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Handbook of the Unknowable

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rachel Armstrong, Dr Rolf Hughes


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Handbook of the Unknowable is a work of design responding to a new materiality and spatial understanding of the cosmos based on information that has been relayed back through robotic probes as our data gathering beyond our solar system begins as the Voyagers leave the heliosphere. The work uses prose poetry, drawing and graphical design to convey a new experience of space exploration for an ecological age that does not look back nostalgically on the 'pale blue dot' of earth but into the black skies and the unknown dark fabrics of the universe. Pioneering writers, designers and provocateurs were curated to produce some of the materials in the book, while the co-authors wrote the exploratory narratives that discussed the attraction between bodies in the acts of catching and falling interspersed with portraits of a much transformed understanding of the nature of the celestial bodies around us. The work was commissioned by the 2016 Meta.Morf festival which is part of the Trondheim Biennale.

Publication metadata

Designer(s): Armstrong R, Hughes R

Publication type: Design

Publication status: Published

Year: 2016

Description: Book

Media of Output: Book

Publisher: TEKS

Place Published: Trondheim


Notes: This work follows in the footsteps of Cosmicomics, Italo Calvino's poetic re-telling of the story of the cosmos. In this work strange juxtapositions are proposed based on real data such as the code being relayed back from the New Voyager probe and the 'fly's eye' of the SETI@Home project. The work is illustrated with cutting edge artists (circus, performance art, architects, sound artists) and features four guest contributions from architecture, space journalism, performance art and scenography. The work is not intended to be a critical review of the status of space exploration and design but embodies a new experience of our spatial and imaginative understanding of these faraway (yet very present) landscapes.