Michael Benson’s Otherworlds: Visions of Our Solar System

from 01. June 2016
A photographic tour of the solar system in a mesmerizing new exhibition
Visit Otherworlds, a photographic tour of the solar system in a mesmerizing new exhibition by Michael Benson at the Natural History Museum Vienna, running from June 1st until September 18th, 2016.

Otherworlds reveals the eerie beauty of the Solar System and decisively demonstrates that the visual legacy of six decades of space exploration constitutes an important chapter in the history of photography. Over 70 composite images by artist and curator and writer Michael Benson fuse art and science: raw data provided by NASA and ESA missions has been painstakingly processed and assembled, producing a remarkable series of landscapes currently beyond direct human experience.

Michael Benson comments, “During the last six decades, an absolutely unprecedented and momentous story has unfolded. After centuries of human speculation about them, the first actual expeditions to the planets have taken place. Through the agency of our camera-bearing robotic avatars, we’ve seen Earth dwindle to the size of a single pixel as we voyaged far beyond any place ever directly visited by human beings.

 “As a result, the solar system’s archipelago of turning worlds has become palpably, vividly real. As a retrospective look at this story, the Otherworlds exhibition surveys an entire genre of photography and presents the solar system’s dazzling diversity of landscapes.”

Michael Benson's work focuses on the intersection of art and science. An artist, writer and filmmaker, in the last decade Benson has staged a series of increasingly large-scale shows of planetary landscape photography in the US and internationally. Benson takes raw data from planetary science archives and processes it, editing, compositing, and then ‘tiling’ individual spacecraft frames, producing seamless large-format digital C prints of landscapes currently beyond direct human experience.

Otherworlds: Visions of Our Solar System Visions of Our Solar System opened in the Jerwood Gallery of London’s Natural History Museum in January 2016, featuring new music composed by Brian Eno. Among other new works, including of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto, the show will contain extraordinarily large and detailed new views of Earth — perhaps the largest, most detailed prints of our planet ever exhibited.

Powerful in their depiction of alien landscapes currently beyond direct human experience, Benson’s work makes the case that the visual legacy of sixty years of robotic planetary exploration constitutes an exceptional chapter in the history of visual representation. He is also an award-winning filmmaker, with work that straddles the line between fiction and documentary film practice. In Predictions of Fire and other films, staged studio scenes and animated sequences alternate with straight documentary material.

In 2008-10, Benson worked with director Terrence Malick to help produce space and cosmology sequences for Malick's film Tree of Life, which drew in part from Benson's book and exhibition projects. The film won the Palm d’Or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Benson’s fifth book for Abrams, Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time, came out in October 2014, receiving front-page coverage in The New York Times. The book was a finalist for the Science and Technology award at the 2015 Los Angeles Times “Festival of Books.” He has contributed to many magazines and newspapers, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Smithsonian, and Rolling Stone. Benson is currently using a scanning electron microscope at MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NYC, to focus on natural design at sub-millimeter scales for a project titled Nanocosmos.

He’s a Fellow of the New York Institute of the Humanities and a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Media Lab.