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Thursday, June 19, 2003
Copernica is a gallery of art commissioned by NASA (whose main website appears to have had a bit of an overhaul). We found this via Art Notes, and it's important to note that these are artistic, not technical impressions. The images in Copernica don't necessarily have a scientific purpose; instead, they document a specific event, a piece of machinery, an activity. Throughout the decades, and certainly before the dawn of the computer graphics age, NASA has been well aware of the power of a picture.

Back in the golden days of the space age, artists were beavering away in studios all over America creating visions of the future (a future that never came? We recommend Where's my space age? for those who still feel vaguely misled). When art met raw futurism, the results were frequently spectacular. Science fiction illustrators were deployed to full effect by the space agency - just look at these images of cylindrical space colonies, images that wouldn't really work as computer renders, they need the human touch. (That last link is a bit of a find. Homo Excelsior bills itself as a 'peer-reviewed Memetic Scientific and Technical Encyclopedia', a guide to future thinking through art, biology, philosophy, geology, etc. etc. We shall be returning.) In comparison, today's concept drawings seem a bit soulless.

The godfather of space art was one Chesley Bonestell, who is well represented online: Bonestell.org, Bonestellgallery.com, Bonestell.com. Works like Mr Smith Goes to Venus (from March 1950. Clearly related to this) melded out of this world imagery with everyday reality, creating a wholly believable tomorrow (check the drawing of Venusian travel brochures, for example). Bonestell-style art was used extensively by NASA to create interest in future projects.

All this musing brought us to this site, Dreams of Space, sub-titled 'space art in children’s books 1950s to 1970s'. A huge and utterly fabulous compendium of the way the interstellar dream was presented to the world's youth (there are Russian and European examples as well as American works on display), the site is divided into five sections: imagination, pre-flight, countdown, lift off and flight and touchdown. The titles are wondrous: 'Show me the world of space travel', 'We read about rockets and how they work', and the texts contain a rich seam of optimism: 'Perhaps when you are grown up, rockets will be as common as airplanes are now. Then you and all your friends will be space travelers. Rockets away!’ Some of our favourite pictures from the site: I, II, not forgetting the poignant 'monkey in the rocket' (does that illustrator have a famous namesake?).

Elsewhere (a things celebrity special). Recliners designed by the cast of Friends. Compare and contrast with the homes of the Friends, as linked by travelers diagram. And all this appeared on the same day as tmn linked this bittersweet piece about David Schwimmer fighting against the heady tide of celebrity association. Back to the houses: Courtney Cox Arquette's pad is a 1979 house by John Lautner (as cited in this article and elsewhere, although you'll struggle to find any actual photos of the house in InStyle) - we guess that it's the Segel Residence. Lautner's best-known building is probably the Chemosphere, perched on an LA hillside and now owned by maverick publisher Benedikt Taschen (who lets you spy on Parisian customers sneaking a glimpse of his saucy backlist).

Listen to venerable architects talk! (via me-fi) / the MOBs, a kind of technology-assisted, ultra-perplexing, non-confrontational mass behaviour experiment / nude as the news, an extensive collection of music reviews (slightly more mainstream than Pitchfork Media), and includes contributions by the polymathic Piero Scaruffi, whose own site, Scaruffi.com, is one of the wonders of the internet / weird / redesigned catwoman.

What makes Tokyo a continually compelling yet utterly baffling urban experience? Part 1 and 2 / the history of the Daiwa House, a Japanese pre-fab / visit the glossy space galleries at Novaspace, just the place for big posters of star maps and the like.