Lunar Concrete - regolith extraction from outer space and 3D printing on the moon and in mud on earth
Karen Harsbo, Lektor ved Laboratoriet for Keramik, Rikke Luther, ph.d.-studerende
This is a one-year artistic development project at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. It is developed by Karen Harsbo (Associate professor, Ceramics) and Rikke Luther (PhD student) and is aiming at practically exploring and unfolding the notion of the material lunar regolith, through 3D print and earth minerals, in form of interdisciplinary artistic research.
3D printed Lunar-concrete is linked to Sci-Fi, military, political, technological developments, the ‘New Industrial Space Industry’, and the historical background for concrete in space started with 40g of the lunar regolith in 1986.
We are in oxygen low water. We are still battered by waves from the 2008-financial crisis. In our time, democracy is aggressively interrogated from many different perspectives, which in turn determine the contexts of artistic action and research. From one side, the concept of ‘Carbon Democracy’ maps democracy’s entwined relationship to the economies of material extraction, power, and the planetary fact of ‘climate collapse’ [Mitchell, Carbon Democracy]. From another, the concept of ‘Post-Democracy’ maps out the highs and lows of democratic agency. Here, the peaks of democratic engagement in the 20th century are being levelled down by an era of rising economic and political inequality – a process that occurs both within nation states and between the nation states of the ‘developed’, and ‘developing’, worlds. In parallel, the political power of democracy is increasingly decentralised and weakened, only for that power to be re-centralised in the private boardrooms of post-national corporations. And, while this process has occurred, our climate has been warming.
Space is full of stories. And there are many ‘spaces’. Those images of coherence by which we navigate our lives, are rooted in the perspectives of particular places, social relations, history and time [Massey, For Space].The spaces of landscape, housing and urban life, and the materials we extract to support that version of life, are crisscrossed with human power relations.
We look on a concrete building, and on its material surfaces and interior spaces, and we are met by the 20th century ‘extraction economy’ that gave us the concrete architectures of democracy. Or perhaps we see the environmental destruction concrete entailed. Or perhaps we see humankind’s deep space future, a late 21st concrete modernism built on the moon or passing asteroids, as envisaged by advocates of ‘The New Space Industrial Age’.
The confluence, and divergencies, of these stories of habitation have affected how we think of planetary space, environmental change, and emergent climate chaos. The technological possibility of 3D printing lunar concrete, holds out the possibility of stabilising, and then exporting, current modes of political economy into a space future, by envisaging the earth as merely a set of exhaustible economic assets. Outer space here takes on the dynamics of the earthly UN Global Commons – ‘free’ spaces that are largely beyond the democracy of nation states and the effective regulatory grasp of international law.
Technological and military organisation have long been extensions of the existing power of the monarch and state into new territories, material and human support for the search for private profit. Meanwhile, back at the planetary level, the progressive associations of concrete Modernism have run into the wall: progress is now encircled by increasingly ‘unseasonal’ weather patterns, and undermined by the daily media outpouring of post-democratic political sentiment. Concrete culture now echoes the mid 20th century observations of Karl Polanyi. But when capitalism faces off against democracy today, it chooses what Colin Crouch dubbed ‘post-democracy’, before stretching itself out across future space.