Nonfunctional Satellites

The “nonfunctional satellites” are sculptures designed to be placed into low-earth orbit where they will appear as bright points of light slowly moving across the sky to viewers on earth’s surface. They are designed to last for only a few weeks before burning up in the atmosphere. Developed in collaboration with aerospace engineers, the designs combine maximum reflectivity and surface area with minimum weight.

Prototype for a Nonfunctional Satellite (Design 4; Build 4), 2013
Mixed media
16 x 16 x 16 feet
Installation test at Hangar, Nevada, 2013
Installation test of Prototype for a Nonfunctional Satellite at Hangar, Nevada, 2013

These designs are responses to the question of what aerospace engineering would look like if its methods were decoupled from the corporate and military interests underlying the industry. The nonfunctional satellite recasts the old question of “art for art’s sake” within a different context, asking whether we can imagine something like “aerospace engineering for aerospace engineering’s sake.” As such, the spacecraft is a kind of “impossible object” that works as both a critique of the militarization and commercialization of the night sky, and a way to imagine how things could be different.

Prototype for a Nonfunctional Satellite (Design 4; Build 3), 2013
Mixed media
12 x 12 x 12 feet
Installation view at Protocinema, Istanbul, 2013

The “nonfunctional satellites” were shown in different occasions, such as at Nevada Museum of Art, at Protocinema in Istanbul, at Nam June Paik Art Center in Seoul and several other occasions.

Prototype for a Nonfunctional Satellite, 2014
Mixed media
Dimensions variable
Installation view at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, 2015.
Prototype for a Nonfunctional Satellite (Design 4, Build 2), 2015
Mixed media
18 x 18 x 2 feet
Installation view at Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, East Lansing, 2015