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The Smithsonian Institution

Its Only a Paper Moon: The Cyborg Eye of Vija Celmins


Author(s): CcileWhiting
Source: American Art, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Spring 2009), pp. 36-55
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
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Vija Celmins, Moon Surface (Surveyor 1), 197172. Graphite on acrylic ground on paper, 14 x 181/2 in.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Edward R. Broida 2009 Vija Celmins. Photo,
McKee Gallery, New York

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Its Only a Paper Moon


The Cyborg Eye of Vija Celmins
Ccile Whiting

In 1969 the Riko Mizuno Gallery in Los


Angeles, on La Cienega Boulevard at the
epicenter of the thriving contemporary
art scene, opened the first exhibition
devoted exclusively to the work of
Vija Celmins. The drawings on view,
something more than a dozen, were split
between images of the ocean and depictions of the surface of the moon.1 While
Celmins based her mesmerizing drawings
of ocean waves (fig. 1) on photographs
of the Pacific that she snapped with her
own camera while standing on the pier
near her studio in Venice, California, her
lunar images (frontispiece) reproduced
photographs of a distant terrain taken by
unmanned spacecraft and disseminated
by the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA). Proximate and
faraway places would coexist in Celminss
oeuvre throughout the 1970s. In her oneperson show at the Whitney Museum of
American Art in New York in 1973, she
exhibited drawings of the desert derived
from photographs she took during walks
through the deserts in Arizona, California,
and New Mexico. That same year Celmins
undertook her first drawings of galaxies
inspired by a photograph of the Coma
Berenices constellation she obtained
from NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory
in Pasadena. All these artworks court
the sublime by representing places that

because of their expansiveness are difficult


to measure and comprehend in their
entirety, much less to contain in a single
image.
Simply in resembling photographs
so closely, Celminss drawings implicitly
refer to her photographic sources as well
as to the geographic places they depict.
As viewers of her first exhibition in Los
Angeles were quick to note, these drawings, with their framing white borders
and precise, minute graphic marks, look
like photographs when seen from a distance and reveal their status as drawings
only up close. In contrast to the ocean
and desert snapshots that Celmins took
herself, however, the moon drawings were
based on photographs produced by the
most advanced technology of the age.
The moon drawings, in fact, foreground
the collaboration between body and
machine that made details of the alien
lunar landscape visible to the human eye.
In them Celmins explored how being able
to see a faraway and unattainable place
entailed both human and technological
means, both perceptual proximity and
distance. In essence, these remarkable
images re-create within their own internal
dynamic the same play between near and
far that characterized the full set of works
on display at the Riko Mizuno Gallery
in 1969.

37

Volume 23, Number 1 2009 Smithsonian Institution

American Art

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1 Vija Celmins, Untitled (Big Sea #2),


1969. Graphite on acrylic ground
on paper, 34 x 45 in. Private
collection 2009 Vija Celmins.
Photo, McKee Gallery, New York

Celminss lunar drawings, all produced


between 1969 and 1972, were begun after
Neil Armstrongs famous stroll on the
moon, yet they document an earlier, key
moment in the space race: the unmanned
moon landings of the mid-1960s. For
some of her drawings Celmins relied on
the first close-up photographs of the lunar
landscape transmitted by the Soviet spacecraft Luna 9 when it made the first soft
landing on the moon in February 1966.
Others duplicate scenes relayed by the
American Surveyor 1 spacecraft, which set
down on the moon several months after
Luna 9 and sent eleven thousand photographs back to earth, including the first
images in color. Using photographs from
these unmanned lunar landings, Celmins
highlighted the nexus of humans and machines that took a back seat to the tale of
the astronauts heroism emphasized during
the heady days of the Apollo 11 landing,
when one small step for man could represent one giant leap for mankind, with
nary a mention of a machine in that pithy
38

formulation. It is within this triumphal


context of the space raceone ideological
battle within the larger cold warthat
Celminss drawings explore the ways
in which American scientists and their
high-tech instruments, working together,
recast visual experience in the age of space
exploration. In this regard, her images
differed from the predominant approach
of the day for depicting space exploration
in art, which tended to humanize men at
the Kennedy Space Center and in space.
Celmins strived to forge an amalgam of
human eye and mechanized vision in the
extraterrestrial realm.
NASA and Art
During his term as the second NASA administrator (196168), James E. Webb not
only oversaw the development of an exhaustive photographic archive documenting efforts by the United States to put a
man on the moon but also established, in

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consultation with the U.S. Commission


of Fine Arts and the National Gallery of
Art in Washington, D.C., an art program
that produced images featuring moments
from NASAs history of space exploration.
The photographs highlighting rockets, astronauts, and the lunar landscape played a
key role in fueling the space race between
the United States and the Soviet Union.
Providing new scientific information
about the moon, the close-up photographs
of the lunar surface taken by Luna 9 and
Surveyor 1, for instance, prepared the way
for the Apollo astronauts by revealing that
the moon was not covered with a thick
layer of dust into which, some scientists
had feared, astronauts would sink and
disappear. Circulated in the print media,
these stunning views of an alien terrain
provoked awe and shored up public
support for manned trips to the moon.
Coverage of the space race culminated
in the live televised broadcast of the
moonwalk by the Apollo 11 astronauts in
July 1969. Such broadcasts transformed
the space race into an audiovisual public
event, and in the years following the
Apollo 11 landing major milestones as well
as serious setbacks would be played and
replayed on television as NASA continued
its exploration of outer space.2
NASA supplemented its media blitz
with commissioned artworks, which, like
the photographs, were widely exhibited
and reproduced. Hereward Lester Cooke,
curator of painting at the National Gallery
of Art, and artist James Dean, director
of NASAs Educational Media Division,
were appointed to direct the NASA Art
Program, whose implicit goal was to
promote public understanding of and enthusiasm for the space program. Between
1963 and 1973 Cooke and Dean invited
fifty-three painters to observe and represent astronauts and rocket launches. In
letters to invited artists and in later exhibition catalogues of their work, Cooke and
Dean explained the agencys rationale for
supplementing the photographic archive
with artworks:
39

