2021 year Reviews

Outer Space V2

Michael Najjar,

Distanz, 2021,

282pp, hardback

€46.00

ISBN 978-3-95476-410-5

Michael Najjar is an artist who has taken to space in a big way and made it a key part of his career. According to the introduction to this volume, his Outer Space series deals with “the latest developments in space exploration and the way they will shape our future life on Earth, in Earth’s near orbit and on other planets”, which is quite a remit. This book is the second in the Outer Space series and covers “all works created between 2015 and early 2021”; the first volume was published in 2014.

To create these ‘works’, which one could classify as ‘photographic’ and ‘photo-manipulative’, Najjar has “travelled to the world’s leading spaceports… and visited space laboratories around the globe”. He has also photographed optical and radio telescopes, CERN’s particle accelerator and glacier caves. Alongside the images, the book contains “extensive background information on the genesis of the works”.

It also features essays by Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Frank White (of ‘Overview Effect’ fame) among other luminaries. Najjar’s team has done well to blag access to facilities usually frequented only by space professionals and their like, and persuade CEOs and others to put their names to what I strongly suspect are largely ghost-written commentaries.

All text appears in both English and German and the catalogue at the back of the book explains the reasoning behind the images. In many cases, this is just as well because the more critical reader might ask ‘what makes this worthy of inclusion?’ An Ariane 5 launch, a Soyuz booster with its red engine nozzles highlighted, ESTEC’s large space simulator… surely anyone with a decent camera, Photoshop and some skill could create these images? The answer to this question is always the same: yes they could, but this guy actually made the effort and did it!

Are the images ‘art’? That perennial question can only be answered by the beholder, but at least someone is taking an interest in what the space profession does.

Mark Williamson, Chester, UK

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