Etherospermia: Conceptual art, science and allegory in the sky-seeding project


This paper presents the practice of the artist/researcher Ioannis Michaloudis. It showcases his use of a space technology nanomaterial, silica aerogel, and its potential in the cultural utilization of space. Since 2001, his projects have centered around the esthetic, sculptural and conceptual use of silica aerogel. For Michaloudis, this material is highly allegorical of what he terms ‘our breaking sky’. For the authors, the step towards space is a real ‘bridge moment’, analogous to the evolutionary progression of organisms from water to earth. In this current era of space exploration, it is clear that humans need to develop new organs and survival skills – or, cultivate new skies in response to the breaking of our atmosphere’s dome. It is also clear that science and art need to collaborate more productively. To this end, it is argued that allegory provides the link between imaginability, experiment and representation in both scientific and artistic practices. Etherospermia (εθεροσπερμία) is an invented word from ether and panspermia. The Etherospermia project pursues, allegorically, the creation of new atmospheres on other planets, in order to draw attention to the degradation and destruction of the earth’s protective veil. Imagine an astronaut who, during a space walk, scatters fragments of Michaloudis’ silica aerogel as seed material to alter the atmospheres of other planets, making them habitable. The paper discusses nine artworks as a way of presenting the conceptual core of the etherospermia allegory.