Defying Gravity


Event details

Date and time 04.05.2021 23.05.202111:0018:00  
Place and room
Speaker [email protected], Nicolas Fournier, Justine Willa
Category Exhibitions
EPFL's Asclepios project invites you to imagine what it would be like to travel to outer-space through a new exhibition in EPFL Pavilions, Pavilion A, from May 4-23. 

The name Asclepios refers to the Greek god of medicine, the central figure of the healer holding a serpent in the constellation of Ophiuchus vel Serpentarius. In the present imagining, Asclepios is the name of a project initiated in August 2019 whose aim is to organize a mission simulating a space expedition. It is linked to EPFL’s [email protected] student association, whose mission is to make space sciences more accessible to the general public. Asclepios is one of the first initiatives in the world to propose an analog mission to space, an initiative developed entirely by students, for students, with the help of academic institutions, scientists, as well as industry support. Asclepios has teamed up with CDH Culture and EPFL Pavillions to share their experience with the wider community through the exhibition "Defying Gravity."

The exhibition and the reflection:
On two projection walls, Asclepios presents a frieze that traces its history and the dynamics that led it to prepare its first mission, planned for July 2021. Photos and videos immerse visitors in the settings for the mission: the training sessions in a frozen lake or the tunnels of its base. It also provokes reflection on the context in which these images were captured. 

More generally, Defying Gravity offers a reflection on what is at stake in the first mission of the Asclepius project. It is a matter of imagining and then completing the difficult passage from reality to fiction. Analog astronauts, by definition, are not actually on the moon. And yet, in practice, they must convince themselves that they are, in other words, that the environment itself is spatial and thus inhospitable. This exhibition offers this mental and conceptual journey, as a prelude to a lived experience. 

Artistic collaborations:
Furthermore, Defying gravity is also an opportunity to showcase artistic partnerships the project has been able to forge, inspiring the painter Nicolas Fournier and the student of photography Justine Willa. 

Nicolas Fournier, a graduate of l’Ecole Supérieure d’arts visuels (HEAD), follows the experiences of Asclepios closely. For the exhibition, he created Space Launch System, a frieze of 910x126 cm which is installed on a central illuminated table and thus becomes a kind of horizontal launch-ramp for the Asclepios project. Formally, it is almost monochromatic, produced with colors prepared from a base of Prussian blue and Van Dyck brown. It symmetrically depicts multiple representations tied to spatial engines, figures of scientists, a space center, meteorites, an asteroid, a solar flare, a volcanic crater, an aurora australis. Topical elements are also inserted, with representations of the virus, or of the terrestrial reality such as amber fishermen in the Baltic Sea. Evoking images from science fiction or from film footage, this gigantic painting is a magisterial work that tells the imaginary story of an artistic journey as well as a terrestrial and cosmic mission. 

For her part, Justine Willa explores through video and photography the relations that the mission-in-training may have with mental fictions. 

Free admission