MAGNETIC MINDS is a new series spotlighting creative change-makers on the bleeding edge of paradigm-shifting perspectives and innovative industries.
Our esteemed guest this Women's History Month is Richelle Gribble – an art astronaut and systems artist shaping the future for humanity in space and its impact on our ever-evolving and interdependent world.
RICHELLE GRIBBLE is a multidisciplinary artist exploring planetary connectivity, both on and off Earth. Her work examines the nature of networks and systems-based investigations to reflect on the ways that human impact, technology, and environment interact and evolve.
She is the Founding Director of SUPERCOLLIDER, an art + sci + tech exhibition platform and satellite initiative and co-founder of Beyond Earth, an artist collective exploring frontiers of art and space.
Using art as a passport to new worlds, Richelle has launched her art and built installations for outer space on a half-dozen rockets and satellites, collaborating with innovative space companies and scientists to elevate art to new heights and quite frankly, go where no woman has ever gone before.
Having traveled near the North Pole, made art under the ocean, lived in a simulated Mars environment, Richelle Gribble continues to fuse scientific expeditions with artistic creation that illuminate a sense a wonder and provide space for us to ponder the deeper meaning of what it means to be human in our rapidly-changing world.
MM: It's so exciting to be showcasing your groundbreaking work with this new series. I love how your art is very intentional about making people aware – that changing our perspective holds the key for us to unlock our capacity to connect & change our worldview. And that in togetherness will we need the strength to change the world.
As an artist, how do you communicate your vision for the future?
RG: My role as an artist is to expand perspective, and more specifically on global connectivity. To do so, I embark on expeditions to observe from various vantage points (micro to macro scales) – expanding from Earth-to-space.
I believe that in order to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues of our time, it is crucial to build a global perspective to incite collaborative action.
My intentions are twofold: first, I want to shift people’s perspective to harness the Overview Effect, a broadened worldview to get a better understanding of one’s role and social/environmental responsibility on a connected planet; and secondly, to show that the sky is not the limit and our creativity is boundless.
Much like the Overview Effect, seeing the world from a different perspective ignites newfound awe and commitment. I want to share this sensation, from the ground to the skies, to let us all marvel at our home planet and how interconnected we really are.
I dive deep into the systems that connect the planet, which ultimately led me to science. Working with industry experts in diverse fields including ecology, aerospace, biotech, and activism gives meaning to these networks. Within these topics, I find that there are incredible opportunities when creating overlap across topics, linking ideas and people.
I explore the intersections themselves: the networks. As an artist, I have a unique position to move between disciplines, indulging in my nomadic practice, to find new ways to interpret and share scientific discoveries.
MM: In a way, I view your work, as I would an architect's. By exploring the space-between – you learn to understand the world built around you. These relationships you draw and the intersections of these different forms and discipline – ultimately create new meaning. How do you synthesize all these disciplines in your artwork?
RG: As performance philosopher Jason Silva mentions, “[o]ur painting, our songs, our stories — they are maps from where we went.” My mission is to share these places through art - the organisms, social systems, and ecosystems - to let others feel a part of something bigger than themselves and to see things in a new way.
I combine my interests in art, space, and exploration to far-reaching places —using my art as my passport to international artist residencies, scientific expeditions, and space analog mission. Often times, I am accompanied by crews of scientists or researchers, which aids my creative projects offering new tools and approaches to learning and making art.
I find that science and art have a lot in common. Artists and scientists both require immense observation of the world around us, providing new perspective about oneself and the environment. Both disciplines also venture into the unknown, following a question or an observation in search of a breakthrough or greater understanding.
Activism is then born from what art and science reveals—it humanizes research into action. Each of these disciplines capture my attention: art, science and activism reflect the world as it is and envision what the future could be.
MM: Observing your work, it holds a ton of relevance to this very moment we are living in today. The pandemic was a rude awakening across the world causing an overview effect – each of us experiencing it in our own unique way. How has the quarantine been for you?
RG: The quarantine experience is tangible proof of our inherent global interconnectivity. In early March when lockdown set in, making art felt like all I could do to process unusual transformations happening in the world. In isolation I contemplated connection, while also documenting the changes happening in my surroundings. I began a series of daily drawings called “Quarantine Life,” which was a way to document the day-to-day experience and observations during shelter-in-place.
To stay focused and creative, I pursue a creative project daily. Whether this is by writing, curating, strategizing, or making something, I am always pushing myself to elaborate on an idea or impulse. To kickstart creativity, turning on an inspiring song or video often stimulates my imagination. Other times, I focus my attention by looking at something closely or step outside in nature, which helps me see the complex beauty of the world around me. It is within these moments of intense observation - whether it is a sight or a sound - that inspiration comes in and creativity flows out.
“Quarantine Life” reflected on my personal experience during COVID-19 as well as common experiences felt globally. I also co-created the Great Pause Project, a crowdsourced initiative to collect photos and written responses about people’s pandemic experiences worldwide. Through the tragedies and challenges of 2020, I think it becomes clear just how interdependent we are; I hope that we will never forget.
This is one of the rare moments when a global society is meant to pause and rethink their role in a networked society, changing actions for the needs of others.
I recently returned from a Mars simulation at the Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS), Sensoria Mission 2 with an all-female crew. We lived and worked inside of a Habitat on the top of one of the largest volcanos in the world called Mauna Loa, which has a very similar environment to that of Mars. Our mission was to undergo scientific and creative research while experiencing the Martian world. All aspects of the mission relate to what life would be like on Mars: our lightweight packing list, our limited food and water supply, 20 minute communication delays to Mission Control, our use of spacesuits every time we left the Habitat, and so on.
My role on the Mars mission was as the Vice Commander and Creative Research Specialist, overseeing crew operations and undergoing various space-art projects and research to contemplate human factors in space settlement.
While on Mars, I documented and tested several art projects that will be flown to Earth’s stratosphere this spring, as well as made site-specific projects inspired by the local geology and materials on Mars.
This included projecting Cave Paintings of the 21st Century on the walls of Martian caves, painting Martian rocks with red iron oxide dust and saliva to document the pristine landscape, and burying a time capsule containing artworks sequenced into synthetic DNA. I used augmented reality and 3D scanners to physically capture the Martian terrain so that others could experience it back on Earth, without the need to exploit or take anything from the red planet.
This expedition to Mars was organized by the Internal MoonBase Alliance (IMA) and runs research projects in collaboration with NASA Goddard. It was a tremendous honor and privilege to experience this analog mission, one step closer in my training to be an art-astronaut.
Bringing art off-world made me realize just how important it is on a space mission: art enables us to travel and expand beyond the confines of the small Habitat, and reach as far as we need to go in our imagination.
MM: If you can speak to a young artist today, what would you say?
Do not talk yourself out of doing things! If you have a creative impulse or idea, follow it. When desire pulls at you, it is not meant to be ignored. We all have a hunger for something and there are moments in our lives when those bread crumbs lead a trail. We have a choice to follow them or not, but the hunger will keep coming back until you do.
I follow my desire because it guides me beyond what I think ever possible. I never thought I would be able to travel the world with my art. And, never did I think I would be able to launch my art to space and undergo astronaut training. Desire lets you lead a life where the sky is truly not the limit. Only a life led with desire can you find this out for yourself.
MM: It's been wonderful to see the world through your lens. Thank you for sharing that we all have the power to reimagine a better future – one where we can live in harmony with one another and our planet Earth.