When a major launch takes place at Cape


Kennedy, more than two hundred cameras
record every split second of the activity.
Every nut, bolt, and miniaturized electronic
device is photographed from every angle.
The artist can add very little to all this in
the way of factual record. But, as [French
artist Honor] Daumier pointed out about
a century ago, the camera sees everything
and understands nothing. It is the emotional impact, interpretation, and hidden
significance of these events which lie within
the scope of the artists vision. An artist may
depict exactly what he thinks he sees, but the
image has still gone through the catalyst of
his imagination and has been transformed
in the process.
To form an exhaustive photographic
record without a thought toward emphasizing distinctive features was apparently
to risk making the space race mundane,
even dull. Concerned that the photographic documentation of space was too
objective, too cold, Cooke and Dean
commissioned the artist to contribute
his imagination and his interpretation.
A painting or a drawing, they presumed,
could single out an astonishing scene
and impart deeper human insight into
the meaning and significance of space
exploration. Thus, even as photography
and eventually television generated emotional excitement about the race to the
moon, fine artists received commissions
from NASA on the assumption that their
special understanding enabled them to
achieve a greater degree of gravitas than
the mechanically produced photograph.3
Artists commissioned by NASA, most
of whom were realists, depicted the preparatory and the triumphal aspects of the
space program, tending either to naturalize the spacecraft within the geographic
setting and buzz of human activities at
the Kennedy Space Center in Florida or
to cast the astronauts mission as a cosmic
and spiritual journey through outer
space. Anne Collins Goodyear, who has
written extensively about the NASA Art

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2 Robert Rauschenberg, Sky Garden


(Stoned Moon Series), 1969. Color
lithograph and screenprint on paper,
891/4 x 42 in. Rauschenberg
Estate and Gemini G.E.L./Licensed
by VAGA,New York,N.Y.,published by Gemini G.E.L.

Program, states that despite the freedom


promised to artists in terms of subject
matter and even style, in the early days of
the program it was the work of realists
that was solicited. Later, as Goodyear
points out, when the program had
established itself more securely, Cooke
and Dean ventured to invite some wellknown modernists such as Morris Graves
and Robert Rauschenberg to participate.
40

Rauschenberg, who had already incorporated numerous references to the exploration of space in his prints before being
asked to join the NASA Art Program, was
one of seven artists who witnessed the
blastoff of Apollo 11 in July 1969. Based
on both his firsthand experience and his
access to NASAs photographic archive, he
produced thirty-three lithographs titled
the Stoned Moon Series, which included
references to the Apollo 11 astronauts,
their spacecraft, the Kennedy Space
Center, and the NASA control center.
Sky Garden (fig. 2), the most ambitious
print in the series, is nearly seven and one
half feet tall. At the center of the print
and reaching its entire height is a labeled
diagram of the Saturn rocket with the
Apollo spacecraft at its apex. The faces
of two men, one a famous scientist and
the other unidentified, appear on the
right edge of the soaring rocket, and an
egret, lake, and palm trees, typical of the
landscape around the space center, form
a blue arc above the fiery red body of
the rocket. Though working in a more
abstract mode than most of the artists
commissioned by NASA, Rauschenberg
joined many of his realist colleagues not
only in documenting specific benchmarks
in the space race but also in demystifying
technology with references to people and
nature. Goodyear suggests that even the
choice to privilege the graphic artist over
the mechanical camera as a tool of public
history making humanized the space
program.4
In the 1960s many commentators
echoed NASAs belief that artists could
redeem science and technology with their
special, creative insights, interjecting a
dose of imagination into the realm of
objective theorems. Numerous exhibitions
and books document the widespread
collaboration that was undertaken in
that decade with the assumption that
the artist could shed an intuitive light on
science or produce an aesthetic experience
with technological means. The artist was
charged with bridging the chasm between

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what British physicist C. P. Snow first


characterized in a famous 1959 lecture
(The Two Cultures) as the distinct and
separate cultures of the humanities and
science.5
Celminss Lunar Drawings

3 Source photograph for Moon


Surface (Surveyor 1) with masking
tape added Vija Celmins

Celmins was never approached by NASA


to participate in its art program, nor did
she depict astronauts and rocket launches.
Rather, in 1969 she acquired some photographic stills from NASAs Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and
began to reproduce the lunar landscape
in the medium of pencil on paper. If
anything, her drawings of the moon
challenged the founding assumption
of NASAs Art Program by mimicking
rather than repudiating the mechanical
eye. From a distance, Celminss drawings
look as if they were themselves mechanical
reproductions. In that regard they differ
significantly from Rauschenbergs Stoned
Moon Series, in which the artist, while
incorporating NASA photographs and
relying on the reproductive medium of

41

lithography, foregrounds his aesthetic


manipulations: Rauschenberg recombines
his photographic sources, shifts their orientation, and touches them up with color.
In contrast, viewers can uncover evidence
of Celminss hand only if they approach
her drawings to scrutinize her careful
graphite marks on the paper. Celminss
drawings, that is, examine how the conflation of automated and artistic vision
reconfigure visual experience in the space
age. Yet even as her drawings implicitly
take issue with the ambitions of NASAs
Art Program, they nonetheless get at the
heart of NASAs scientific project, for they
highlight the ways in which a scientific
exploration of the moon already entailed a
pairing of the human and the machine.
Celminss drawings reconstruct the
physical features of the lunar landscape
with extraordinary, painstaking precision
on a larger scale than the original photographs; indeed, reproductions of Celminss
drawings in magazines and catalogues fail
to convey their typical size, approximately
fourteen by eighteen inches. Nor do her
drawings include the explanatory text that
almost invariably accompanied the lunar
photographs as distributed by NASA
or published in the popular press. The
drawing Moon Surface (Surveyor 1) of
197172 (see frontispiece), for instance,
replicates a section of a photograph
from the Surveyor 1 mission (fig. 3). The
masking tape Celmins placed on the source
photograph isolates the area of the terrain
that the artist duplicated in her drawing.
Taking advantage of the raking perspective
of the camera, Celmins rendered with
her fine pencil marks the rills, stones, and
ridges of the landscape, the hollows of the
craters, the shadow cast by the Surveyor
landing craft, as well as the glare of light
illuminating the harsh lunar landscape.
Yet Moon Surface (Surveyor 1) does
more than reproduce the moon as seen
from the cameras eye; it also emphasizes
the partnership between the scientist and
the machine that made the lunar surface
visible to the human observer. The footpad

