Earlier this year, I received a charming email from a pair of Helsinki-based artists and designers who work under the name of OK DO. OK DO is a socially-minded design think tank and online publication; they dug Universe and wanted to know if I’d contribute to a new publication and exhibition project they were working on. The project, Science Poems, was perfectly up my alley: a variety of articles and work loosely structured around the “poetry and multi-sensorial aesthetics of natural sciences rather than their functionality and logic.”
For the occasion, I wrote a short piece about the aesthetics of Science Fiction: The Science Poem Manifesto. Banged out in a lucid forty-five minutes, it was my most effortless piece of writing in recent memory, presumably because the themes had been banging around in my head, unexpressed, for a decade.
As Stanislaw Lem wrote, science fiction “comes from a whorehouse but…wants to break into the palace where the most sublime thoughts of human history are stored.” Within the shadowy, grimacing frame of its own poetics, it does. Because the sublime thoughts of human history have always been projected outwards, to the vastness outside of our minds. Science fiction is a movement outwards, not inwards: “up, up, and away.”
Science fiction knows, like the science poets do, that the sky begins at our feet.
The science poets look at our sky and they see three moons, or a ringed planet in sultry sunset; they hear a voice whispering across the void, hear the malice in its tone, but still find how to forgive it. Science poets see a tentacle and know its embrace. Science fiction is the grief of tomorrow and the horror of today. Science poetry makes no illusions.
The finished Science Poems book is an honest-to-goodness marvel, marrying interviews with chemists, astronomers, curators, and fashion designers with short fiction, photography, and aesthetic references to everything from John Cage to electromagnetism. It features discussions with Marc-Olivier Wahler, curator of Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Cosmic Wonder, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, and Paola Antonelli, senior curator of Art and Design at the Museum of Modern Art. I am proud to have been involved.
As far as I know, the Science Poems book itself is only available for sale online via Napa Books in Helsinki. If you live in Europe, a list of available booksellers can be found here. Also, a lot of the content — all exceptional — is available for free online. Lastly, as note to our continental readership: OK DO will be having a book party for Science Poems next Thursday, August 5th at Berlin’s Do You Read Me?! bookshop.