Segal, known for her sophisticated use of technology, has created giant stalks that respond to changing light in the gallery space. Similar to plants in nature, their motion follows the light and adapts as it changes. The stalks are coated with carbon fibers, a material that incorporates both organic and artificial qualities, imparting to the stalks a futuristic feeling. Their motion is based on scientific data from the research of Dr. Yasmine Meroz, who studies plants’ memory and decision making – research being conducted as part of the GrowBot project, with financing by the European Union.
This innovative collaboration between an artist and a scientist has subverted the common notions we hold about plants. In medicine, the state called “vegetable” indicates a loss of consciousness, thought, recognition, and ability to absorb information from the surroundings. This approach can be traced to Aristotle’s claim that plants lack comprehension, senses, and motion. But today we know that all this is untrue: plants respond to external stimuli and even respond with movement. The work before us makes us aware of them as rational beings, capable of learning, solving problems, and making decisions – beings with complex comprehension and behavior which is not human, but not necessarily inferior to that of humans.


”Tropism,” directional movement in response to external stimuli, challenges the familiar hierarchy between nature and humanity. In the strange, surrealistic world that Segal has created, the plants have grown to human proportions and move about at human speed. The mechanical soundtrack of their movements stands in opposition to plants’ calm, balanced behavior in nature. This is a work that asks the viewer to consider changes that take place over time, in the artificial sunrises and sunsets that illuminate the gallery and the stalks’ reaction to them. Natural plants, rooted in the ground, act as an integral element of a wide net of species – allies and rivals. Even though plants compete for resources, they do not fight with species that are stronger than them, and they know how to establish an optimal balance between their need for survival and their need to protect their immediate environment. In this sense we, human beings, have a great deal to learn from plants about the equilibrium required for a sustainable way of life.

The work was supported by Mifal Hapais, European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program (GrowBot), and The George S. Wise Faculty of Life Science, Tel Aviv University.

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