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Eye on the Moon

4 J. R. Eyerman, Technicians at
Work, 1966. Photograph. National
Geographic Image Collection
5 Rick Hall, Surveyor 1 spacecraft, 1966. Acrylic. National
Geographic Image Collection
6 Davis Meltzer, Surveyor blastoff
and Surveyor beaming messages to
earth, 1966. National Geographic
Image Collection

of the Surveyor 1 spacecraft that took the


photographs is clearly visible in the lower
left corner of the drawing. Moreover,
Celmins mimics the mosaic effect caused
when human hands pieced together
the individual photographs transmitted
electronically by the camera on the moon
to the laboratory on earth. As explained
in the caption of the source photograph
included on Celminss own copy of it,
each two-inch-square chip (the term
used to refer to the photographic pieces)
represents a 6-degree field of view as
seen from the camera. Glued together
by handas they had to be in that
protodigital agethe photographs offer a
panoramic perspective of the lunar landscape approximately 130 degrees across
the horizon (fig. 4). The vertical ridges
formed by the overlapping edges of the
photographs register the technicians role
in reconstructing the lunar panorama here
on earth from the many electronic signals
relayed by the spacecraft. Rather than
effacing these signs, which would have
been an easy enough human task during
the transcription into drawing, Celmins
carefully preserved them. In so doing, she
recorded both the lunar landscape and the
traces of the human technicians workas
if she were herself a machine.
42

Celminss drawings testify to a scientific practice that, in overcoming the


quarter-million-mile distance between
earth and moon to photograph the lunar
surface and to reassemble the images
back on earth, allowed uncertainties to
arise about the identity of machines and
humans. The three-legged Surveyor 1
spacecraft was equipped with a camera
placed at the height of an average
person (fig. 5), transforming it into a
surrogate human presence on the moon.
Homer E. Newell Jr., associate administrator at NASA, anthropomorphized the
Surveyor spacecraft when he identified
it as a monstrous offspring of human
and machine, a mechanized cyclops.
Newells hint of the monstrous,
however, was exceptional. Generally,
the Surveyor 1 robot earned acclaim as
mans first eye on the moon. The Soviet
spacecraft Luna 9 was also conceived
as a substitute for a human eye. For
instance, in 1966, when Life magazine
reproduced photographs from Luna 9,
it proclaimed: There it stood in a crater
of the moon, not much higher than the
height of a man, its camera apparatus
covering 360 and sending to earth
views of the rock-strewn, pock-marked
embankments around itthe first
close-up photographs of this bleak ball
ever to be seen by the human eye. The
Luna and Surveyor spacecrafts prepared
the way for manned landings not just
by communicating factual data about
the lunar surface but also by answering
the question of what it would be like
for a human to see on the moon. As the
article in National Geographic marveled:
Surveyor bridges a quarter-million-mile
gulf to present earthlings with a view
of the moon almost as clear as if man
himself stood there.6
In fact, the spacecraft became a
prosthetic device, extending human
sight as well as the human body across
the vast distance separating the earth

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from the moon. The lunar spacecraft,


which reacted to commands issued
from earth, behaved as an extension of
the scientist in his lab. Responding to
human instruction, it moved its camera
head and registered what it saw. Newell,
for instance, implicitly described the
spacecrafts movements as if it shared
the movable limbs and comprehending eye of the lab technician: When
NASAs deep-space tracking antenna at
Goldstone, California, relays an order
from JPL [Jet Propulsion Laboratory],
the cameras mirror obediently adjusts
elevation, swivels left or right, and
. . . the camera reads off the image.7
Electronic transmission enabled the
scientist to overcome the confines of
the physical human body to occupy a
virtual position on the moon and to
see the distant landscape up close. The
graphic re-creations of the flight path
of spacecraft landing on the moon and
of the cameras electronic transmission
of images back to technicians on earth
traced an umbilical cord, illustrating the
informational circuit connecting human
bodies and minds with humanoid
spacecraft (fig. 6). This joint work of
people and machines continued on earth
because technicians reconstituted the
images taken from a variety of camera
angles and assembled panoramas of the
lunar landscape for analysis as well as for
publication in the print media.
In the 1960s scientists and journalists consistently referred to the lunar
cameras as television cameras even
though they produced still images. The
substitution of the term television for
still camera probably resulted from the
similarity between broadcast technology and the process of transmission
by which the lunar cameras relayed
photographs back to earth as electronic
signals: the photographs arrived in the
form of a pulsating signal registering
the changes in luminosity as a scanning sensor passed repeatedly over the
source image in a series of parallel strips.
43

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Moreover, the word television emphasized the enormous spatial distance


involved in acquiring views of the lunar
surface. Literary theorist Samuel Weber,
who has analyzed the etymology of the
word television, writes: If television
thus names seeing at a distance, what it
appears to overcome thereby is the body,
or more precisely, the spatial limitations
placed by the body upon seeing and
hearing.8 In a twist on Webers formulation, the lunar camera did not so much
deny the body as enable it to extend
itself, occupy a virtual position in space,
and reconfigure human perception. To
identify the lunar camera as a television
highlighted the cameras promise of the
bodys magical proximity to the seemingly distant more than the technology
of transmission.
The repeated reference to television
cameras on the moon also spoke to
the social imperative to document the
anticipated Apollo 11 landing with livefeed images and sound. NASA devoted
considerable thought to making the
Apollo 11 landing immediately visible
on television. The space race required
a televised crossing of the finish line to
verify the winner.9 Celmins strengthened
the sense of a technological continuity in lunar exploration by relying on
photographs sent back to earth by the
unmanned Surveyor 1 to make her drawings during precisely those days when
the astronauts were performing their
American triumph for television sets
around the world.
Cyborgs and the Televisual
If the unmanned mechanical spacecraft
of 1966 served as a human surrogate, the
astronaut of 1969 arrived on the moon as
a highly mechanized being. In a word, he
was a cyborg body, equipped to explore
outer space. The term cyborgshorthand for cybernetic organismwas
coined in 1960 by scientists Manfred
44

Clynes and Nathan Kline in a jointly


authored article entitled Cyborgs
and Space, which was published in
Astronautics. Outlining their research, the
scientists explained that their goal was to
develop exogenous equipment that would
permit a living organism to survive in
inhospitable spaces, most particularly in
outer space. Cyborg experimentation, they
believed, would ultimately alter mans
bodily functions to meet the requirements of extraterrestrial environments.
Armstrongs historic steps on the moon
were possible precisely because he carried
a highly mechanized life-support system
on his back. Indeed, the extent of the
astronauts fusion with machinery and his
integration into space technology recently
prompted political scientist Jodi Dean to
label Armstrong not the first man but the
first cyborg on the moon.10
The actual practices of astronautics
as exemplified by both the unmanned
and manned landings on the moon
broaden the conception of the cyborg
to encompass any amalgam of human
and machine for the sake of extending
earthlings grasp of the moon, whether
it was a man kept alive by machines
on his back or a machine directed by a
technician from afar. With this definition in mind, I would argue, pace Dean,
that the lunar spacecraft equipped with
a camera eye actually amounted to the
first cyborg to land successfully on the
moon. As prosthetic extensions of scientists on earth, these spaceships offered
humans a virtual presence on the moon
from which the moons surface could be
scanned. The photographs transmitted
electronically back to earth completed
the loop between robot and scientist and
enabled the cyborgs view of the moon to
be disseminated to others. Live television
transmission as the means by which the
cyborg made close-up views of the distant
moon available to earthlings became a
reality with the Apollo 11 mission. In this
instance, a slow-scan television camera
was placed on the moon to record the first

