Michael Najjar's "outer space" work 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. From antiquity to the present day, the Universe has inspired mankind to go beyond the horizons of the known. The attempt to penetrate the far reaches of space bears witness to our innate sense of curiosity, our drive for exploration and our unquenchable desire to push back frontiers and go beyond them.
Today the human species is facing growing threats on planet Earth including overpopulation, climate change, terraforming, diminishing resources, and shortages in the energy, food and water supply. Despite the fact that we need to protect our home planet, colonization of our solar system might be the ultimate solution to guarantee survival of our species. Innovations in space travel will engineer sustainable technologies that will help us better maintain our own Spaceship Earth. By expanding the human presence throughout the solar system we will achieve the next level of evolution, the homo spaciens - a new type of human being highly adapted to the space environment and more capable of exploring and settling it, capable of living away from Earth. We need to extend our existential framework of reference from one that is purely Earth-bound to one which includes Earth orbits and outer space in general. There is no dichotomy between Earth and space - the Earth itself is already in space.
The cultural dimension represented by emergent cutting-edge space technologies is very much at the center of Najjar´s work. This ongoing series started in 2011 with the final launch of the American Space Shuttle Atlantis and currently comprises 50 photographic artworks and 5 video works. The artist has traveled to the world´s most important spaceports like the Kennedy Space Center in the USA, Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and the Guiana Space Centre near Kourou in French Guiana. He has met with numerous scientists, engineers and astronauts, and visited space laboratories around the globe constructing new spacecraft, satellites and telescopes. He traveled to the Atacama Desert in Chile to photograph the world´s most powerful telescopes located at sites across high altitude plateaus in the Andes. In China he photographed FAST the world´s largest radio telescope hidden secretely in deep forest; in Iceland he explored the issue of terraforming, climbing down into glacier caves to portray the melting ice sheets. His collaboration with leading scientists, engineers and space agencies has given him privileged access to locations which are usually unknown to, and unseen by, the public. Like in Switzerland where he was given access to CERN, the world´s largest particle accelerator. The present series focuses on the interfaces between art, science and technology, and blends documentary and fictive scenarios to create visionary enactments and unique artworks of current and future space exploration.
One essential hallmark of Najjar’s work is the way it is deeply informed by an experiential hands-on approach. The intimate experience of “living through” situations which provide the leitmotifs of his art is vital to the artist. This performative aspect has also become a fundamental part of Najjar´s work process and will culminate in the artist´s own flight into space. As one of the pioneer astronauts of Virgin Galactic, Michael Najjar will be embarking on SpaceShipTwo on one of its future spaceflights where he will be the first artist to travel in space. To prepare for this flight Najjar is conducting an intensive and ongoing astronaut training program at Star City (GCTC), Russia, the German Space Center (DLR) in Cologne and the National Aerospace Training and Research (NASTAR) Center in the USA. Defying physical limits, the artist puts his body through a grueling series of training sessions including a stratospheric flight in a MiG-29 jet fighter, zero gravity flights, centrifugal spins, underwater space-walk training in a heavy astronaut suit, and a HALO jump from an altitude of 10,000m: all these are situations of extremity which he captures on camera to investigate his own physical and mental responses and exemplify them in his works.
The series also includes an assembly of contemporary visions of future life and work in space. Inherent in the actual artworks, these visions are commissioned by the artist and articulated in a series of "vision statements" written by leading figures in space exploration, science, architecture and philosophy including Buzz Aldrin, Richard Branson, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Anousheh Ansari, and Norman Foster.
Works from the “outer space” series have been exhibited internationally in numerous galleries, biennials and museums. In 2015, the prestigious DISTANZ Verlag, Berlin, published a comprehensive book on the series. In 2017 Michael Najjar published the book “Planetary Echoes”, a collection of essays about the future colonization of our solar system.