Five… four… three… two… one… lift-off…
Do you know when the famous ‘countdown to zero’ was first used? It wasn’t at a real rocket launch, but in Fritz Lang’s 1929 silent science fiction film Woman in the Moon. This is just one of many fascinating things I’ve discovered while working with ACMI’s Exhibitions team.
In October last year, I was offered the opportunity to boldly go where no-one (well, not me anyway) had gone before – into an internship position with a then-untitled ACMI exhibition in Gallery One. All I knew was that the focus was on space exploration as experienced through the moving image. This exhibition has gradually evolved to become Star Voyager: Exploring Space on Screen, to be opened to the public in September.
As a self-confessed science fiction geek, being presented with the chance to spend hours every week sifting through space adventures, futuristic battles and obscure episodes of Doctor Who was an offer I couldn’t refuse!
My main task for the exhibition was to watch and research every piece of space-related science fiction and documentary cinema that I could get my hands on, to see what might or might not fit into the ever-evolving Star Voyager show.
It wasn’t until I first started looking for moving image works that I realised just how much is out there. Whether you’re after the grand and complex (2001: A Space Odyssey), the kitsch and nostalgic (Thunderbirds), the action-packed and blockbuster-y (Total Recall), or the charmingly imaginative (A Trip to the Moon), I soon learned that cinema has reflected space for as long as we have experienced cinema.
I also learned that the relationship between space and cinema is not a one-way street. For every example of real-life space exploration influencing cinema, there was always another example of science fiction films having an influence on real life events. Stanley Kubrick took us to the Moon a year before NASA did, Silent Running gave us an early version of today’s space bio-domes, and, of course, Fritz Lang gave us the famous countdown to zero, which was later adopted by real space agencies.
Space and screen became even more interconnected when astronauts began making their own films to document their missions. We’re lucky enough to be able to exhibit the camera used on board Apollo 12 in this upcoming exhibition, along with the extraordinary footage it captured.
As more and more objects, artworks and moving image pieces have been added to Star Voyager over the past ten months, the exhibition has developed into an enthralling journey through the camera lens and into the final frontier. Science and science fiction have never been so closely intertwined. I have been extraordinarily privileged to see the project through, and cannot wait until it opens to the public on Thursday 22 September.
By Jacinta Palmer, volunteer
Star Voyager: Exploring Space on Screen opens on Thursday 22 September.