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7 Astronaut Buzz (Edwin) Aldrin


walks on the moon during the
Apollo 11 mission. Photograph
taken by Neil A. Armstrong with
a 70mm lunar surface camera,
July 1969. Photo, NASA

steps taken by the second-generation of


cyborgs, astronauts Armstrong and Buzz
Aldrin. In a sense, the mechanized camera
needed to be established on the surface
of the moon before Armstrong could step
out the door; the imperative of publicity demanded as much. As television
viewers watched the astronauts unwieldy
movements, moreover, they listened to
a jargon-filled and static-altered verbal
exchange that sounded like so many
machines in dialogue. Exploration
of the moon culminated in the
sights, sounds, and movements of
astronauts mediated by audiovisual
equipment, relayed electronically
and preserved on magnetic tapes for
viewing by an audience on earth.
If humans on earth watched
the astronauts on television, the
astronauts themselves looked as if
they had morphed into walking
television sets (fig. 7). The visor on
the astronauts helmet, in particular,
bore an uncanny resemblance to a
television screen. When Armstrong
and Aldrin eyed the TV camera,
and thus indirectly their viewers on
earth, during their moonwalk, the
reflective windows of their helmets
mirrored back a distorted and miniaturized view of the lunar landscape, and
perhaps the spacecraft or the distant earth
floating above the horizon. To the extent
that the face divulges personality, the visor
thus identified the astronaut with the
visual images that he projected back to the
audience at home. A human embedded
within the communications system of television, the astronaut qua cyborg actually
wore his televisual identity on his visor.
A number of artists explored the conflation between the human and the televisual
during this period. These works, as much
as the art commissioned by NASA to humanize technology, provide the context for
understanding Celminss drawings. Artists
who in the 1960s and 1970s pictured
human televisions imagined figures
who belonged to the same genus as the
45

astronaut qua cyborg by virtue of having


television screens substituting for faces.
For instance, in a series of haunting blackand-white photographs (fig. 8), some of
which were published in Harpers Bazaar
in 1963, Lee Friedlander made male and
female faces and eyes interrupt the flow of
television programs and expand to fill the
entire screen. In Friedlanders photographs
the screen does not depict a prospect to be
viewed at home but instead assumes the

capacity to watch its television audience


with the same proximate intimacy as a
human being occupying the same space.
Sporting enormous eyes, Friedlanders
televisions stand out from the surrounding, inanimate furniture because they have
become human; they face, monitor, and
demand to be seen by a presumed viewer
within the room. With their screens that
gaze back, Friedlanders televisions gave
form to an anxiety, whose dimensions in
popular culture of the 1960s have been
fully analyzed by television scholar Jeffrey
Sconce, that televisions were sentient
beings, haunting homes, and even swallowing unsuspecting viewers into their
electromagnetic field.11 To the extent
that Friedlanders televisions assume
human agency by looking back at their

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8 Lee Friedlander, Washington,


D.C., 1962. Gelatin silver print,
14 x 11 in. Lee Friedlander.
Photo, Fraenkel Gallery,
San Francisco
9 The Human Television, a character created by artist Doug Michels
ca. 1976. Image reproduced from
Illuminating Video: An Essential Guide to Video Art, ed. Doug
Hall and Sally Jo Fifer (Aperture,
2005)

viewers, they also reiterated a long-standing concern about the consequences of


conjoining humans and machines, dating
back at least to Mary Shelleys Frankenstein
of 1818.
For the work The Human Television,
Doug Michels, a member of the Ant Farm
artists collective that undertook multiple
television projects in the late 1960s and
early 1970s, converted a television set into
the mythical man-in-the-gray-flannel-suit
and granted to this figure, in a manner
similar to Friedlander, the ability to
peruse its milieu (fig. 9). Sitting in a
diner sipping coffee, the human-television
observes a miniaturized newscaster on a
portable television.12 The news anchor
presumably informs his audience about
world events while looking through the
screen as if addressing his viewers directly.
The human-television, in the meantime,
presents his screen-face as both a reflective
surface and a three-dimensional depth.
His screen mirrors his surroundings,
including the talking head on the portable
television, transforming material objects
into rippling abstractions and ghostly
46

shadows floating without gravity. Like the


astronauts visor, the screen of the humantelevision reflects for its audience a view of
what it sees around it.
Whereas Friedlander and Michels
granted televisions human form, artist
and performer Charlotte Moorman
put on her TV Glasses and played her
TV Celloboth artifacts designed by
Nam June Paikto transform herself
into a cyborg for the opening of Paiks
exhibition Electronic Art III at the Galeria
Bonino in New York City in 1971
(fig. 10).13 Rather than tantalize her
audience with the sounds of her cello,
Moorman provided a televisual experience that filled the room with ambient
electronic sounds. As she moved her bow
across the television screens that made up
the cello, they, together with the screens
on Moormans TV Glasses, projected videotapes of the artist and other musicians
(including Janis Joplin) performing, as
well as live images of Moorman and her
surroundings shot by a nearby camera.
Appearing on screens of different sizes,
the faces of the performers were distorted

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view of its immediate surroundings and,


much like Friedlanders televisions and
Moormans eyeglasses, challenged conventional expectations about nearby and
familiar spaces and the cultural rituals
of viewing here on earth. Whether or
not the scenes these cyborgs projected
ultimately proved unsettling for their
human audiences, they maintained the
fiction that the human was close at hand,
watching them, being watched.
Distance and Intimacy

10 Jud Yalkut and Nam June Paik,


TV Cello Premiere, 1971. Photo,
Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI),
New York

as much by scale as by graininess, while


the white light of the television projection made them as visually illegible
as the stringless cello that produced
nothing that could be heard. As a cyborg,
Moorman invited viewers to confuse the
protocols of television viewing, looking at
art in galleries, listening to classical music
in concert halls, and eyeing a female. At
the same time viewers were necessarily
aware that she was always looking back
at them through the lenses of her TV
Glasses. Like Friedlanders television sets,
Moorman-as-cyborg returned the viewers
gaze to invite a multisensorial, interpersonal, and intermachinic exchange
between her and the viewers standing
before her in the art gallery.
This generation of cyborg put televisual seeing itself on view. Screens
doubling as faces enabled Friedlanders
televisions, Michelss Human Television,
Moorman, and the astronaut to see their
surroundings and, in turn, to be seen by
their television audiencesseen, in fact,
as televisions. The astronauts visor provided proximity to a far-off and strange
lunar landscape, while the Human
Television projected a radically distorted
47

