Arthur Woods «The Cosmic Dancer» 1993 - 2003.

Arthur Woods, Cosmic Dancer 2, 1993

The Cosmic Dancer, created in 1993 by Arthur Woods, an American artist living in Switzerland. The primary viewers for The Cosmic Dancer lived with the «terrors and pleasures of levitation» in conditions of zero gravity. A sharp-angled form launched to the Mir Space Station on May 22, 1993, The Cosmic Dancer stressed the cultural dimension of space since it created the experience of art integrated into a human environment beyond Earth.

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Arthur Woods, Cosmic Dancer, 1993
Cosmonaut Gennadi Manakov dancing with the Cosmic Dancer Sculpture.

The video that documents the project shows the two Russian cosmonauts Alexander Polischuk and Gennadi Mannakov performing (rotating, hovering, flying) with the sculpture in the confines of Mir, where the sculpture was left. The flaming remnants of the Mir space station plunged into the South Pacific on March 23, 2002. In the case of Arthur Woods, the performance of the cosmonauts complements his project.

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As one watches the video documentation, one feels that the cosmonauts stand vicariously for all viewers, that is, all those who in the future will have the opportunity to experience space as a social and cultural milieu, and not only as a research lab. The Cosmic Dancer opens a new world of speculative inquiry into the future of art in worlds other than the Earth. While we remain confined to the blue planet, artists seeking to explore levitation beyond magnetism and electromagnetism can investigate advanced techniques presently only found in research laboratories. A high-temperature electrostatic levitator allows the control of heating and levitation independently and, unlike an electromagnetic levitator, does not require that the floating object be a conductor of electric charge. Acoustic levitators enable the suspension of liquids in a state of equilibrium through acoustic radiation force. Also, liquids can be suspended by a gas jet and stabilized by acoustic forces. Superconductor levitators enable objects to float above a magnet in fog of liquid nitrogen. With a laser levitator it is possible to trap gas bubbles in water and create a condition of stable levitation by applying optical radiation pressure of the light beam horizontally and vertically. At last, as levitation touches biology, molecular magnetism is predicated on the application of ordinary but very strong magnetic forces over a regular object. The forces are directed upwards and take advantage of the very weak magnetic response of the object present in the field, enabling the levitation of objects usually not regarded as capable of levitation (such as plastics) and living organisms (plants, insects, small animals -- and conceivably humans, if the field could be made strong enough). These techniques offer a glimpse into what might be possible when life in the international space station becomes more common, when colonization of the Moon goes from science fiction to science fact, and when the space program overcomes what, in the public opinion, is its most exciting challenge: the Mars landing. The creation of new alloys and compounds in zero gravity and the prospect of interplanetary colonization suggest that space exploration is more than a metaphor in art. It is a physical and conceptual challenge that must be met.