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April 6, 2022 2:31 pm
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Art Sculpture That Can’t Exist on Earth Will Go to Space With Israeli Mission

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

The “Impossible Object” artwork. Photo: Dr. Yasmine Meroz and Liat Segal.

A sculpture that tests the boundaries between physics and art will travel with Israel’s “Rakia” space mission to the International Space Station on Friday.

The sculpture, called “Impossible Object,” is a collaboration between Tel Aviv University physicist Dr. Yasmine Meroz and contemporary artist Liat Segal, who were both once graduate students at the same lab.

The research-based artwork is made of interconnecting brass pipes and rods, which water flows through. However, because the liquid’s three-dimensional form is not shaped by any vessel, the sculpture cannot exist on earth but only in the zero-gravity conditions of outer space.

In the absence of gravity, the water will “adhere to the rods, and form a liquid layer shaped by water tension, which envelopes the brass structure, yielding a three-dimensional shape that changes over time,” TAU said in a statement. “The underlying brass structure is reminiscent of a wavy and directionless staircase, raising questions about shape and form in the absence of gravity and directionality. In particular, what is the shape of water? What does a ‘slice of the sea’ or a ‘handful of a wave’ look like?”

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Meroz said that in “Impossible Object,” physics is manipulating water behavior in the absence of gravity. She added, “I learned a lot in the process, and I have no doubt it will contribute to research in my laboratory. In this respect, this work expresses the unrealized potential of the synergy between art and scientific research … both are the result of a thought process in which creativity plays a central role and are motivated by the desire to ask interesting questions.”

Segal said the sculpture “is timely, weighing the role of culture and art at an era when humanity is experiencing accelerated scientific and technological developments.”

“Following incredible technological and scientific achievements in space, and as space tourism becomes tangible, it is important to reflect on the place of culture and arts in our lives, on earth and beyond,” she noted.

“Impossible Object” is Meroz and Segal’s second collaboration. Their previous artwork, “Tropism,” was exhibited at TAU.

The 10-day trip to the International Space Station is being managed by Houston-based Axiom Space and will set off with four private astronauts. Eytan Stibbe joined the crew as part of Israel’s “Rakia” mission, spearheaded by the non-profit Ramon Foundation and the Israeli Space Agency at the Ministry of Science and Technology.

He will be the second Israeli in space and the first in the ISS.

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