Ars Electronica 1986
Festival-Program 1986
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Festival 1979-2007


The Orbital Age

'Peter Weibel Peter Weibel

The military space policy, the vision of a space-based missile-defense system, (Strategic Defense Initiative—SDI) have—though under negative aspects—brought to the public-at-large's attention that for the past two decades Man has learned to leave our globe and the planetary surface. But not only satellites and space ships move in orbital circles, even our ideas do. Outer space shall not be left to armament, but serve as a perspective of new connections, although for the moment outer space is treated mostly as a scenario of military interests and as a possible battlefield, TV and information satellites positioned there do show the orbital technology's chance to overcome not only political frontiers. Our symposium shall serve the purpose of finding out the perspectives of this new orbital age, the changes that human civilization is undergoing by the conquest of the orbital spheres of Outer Space.

We find ourselves at the end of a planetary thinking, where our globe was considered the "Nomos" of history. This has resulted in creating a world-spanning, unifying order of Earth and Space. This global order, though, tended towards a dangerous universalization, towards a totalitary One-World, the World State, taking away any possibility for emigration. With the orbital sphere we are now leaving the "Nomos of Earth", the Laws of our planet Earth, and humanity is offered the chance of doing away with the dangers of planetarization and universalization of a mono-world and a mono-culture. Only an orbital perspection allows us to become new constructors of the globe. In the orbital sphere the closedness of the world opens towards the endless universe. The orbital atmosphere will on long terms become our world to live in, on short terms it helps us to overcome the global border lines of our planet Earth.

The satellite"Pionier 10" has among his baggage a draft of two human beings (male and female) and a sketch of our solar system. This ID-card of the homo sapiens designed for an eventual encounter with outside intelligence is the first orbital communication. This starwards shifting of the borders is testified by about 1500 satellites moving in orbit already today, 1500 orbital ambassadors. They also testify the dislocation, the opening and the abolition of global boundaries. Our symposium tries to collect thinkers, scientists, artists, philosophers, technicians, media experts, whose works already show an orbital conception of thinking, who already cope with problems connected to our leaving the planetary sphere—such as the idea of boundaries.

Thus lectures describing the technical and scientifical developments will be held, lectures about how the conquest of orbital ways has taken place and how their momentary status both military and informational is. How missiles and messages are ventilated in orbital space.

The theory of ecological inseparability (everything is connected with everything, so that a cause in one place may show effects in another after a long period of time, effects that cannot be foreseen by us now) is an example for an orbital overcoming of planetary thinking in global borderlines. It shows that the borders drafted are wrong. Calendar and working hours changes will thus be the topics of lectures as well as ecological processes. Are the great multi-national companies the real world-wide societies who want to secure themselves power in outer space by conquering the orbital sphere? Or is the orbital point of view exactly that point beyond the Earth—which Archimedes already dreamt of from where positive changes may be inflicted upon the world? The Orbital Age, anyway, has already begun—to clarify this and to present the consequences is the goal of our symposium occupying itself for the first time with this complexity of topics, within the settings of a festival which has itself the goal of reflecting the connections between Art, Technology and Society.

Peter Weibel