Rather than depicting cyborgs, Celmins


and a few other artistsNancy Graves
comes to mindinstead entered the
cyborgs body to assume its visual perspective of the moon and to reproduce
what it saw when it observed the lunar
landscape.14 Like the cyborgs camera,
Celminss drawings pull the far-away
in, near to us, while highlighting how
electronic transmission made possible
the human direction of machines over a
vast distance. In transcribing with pencil
on paper what and how the cyborg saw
on the moon, Celmins did more than
mimic; she also examined the ways in
which cyborg vision might accommodate
an affective bond through the sense of
touch. Her lunar drawings explore the
ways in which an alliance between cyborg
and artist blurs distinctions between the
automated and the handcrafted, near and
remote, seeing and making, and even
masculinity and femininity, to reconfigure visual experience in an era of space
exploration.
Celmins carefully duplicated her
source photographs bit by bit with
pencil marks so fine that, at least when
viewed from a distance, they disappear
into the craters and mountain peaks
they delineate. The marks copy the
amount and precision of detail supplied
by the lunar camera as well as the gray
tonalities and shadows determined by the
illumination of the sun. The drawings

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11 Vija Celmins, Moon Surface


(Luna 9) #1, 1969. Graphite on
acrylic ground on paper, 133/4 x
181/2 in. The Museum of Modern
Art, New York, Mrs. Florene
M. Schoenborn Fund 2009
Vija Celmins. Digital Image
The Museum of Modern
Art / Licensed by SCALA/Art
Resource, New York

also mimic the format of a photographic


print, by including a thin white border
along all four sides of the paper. In
Moon Surface (Luna 9) #1 (fig. 11) the
uneven white borders along three edges
of the detail superimposed at the center
distinguish the detail from the surrounding fieldwhich is in fact a larger
version of the same imagein addition
to casting the central image as a photographic print. Duplicating photographs
of the moon with machinelike fidelity,
Celmins ensured that her lunar drawings
themselves assumed the appearance of
photographs.
As they mimic the form and format
of the photograph, Celminss drawings
also retain evidence of the electronic
48

processes by which the camera dispatched photographs from the moon to


technicians in labs on earth. In Moon
Surface (Luna 9) #1 Celmins included the
white perpendicular lines visible in some
of the lunar photographs that testify
to the momentary signal dropouts that
interrupted the televisual transmission.
In this drawing, the juxtaposition of a
smaller version of the lunar landscape,
seen in sharp detail with its larger, blurry
duplicate in the background, evokes the
effect of a zoom lens going in and out of
focus. Celminss drawings emphasize the
technology of cyborg vision, its flow and
interruptions, as television camera and
lab technician worked together across
a vast expanse of space. The inclusion

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of abutments caused by overlapping


photographs in Moon Surface (Surveyor
1) (see frontispiece) not only points to
the JPL technicians craft in assembling
photographs of the moon but also makes
it clear that we are not looking at the
moon so much as at a collection of
smaller transmitted images of the moon.
The drawings, by retaining evidence
of electronic processes by which the
camera dispatched photographs from
the moon to technicians who reworked
them in labs on earth, became pictures

12 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin with


American flag planted on the
moon, July 19, 1969. Photo,
NASA
13 Vija Celmins, Untitled (Moon
Surface #1), 1969. Graphite
on acrylic ground on paper,
14 x 183/4 in. Private collection
2009 Vija Celmins. Photo,
McKee Gallery, New York

49

not simply of the moon itself but of the


means of picturing the moon.
Just as the drawings acknowledge the
technical means by which the human
overcame vast distances to bring views of
the moon back to earth, so they provide
a perceptual experience that confuses
distance and proximity. The photographs
in which the lunar terrain filled the
visual field because the camera had not
tilted up to include the horizonprecisely the images Celmins chose to
reproducelacked any measure of scale
indicating either the size of the topographic features or the interval of space
between the moon and the viewer. The
print media relied on text and diagrams
to make such disorienting lunar views
legible to their audience; they included
arrows, labels, and captions to identify
craters, rocks, and debris from meteorites. Eventually photos of astronauts
walking on the moon and planting the
American flag located the horizon and
provided a sense of human scale (fig. 12).
Celmins, however, never added such
orienting devices to make the visible intelligible. Each individual frame in Moon
Surface (Surveyor 1) conveys what is seen
up close by the camera, yet the broad
sweep of the panorama propels viewers
to a position in space from which they
scan the expanse. Viewers experience a
bewildering simultaneity of perceptual
proximity to and distance from the lunar
landscape. Other drawings combine
two virtual perspectives in space. In
Untitled (Moon Surface #1), for instance,
the relatively uniform character of the
terrain does not provide any clues about
scale (fig. 13). Are those mere pockmarks
or huge craters? Are we close to or far
away from them? Are we looking at the
lunar landscape from an approaching
spacecraft, in which case the crater could
be five miles in diameter, or from a robot
standing on the moon, in which case the
crater could be just five feet across? Like
the ocean waves and desert landscape
Celmins also pictured during this period,

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14 Leo Holub, Vija Celmins Vija


Celmins. Photo, McKee Gallery,
New York

the lunar drawings evoke vast, unlimited


spaces because no horizons and orienting figures are set against their endless
grounds.
A confusion of spatial distance
and proximity occurs both within the
thematics of the drawings and with the
drawings as material objects themselves,
as the artist and subsequent viewers
relate to them. In the first instance, the
artist nurtures a close, affective bond
with her visual materials. We might
assume in looking at Celminss lunar
drawings that the work required to
reproduce a lunar photograph in pencil
would entail a physical proximity and a
state of emotional detachment in equal
measure to achieve the level of detail
and reproductive fidelity manifest here.
One can only marvel at the obsessive
attentiveness combined with technical
50

