The New Poetics of Gravity
In this paper, I want to contextualise airspace, and the material culture which goes with it, in a landscape of different gravities and pressures which range from the ocean depths to the broader solar system. Aviation and spaceflight are historically and technologically entangled. The first humans to enter space were recruited from the ranks of test pilots and skydivers. As shells enclosing habitable environments, aeroplanes, rockets, shuttles and space stations have common geometries and constraints. Each is designed to function within a certain range of conditions in the gravity well centred on Earth.
To provide structure I’ll draw on Gaston Bachelard’s 1958 classic The Poetics of Space. Although published in year 2 of the Space Age, following the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, outer space is implicit in this work. Nonetheless, Bachelard’s categories provide entry points for exploring the materiality of air and space through miniatures, outside and inside, shells, and roundness. My ultimate aim is to investigate how gravity shapes human behaviour by foregrounding it rather than assuming its invariance.
Dr Alice Gorman is an internationally recognised leader in the field of space archaeology. Her research focuses on the archaeology and heritage of space exploration, including space junk, planetary landing sites, off-earth mining, rocket launch pads and antennas. She is a Senior Lecturer at Flinders University and a Director on the Board of the Space Industry Association of Australia. In 2017 she won the Bragg UNSW Press Prize for Science Writing. Her book Dr Space Junk vs the Universe: Archaeology and the Future was published in April 2019. She tweets as @drspacejunk and blogs at Space Age Archaeology.