American and Russian Voices from Outer Space: Constructing the Unknown in Popular Space Art

By Kornelia Agnieszka Boczkowska.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper aims to examine the art of space travel and extraterrestrial landscape, where I inquire into the American cultural construct of the unknown and compare it with its Soviet/Russian counterpart. A visual semiotic analysis is based on varied space art works pervading 20th century visual media, including science and popular magazines. The genre of space art, so far hardly explored in scholarly terms, proves to be a valuable cultural artifact, representing an array of encoded meanings whose analysis blurs the boundaries between cultural studies, conceptual art, semiotics, cognition and visual communication. Investigating selected works of scientists, artists or space travelers, including Georgi Kurnin, Aleksei Leonov, Andrei Sokolov, Chesley Bonestell, David Hardy or William K. Hartmann, aims to reveal certain cross-cultural differences between the two nations’ construction of the unknown. Its representation sheds lights on the nations’ disparate systems of depicting yet unexplored realms of experience, generating fear and mysticism or utilizing familiar semiotic codes to communicate ideas related to outer space. These ideas turn out to be to a large extent culturally-determined, ranging from dread, awe, wonder and excitement to mystery, mysticism, elusiveness and magic.

Keywords: Cultural Studies, American-Russian Studies, Space Art, Visual Grammar

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.33-41. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 426.477KB).

Kornelia Agnieszka Boczkowska

PhD Student, School of English, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland

I’m a PhD student in the Faculty of English at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. I received my MA in Russian (2010) and English (2011), for which I was awarded a prize from the Head of the School of English of Adam Mickiewicz University for the best M.A. thesis in literary studies. Currently, I’m working on my PhD project which is focused on examining American-Russian cross-cultural differences in relation to cultural studies and cross-cultural psychology. My recent project involves a visual investigation of the American and Russian space/astronomical art in terms of analytic and holistic representation and cognitive styles.