skill that enabled Celmins to emulate


lunar photographs with such precision
in graphite, as if she were a mechanicohuman cyborg herself (fig. 14). Yet, as
she herself claimed, the small scale of
her photographic sources as well as the
mindfulness they demanded encouraged
in her an emotional bond with the source
photographs as much as with her drawings. Celmins recollected her working
process during this period in her career
in a 1991 interview with artist Chuck
Close: I would scrutinize these little
images in great detail. Their small size
allowed for an intimacy with the subject.
It allowed me to enter that grey world in
a personal way and I would draw my way
out of it.15 In this same exchange with
Close, the artist construed her constant
reexamination of photographs as an
indication of her affection for them. The
proximity and concentration required as
she looked at the photograph, recorded
it, and compared it to her drawing apparently nourished an intimate relationship with her imagery. In the case of her
lunar drawings, her knowledge of the
photographs in turn permitted her to recreate each fissure, crater, and mountain
peak of the landscape with innumerable,
meticulous touches of graphite. Working
closely with her imagery, Celmins relied
on technological detachment and personal fondness to create drawings that
appeared to reproduce the cyborgs view
of the moon.
Celminss drawings also demand
distance and proximity from viewers, in
both physical and affective senses. As we
have seen, these drawings invite viewers
standing at a distance to confuse them
with photographs. But when spectators
move closerlooking carefully rather
than glancing quickly, adopting the type
of exacting scrutiny Celmins demanded
of herself when she probed her sources
they recognize that her images are not
camera-made.
In fact, Celminss drawings do not
always remain fully faithful to their

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15 Vija Celmins, Untitled (Double


Moon Surface), 1969. Graphite and resin on paper, 141/16 x
185/16 in. Hirshhorn Museum
and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington,
D.C., Museum Purchase Vija
Celmins. Photo, Lee Stalsworth

photographic originals. Celmins,


producing her work in series, at times
inserted variations into the drawings
and allowed them as much as her source
photographs to generate the next image in
the series. For instance, Untitled (Double
Moon Surface) of 1969 (fig. 15) essentially
reiterates Untitled (Moon Surface #1) of
the same year (see fig. 13) but doubles
certain distinctive features of the landscape seen in the first drawing: crater,
peaks, and mountains. Moon Surface
(Luna 9) #1, also of 1969 (see fig. 11),
repeats its source twice at different sizes,
laying one image on top of the other: the
juxtaposition of the two highlights the
ability of reproductions to change scale at
will, ensuring that none is the same as the
51

original. Celmins replicated cyborg vision


but never manufactured replicants. Her
manipulation of her sources emphasized
the creative license of the artist over mindless mechanical reproduction. And, to the
extent that copying yielded an original
offspring, Celmins stressed the generative
capacity of reproduction.
The drawings are not selfsame with
their photographic sources in a second
way. The viewers physical intimacy with
these images encourages an appreciation
of the handiwork necessary to render a
crater or a fissure with graphite. Traces of
the artists varying pressure of the pencil
on paper turn the act of looking at these
drawings into a recognition of Celminss
touch and inspire admiration of her skill

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and her craft (fig. 16). Moreover, the very


material surface of the drawing converts
matter broadcast electronically across a
vast distance of space into a tactile surface
that presents its image only from nearby.
The drawings transform the cyborgs
lunar landscape into something that is
understandable as an aesthetic feat, knowable within the terms of the possibilities
and limits of drawing, contained by four
edges of a piece of paper, reworked into a
series, and visible from up close as material traces of pencil, here in front of us,
on earth.
Celminss lunar landscapes encourage
a phenomenological experience whereby
a viewer moves physically closer to the
image, shifts from an optical to a tactile
mode of perception, and embraces the
image as a drawing rather than as a photograph. Moon Surface (Surveyor 1), however,
undermines any such bifurcation between
mechanical and human vision. Whether
seen from afar or close up, the abutments
included in Moon Surface (Surveyor 1) acknowledge that the human hand as much
as the televisual transmission produced
the cyborgs vision of the moon. The
original photograph, like the drawing of it,
combines opticality and tactilityand the
drawings overt tactility elicits our recognition of the source photographs tactility
as well. This particular image posits a
homology between the ridges left by the
technician in the JPL lab and the graphite
traces of the artist, between the patience
of the technician who meticulously reconstructed electronic signals into analog
images by piecing chips together into lunar
panoramas and the attentiveness and devotion of time expended by the artist to copy
the photograph in pencil. The mechanical
fidelity of Celminss artistic process points
to the crafted character of the scientific
image, whether the cyborgs photograph
or Celminss own apparently mechanical
reproduction of it.
If the physical qualities of drawing
affirm tactility, Celminss application
of graphite marks over the paper to
52

emphasize surface rather than the optical


illusion of depth further conflates looking
and touching. In a conversation with art
historian Susan Larsen in 1978, Celmins
noted that her drawing technique during
this period furnished a new layer over the
paper: The graphite pencil was a very fine
point. It was a matter then of maintaining an even tension so that the surface
was just lying there. It was a matter of
keeping a certain skin, finding a density
that felt right. The paper has a skin and
I put another skin on it. Skin is a thin,
breathing sheath that touches and invites
touch, that feels and is felt. In the case of
these drawings, the artist did, of course,
carefully and meticulously stroke the paper
with her pencil, filling the visual field.
Moreover, by eliminating the horizon and
spatial recession, Celmins brought the
relatively uniform lunar terrain up close,
flattening it so that it covered the paper
like a membrane. Media theorist Laura
Marks has borrowed the word haptic
from Alois Riegl to privilege those images
that combine seeing and tactility without
giving precedence to one sense over
the other. In Markss analysis, haptic
designates a unified visual field, typically
abstract or decorative, on a surface exemplified as much by Islamic painting as
by weaving. All of these visual traditions,
according to Marks, involve intimate, detailed images that invite a small, caressing
gaze.16 Celminss drawings of the lunar
terrain exhibit the characteristics identified
by Marks in that her landscapes form a
continuous surface over the paper that
invites the eye to linger on the material
traces of her touch.
A number of scholars, including Marks,
have strategically associated haptic traditions and intimate observation with the
feminine and at times with feminism.
Certainly in the late 1960s and early
1970s, a number of second-wave feminist
artists, including Judy Chicago, Miriam
Schapiro, and Faith Ringgold, began
to practice crafts such as embroidery
and quilting that had traditionally been

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16 Vija Celmins, Untitled (Double


