The Mir Space Station: An Unlikely Place for a Beautiful Art Exhibit

The interior of Russian space station Mir was not known for its pizazz — US astronaut Jerry Linenger called it “as drab as a Moscow winter” — and it ended up being crowded and cluttered with all sorts of unused equipment and old experiments. So, Mir was an unlikely place for an art exhibit … and perhaps why it was called an “art intervention” by one of the artists.

In the video above you can see a green “creature” floating freely in the Mir space station, — all angles and corners — gently brushing against spacesuits stashed in a corner. The video then shows it pivoting in the air, flashing red and green with people occasionally batting at it.

“The Cosmic Dancer”, as this art exhibition was called, came out to play during a 1993 mission on the Mir space station. It was launched on a Progress supply ship on May 22, 1993. You can see a full gallery of the space-y exhibition on the website of the artist, Arthur Woods.

While the Russians were able to accept the angular sculpture, there were precautions to ensure that the paint would not produce toxic out-gasses or otherwise harm the astronauts, Woods added, saying the sculpture was even dunked in an alcohol solution prior to launch to remove any germs.

Then there was an entire art exhibition on station in 1995, called Ars Ad Astra. From 171 works submitted from all over the world, 20 were chosen for a ride into orbit with Thomas Reiter, a German astronaut. The crew then selected one to keep on display on the station, sending the rest of them back to Earth for exhibitions all over Europe.

The winner was “When Dreams Are Born”, an artwork from the United States’ Elisabeth Caroll Smith showing two children playing near a reflection of the moon in the water.

Information about the two art exhibits, which were co-ordinated by the Swiss O.U.R.S. Project, was displayed at the Canadian Space Society annual summit in Ottawa, Canada Nov. 14 to 15.

The International Space Station has also played host to several art projects, including this light show, a music video by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, and dinosaur crafting from NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, among others.