We came all this way to explore the Moon,
And the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.
(Bill Anders, Apollo 8)
In March 2022, another edition of Mars Colony Hackathon takes place. The workshop is organised by the US Embassy, European Space Foundation and Polish Space Agency for the purpose of designing Martian city states. Karolina Wojtas and Maciek Cholewa, two Polish artists and cosmic dilettantes, fill in the application forms. Only one of them is admitted to the workshop, which he eventually leaves declaring to be simply “pissed off”. Cholewa writes to me and to Karolina: “Even if someone manages to persuade me that these advanced Martian studies and the colony are needed, the inevitable question to be asked when designing all this and subjecting it to futurological reflexion is: why bring our existing world into it?”
The duo of Karolina Wojtas and Maciek Cholewa is a team of self-proclaimed astronauts, formed naturally when the pair was developing the exhibition concept. The fairy tale image of the artists is magnified by their muscular hairy-patterned suits and spherical lampshades casually worn over their heads, with a plethora of galactic garbage in their hands. We see the falling stars and nosediving drones, the Bing Bang of fireworks and the cosmic ejaculation on Cholewa’s bald head. The artists, like photojournalists, follow their own history of an attempted space conquest. Left alone in the alien planet or returning to the Earth, they are suspended in between like road literature protagonists. They are climbing somewhere, looking for something, studying something and going into an unknown direction. In the Colonies, the world of the planet is the reality of the abandoned Polish land contrasted with visions of romanticised space conquests; it’s a sandpit made from post-mining heaps in Silesia and a temporary base located in a deserted newsagent’s shop. There is no place for large-budget productions here: after all, this art is funded by public subsidies rather than private capital.
“Space expeditions constituted the hitherto unknown and the most expensive of all possible desertions from the area of historical transformations”, says Starck in an anti-astronaut tirade in Stanisław Lem’s Return from the Stars. Escape into space is hardly anything more than serfdom in progress and an attempt to find the extra-terrestrial setting for the systems that are currently destroying our world: the systems based on capitalist exploitation and abuse. No wonder that individual astronomers raise the issue of space study ethics, as exemplified by the Just Space Alliance, an initiative advocating a more inclusive and ethical extra-terrestrial future.
Colonies tell a history that must end with death to let other lives continue. Catastrophic thinking is encouraged; here, it takes the form of wishful thoughts written on a postcard from space.