Moon Surface) (detail), 1969

correlated with domestic labor and


subordinated to the arts of painting and
sculpture. These artists questioned a value
system that prioritized large-scale, abstract,
geometric oil paintings over personalized
and decorative design, and brought attention to the patience, care, and aesthetic
skill required by the domestic crafts. While
Celmins may not herself have used the
word feminist to describe either her
working process or her drawings, she too
highlighted the creative labor of craft, the
demand placed by craft on both the artist
and the viewer for their proximity, time,
and attentiveness, and the appreciation
that close looking at the crafts cultivated
for the materiality of surface.17
Where Celmins differed from secondwave feminists artists was in her embrace
of cyborg visuality. Not surprisingly,
perhaps, the cyborg as envisioned by the
practices of astronautics in the 1960s did
not capture the feminist imagination.
As most photographs from the 1960s
documented, the astronaut was a man
in space. Indeed, in 1962 NASA decided
to ban women astronauts from the space
missions, and it was not until 1983 that
Sally Ride overcame this gender barrier
to become the first American woman
in outer space. Even the scientists and
technicians involved in the first generation
of cyborg exploration of the moon were
overwhelmingly male. The cyborgs potential for feminist politics did not emerge
until 1985, when feminist scholar Donna
Haraway published her famous essay, A
Cyborg Manifesto. Among the audiences
Haraway meant to address was precisely
that strain of radical American feminism
that challenged notions of patriarchy
by repudiating science and technology
in favor of a return to nature and the
natural. Rejecting an antagonism between
feminism and science, Haraway promoted
the cyborg as a figure that broke down
boundaries between the human and the
animal, between organisms and machines,
between the physical and the nonphysical.
Haraway, arguing for the pleasures and
53

advantages of such confusions, embraced


the cyborg as the means to imagine a
world without gender. She acknowledged
that the cyborgs history was tainted by
mans effort to conquer outer space, saying,
The cyborg is also the awful apocalyptic
telos of the Wests escalating dominations
of abstract individuation, an ultimate self
untied at last from all dependency, a man
in space.18 Despite the history of the
concept, however, the cyborg, according
to Haraway, had utopian implications for
a feminist politics that wished to move
beyond gender binaries.
Celmins, drawing in the late 1960s and
early 1970s, did not voice a feminist perspective of the sort developed in Haraways
manifesto. Nevertheless, she also claimed
the cyborg for purposes unintended by
its creators when she entered its body
and drew the moon through its eyes. In
joining with the cyborg she did not simply
adopt an implicitly masculine perspective
in outer space. Nor did she subscribe to
the view promoted by NASA, among
other institutions, that the role of the
artist was to humanize science. In other
words, she did not simply reclaim the
cyborg for the human, and specifically the
feminine, through the practice of drawing.
Rather, through her interaction with the
cyborg, she explored and defined a form
of embodied vision that avoided binaries,
whether between human and machine, or
between masculine and feminine.
Celmins secured the compatibility
of the artist with the cyborg, and the
feminine with the masculine, without
granting one priority over the other.
To the extent that the material surfaces
of her drawings convert matter that is
incomprehensible in its distance and scale
into something that is close and tactile,
Celmins would seem to rehumanize, even
feminize, cyborg vision by making it
haptic rather than virtual. Nevertheless,
the exchange between the cyborg and the
artist cut both ways; her meticulous craft
was also informed by the cyborg and accommodated its viewing position in outer

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space. As a consequence, even as viewers


move in closer to the drawings, becoming
more intimate with the graphite surface
as if touching the marks with their eyes,
they recognize that the craft entailed
in translating cyborg vision with pencil
demanded an exactitude worthy of the
machine. And, in an added twist, Moon
Surface (Surveyor 1) revealed that cyborg
vision itself entailed both the televisual
and human craft.
The phenomenological experience of
viewing the drawings also blurs the difference between the human and machine by
exploring the spatial dimensions of vision,
simultaneously encompassing the spaces
of the embodied and the virtual viewer.
On the one hand, the very tactility of the
drawings situates viewers in the physical
space in front of them, encouraging an
intimate encounter. On the other hand,
the lack of orienting features in the lunar
landscapes opens up an immeasurable
chasm of space between the drawings and
their viewers. Propelled into outer space,
viewers cannot gauge their precise location

and distance from the moons terrain.


In the end, viewers flip back and forth
between appreciating a flat plane right in
front of them and experiencing a recession
into depicted deep space. According to
these drawings, the act of looking in the
age of space exploration entails both a
physical body occupying the space before
the picture, moving closer to it, touching
its surface skin with the eyes, and a virtual
body seeing from both near to and far
away from the lunar terrain.
Celminss drawings refuse to stabilize
the cyborgs vision, to make it legible
as either the disorienting view of the
machine or the familiar and proximate
caress of the human hand. Rather, her
drawings redefine the notion of embodied
vision, extending the body to encompass
the virtual, able to see from multiple positions in space, and with more than one
sense. These drawings explore the ways in
which the cyborg challenges us to imagine
new forms of vision that reconfigure assumptions of what it means to be and to
see as an embodied human being.

Notes
My thanks to Rachael DeLue and Nancy Troy,
who invited me to present shortened versions of this essay at, respectively, Princeton
University in May 2007 and the College Art
Association Annual Conference in Dallas in
February 2008. I am particularly grateful for
the insights of four anonymous readers for
American Art and to the critical yet enthusiastic comments I received from Jim Herbert and
Sarah Whiting.
1 Reviews of the show disagree as to
whether fourteen or fifteen drawings
were on view. See Peter Plagens, Vija
Celmins, Artforum 8 (March 1970):
84, who says fourteen; and Joseph E.
Young, Los Angeles, Art International 14
(March 1970): 86, who says fifteen.
2 The Luna 9 and Surveyor 1 missions
received focused news coverage in the
following two articles: Right Down on
the Moon, Life, February 11, 1966, 26

54

30; and Homer E. Newell, Surveyor:


Candid Camera on the Moon, National
Geographic, October 1966, 57892. For
historical and theoretical analyses of space
photography, see Denis Cosgrove, Apollos
Eye: A Cartographic Genealogy of the Earth
in the Western Imagination (Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2001); Peter
Bacon Hales, Shooting the Moon: Icons
of Space Photography, in 2001: Building
for Space Travel, ed. John Zukowsky (New
York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001), 96107;
and Neil Maher, Neil Maher on Shooting the Moon, Environmental History
9 (July 2004): 52631. David E. Nye
argues that public support for the space
program in the 1960s was in fact quite
tempered, with at least half the public
concerned that it took funds away from
social services; Nye, Narratives and Spaces:
Technology and the Construction of American Culture (Exeter: Univ. of Exeter Press,
1997), 153. Other writers document the

political debate surrounding the need for


a manned mission to the moon. See esp.
Walter McDougall, The Heavens and the
Earth: A Political History of the Space Age
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press,
1997).
3 Anne Collins Goodyear reports that
the exhibit Eyewitness to Space: Paintings and Drawings Done for the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration in
1965 at the National Gallery of Art in
Washington, D.C., and the subsequent
exhibit The Artist and Space at the same
venue in 1969 attracted record audiences while a book by Hereward Lester
Cooke and James D. Dean, Eyewitness to Space: Paintings and Drawings
Related to the Apollo Mission to the Moon;
Selected with a Few Exceptions, from the
Art Program of the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (1963 to 1969)
(New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1971),

