Falcon 9 reusable boosters

Above: The Falcon 9 reusable rocket boosters return to Earth in a synchronized landing in Florida. Credit: SpaceX.

Falcon 9

For Damien Hirst the 9/11 attackers did "something which nobody would ever have thought possible." He felt that many people would "shy away" from looking at the event as art but he believed the World Trade Centre attack was "kind of like an artwork in its own right." As Hirst qualified, "It was wicked, but it was devised in this way for this kind of impact. It was devised visually ... I think our visual language has been changed by what happened on September 11."

For Karlheinz Stockhausen 9/11 was "the greatest work of art ever," a journalist then asked him if he equated art and crime. He answered: "It [9/11] is a crime because the people were not agreed. They didn't go to the 'concert.' That is clear. And no one gave them notice that they might die."

In the light of images of terror attacks that are watched as live-breaking-news by billions of humans simultaneously, critical theorist Paul Virilio has repeatedly exhorted artists to wake up and recognize that compelling images shared-globally-and-instantaneously represent the terminal or ultimate format of audio-visual communication.

In this regard, the astonishing sight of the synchronized re-entry and landing of the Elon Musk/SpaceX Falcon 9 reusable launch system rocket boosters can be thought of as an event which has the status of an artwork and one which precisely uses the "art space" or at least the "visual communications space" of the live-streaming-news audio-video. As Hirst and Stockhausen both alluded to: in relation to such an event--and the frisson of watching it unfold live--an artwork in a room, or a concert in a room, even one that has cost millions-of-dollars to produce, can seem flat, dull, not really essential to the times in which we live, i.e., in the midst of the Digital Revolution. The basic essential quality of the visual image in the early-twenty-first-century is not a component of the image itself but its ability to become instantaneously ubiquitous.

The Falcon 9 re-entry-and-landing seems to incorporate a definite awareness of this status as "artwork" in that the event did indeed have the quality of having been carefully choreographed, art-directed, crafted.

(10 February 2018)