Have you ever wondered how it would feel to float about in the weightlessness of space? Astronauts living in the zero gravity of space have been asked to convey what this experience is actually like through "space art."
The International Space Station's Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), which is called Kibo (meaning "hope"), is hosting experiments in the form of "weightless" works of art that encourage people to think about space, Earth, and humanity. Works using clay and ink have already been completed.
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In August 2008, an astronaut created two human sculptures using clay in about 40 minutes. Lightweight clay, like that commonly used in schools, was packed in an aluminum box and taken to space to make the works. Once in space the astronaut took the clay out of the box and divided it in half, with each portion being about the size of a tennis ball. He then began making a human figure. He stretched the first clay ball to shape it into a face and hands so that the different parts of the body stay attached even in space.
At first, the astronaut was asked to make a human form showing how it feels to be in the space shuttle. This prompted him to make a person who appeared to be flying, to illustrate the way people move about in the space shuttle. Next, when asked to create anything he wished, the astronaut created a human of the future. He thought about the appearance of his own face when making the eyes and nose of the figure. He had a great time working on the sculpture while floating about like a balloon. He used his hands and mind to think up new possibilities for his art.
Throughout the ages people have been creating human forms in new environments. Even in space, creating human forms is a valuable way to reflect on oneself and on humanity. Professor Yonebayashi Yuichi of Tokyo University of the Arts, who proposed the experiment, says that creativity develops through a process of grappling head-on with works of art and other things. Pondering the uncharted dimensions of space requires considerable creativity, he adds. Professor Yonebayashi holds workshops about twice a year to give children the chance to work with clay.