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quickly sold out of its first printing; Anne


F. Collins [Goodyear], Art, Technology,
and the American Space Program, 1962
1972, Intertexts 3, no. 2 (Fall 1999): 11.
For the agencys rationale in mounting
the art program, see Cooke and Dean,
11. For the call to artists to use their creativity and imagination, see James D.
Dean, The Artist and Space, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 3 (September
1978): 244. For related comments, see
Deans website: www.theotherjamesdean
.com/spaceart.shtml.
4 On the style of artists invited to join the
NASA Art Program, see Collins [Goodyear], Art, Technology, and the American Space Program, 3; the author
discusses the humanizing role of art on
page 10 of this same article. See also
Goodyear, The Relationship of Art to
Science and Technology in the United
States, 19571971: Five Case Studies
(PhD diss., Univ. of Texas, 2002). I have
relied on Robert S. Mattisons thorough
account of the Stoned Moon Series in
Robert Rauschenberg: Breaking Boundaries
(New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2003). See
also Mary Lynn Kotz, Rauschenberg: Art
and Life (New York: Harry N. Abrams,
2004); and Christin Mamiya, We the
People: The Art of Robert Rauschenberg
and the Construction of American
National Identity, American Art 7
(Summer 1993): 4163.
5 Important examples of the collaboration between art and science include the
Art and Technology Program launched
by Maurice Tuchman at the Los Angeles
County Museum of Art in 1967; The
Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, an exhibition organized by
Pontus Hulten at the Museum of Modern
Art in New York in 1968; and the Software exhibition at the Jewish Museum
in New York in 1970. Books such as
Jonathan Benthall, Science and Technology
in Art Today (New York: Praeger, 1972),
and Stewart Kranz, Science and Technology in the Arts: A Tour through the Realm
of Science/Art (New York: Van Nostrand
Reinhold Co., 1974) documented these
various collaborations. Pamela Lee usefully summarizes the debates about art
and technology in the 1960s in Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960s
(Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004).
See as well C. P. Snow, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (New
York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1959); and
Snow, The Two Cultures: and a Second
Look (New York: New American Library,
1964).

55

6 The quotes from Newell are from Surveyor: Candid Camera on the Moon,
578, 582. In this same article, Newell
refers to Surveyor 1 as cyclops, robot,
and human. The quote from Life is
from Right Down on the Moon, 27.
7 Newell, Surveyor: Candid Camera on
the Moon, 582.
8 Samuel Weber, Mass Mediauras: Forms,
Technics, Media (Palo Alto: Stanford Univ.
Press, 1996), 115.
9 Jodi Dean explores the importance NASA
placed on verifying the Apollo 11 mission
with televised images. Demonstrating
open access to information was, as Dean
points out, a means of distinguishing the
United States from the Soviet Union.
Dean, Aliens in America: Conspiracy Cultures from Outerspace to Cyberspace (Ithaca,
N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1998), 6297.
10 Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline,
Cyborgs and Space, Astronautics, September 1960, 26. On the astronauts as
cyborgs, see Dean, Aliens in America, 95.
11 Jeffrey Sconce, Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television (Durham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press,
2000).
12 The exact date and whereabouts of the
photograph of the Human Television are
unknown. Doug Michels died in 2003,
but media artist and scholar Chip Lord,
who used the Human Television for a
poster in 1983, has in his files correspondence from Michels dating the image to
about 1976. Margaret Morse analyzes the
fictions of presence in television viewing
and specifically discusses the relation
between the television anchor and the
viewer in Virtualities: Television, Media
Art, and Cyberculture (Bloomington:
Indiana Univ. Press, 1998).
13 On Nam June Paik, see John G. Hanhardts Nam June Paik (New York:
Whitney Museum of American Art,
1982); and his The Worlds of Nam June
Paik (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2000); Hanhardt
and Caitlin Jones, Global Groove 2004
(New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2004); Wulf Herzogenrath
and Sabine Maria Schmidt, Nam June
Paik: Fluxus/Video (Bremen: Kunsthalle
Bremen, 1999); David Joselit, Feedback:
Television against Democracy (Cambridge,
Mass.: MIT Press, 2007); and Toni Stooss
and Thomas Kellein, eds., Nam June

Paik: Video Time, Video Space (New York:


Harry N. Abrams, 1993).
14 Nancy Graves re-created lunar maps in
ten gouaches entitled the Lunar Orbiter
Series. Exploring some of the same tensions of distance and proximity as
Celminss drawings, Gravess images,
because of their pointillist dabs and the
liberties they took with their sources,
more obviously favor the artistic and
human over the scientific and mechanical. One of the Graves images is reproduced and discussed in Judith Brodie
and Andrew Robison, eds., A Century
of Drawing: Works on Paper from Degas
to LeWitt (Washington, D.C.: National
Gallery of Art, 2001), 26465.
15 Vija Celmins, interview by Chuck Close,
ed. William S. Bartman (New York:
A.R.T. Press, 1992).
16 Susan Larsen, A Conversation with Vija
Celmins, LAICA [Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art] Journal 20
(OctoberNovember 1978): 38. Laura U.
Marks, Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media (Minneapolis: Univ. of
Minnesota Press, 2002), 56. For her
definition of the haptic, Marks relies on
Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari, who
use the term haptic rather than tactile
to define smooth space because haptic
does not establish an opposition between
two sense organs but rather invites the
assumption that the eye itself may fulfill
this nonoptical function; Deleuze and
Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism
and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi
(Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press,
1987), 492.
17 In 1976 Celmins became friendly with
Barbara Kruger and gave a talk at the
Womans Building of the Otis College
of Art and Design in Los Angeles, but
did not become actively involved in the
feminist movement. Jonas Strovse, Vija
Celmins Dessins/Drawings (Paris: Centre
Pompidou, 2006), 158.
18 For the role of women in the space
program, see Margaret Weitekamp, Right
Stuff, Wrong Sex: Americas First Women in
Space Program (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
Univ. Press, 2004); and Donna Haraway,
A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late
Twentieth Century, in Simians, Cyborgs
and Women: The Reinvention of Nature
(New York: Routledge, 1991), 15051.

American Art

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