Before SpaceX By handing Agnieszka Pilat the keys to her own art studio at her headquarters, she had to give up her life through confidentiality agreements, the artist jokes.
Pilat, 49, describes himself as a “techno-optimist,” a fan of space The exploration company’s mission is to one day send humans to Mars. a fleet of starships to establish a self-sustaining city. That commitment, a personal dream of the company’s founder, Elon Muskcould be what it takes to save humanity, he told Mashable.
Although she is grateful for the unprecedented access she has been granted (an intimate view of engineers as they build rockets and spaceships), she does not feel beholden to the billionaire behind it all, whose celebrity status amuses her. She compares Musk to JFK for the way he has revitalized a new space age. But Pilate He insists he never asked SpaceX’s CEO for money, or any tech company leader who allowed him behind the scenes.
“I work for machines, I don’t work for a specific person,” he said. “Work is so important that I don’t want to fall into the trap of trying to do something to please one person.”
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As Pilate seeks to capture SpaceX technology through art, the company is about to face a monumental test on its path to achieving that settlement on the Red Planet, decades in the future. After a failed attempt six months ago To fly an uncrewed Starship into space, the company planned to try again on Saturday morning, Nov. 18. Starship is a massive 400-foot-tall rocket and spacecraft, built with twice the thrust capacity of POTThe mega lunar rocket Space launch system.
During SpaceX’s first attempt from its private South Texas spaceport on April 20, the rocket failed to separate from its colossal booster and fell out of control. exploding four minutes after takeoff over the Gulf of Mexico. The engine explosion sent debris from the launch pad into protected wetlands and along the nearby beach, prompting a lawsuit from environmentalists and an FAA investigation.
But even amid the failure, the impressive feat of a stainless steel giant rising from the ground was a crowd-pleaser, including inadvertent fireworks from a destroyed spaceship. Washington Post Space reporter Christian Davenport. described the event as “rocket fuel violence as performance art.”
Each of the hatches he paints is surrounded by gold leaf, intended to evoke the halos of Old Master Christian iconography.
Credit: Agnieszka Pilat
Performing art is within Pilat’s purview. Before he began his informal residency at SpaceX headquarters, he struck up a relationship with Boston Dynamics, a technology company now famous for its robotic dogs nicknamed Spot by the manufacturer. Initially, he sought to paint a portrait of the peculiar four-legged machine. That project evolved until Pilat used the robots to paint, his feet jogging spots across the canvas.
Pilat worked with engineers to program the dogs according to his instructions. She and three of the robotic dogs will demonstrate at the National Gallery of Victoria Triennale art exhibition in Melbourne, Australia, starting December 3. Throughout the event, visitors will be able to watch the dogs create a painting autonomously.
The dogs, she admits, are now linked to her brand: she is a painter who immortalizes technology to live beyond its obsolescence and pays tribute to the fruits of Silicon Valley. One of the robots, which she calls Basia, is her pet, the kind that’s perfectly suited to a human who splits her time between San Francisco and New York. Basia, of course, doesn’t need a dog walker if Pilat is away for a week or two, although the couple likes to stroll the streets of Manhattan for fun.
Boston Dynamics’ robotic dogs, called Spot, are now linked to artist Agnieskza Pilat’s brand.
Credit: WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images
“Basia is very sweet, unlike SpaceX’s work, which is very serious, very exciting, ecstatic; I would almost say there are elements of prophecy in it,” Pilat said. “Basia is very dumb, so this is a totally opposite approach.”
“I work for machines.”
At SpaceX, Pilat has been working on a series called “Infinite.” After poring over the numerous pieces of equipment on the SpaceX campus in Hawthorne, California, he settled on something that immediately caught his eye: the Crew Dragon capsule hatch. the spacecraft on which NASA largely depends send astronauts to the International Space Station.
A Dragon crew capsule leaves SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
A SpaceX Crew Dragon carrying astronauts approaches the International Space Station.
Credit: NASA Johnson Space Center
“I liked the idea that it’s a kind of door that opens to infinity, which is space and time,” he said.
Although not a household name, Pilat is becoming well known among technology investors. TO NY Last year’s magazine story referred to her as The favorite artist of the Silicon Valley elite – a wild departure from his impoverished childhood in communist Poland. The article quoted Jaron Lanier, one of the pioneers of virtual realitywho said he can speak their language.
“I don’t think what she actually says is uniformly positive,” he said, “but people hear what they want to hear.”
Last year, a New York magazine article referred to her as the favorite artist of Silicon Valley’s elite, a radical departure from her impoverished childhood in communist Poland.
Credit: Agnieszka Pilat
For a week every two months, he visits his SpaceX studio, where the company carries a heavy spare capsule that they normally use for training exercises. He then uses oil paints on large panels of Belgian linen to create images of the circular door, either close to its actual size or larger to give it more grandeur. His workspace is a jumble of strewn palettes and brushes, with a squadron of empty SpaceX coffee cups piled up along the edges of the tables. Some of his work is pre-sold, but he stores paintings at SpaceX for employees to enjoy.
“When you think about technology and religion, there are a lot of parallels.”
Each of the hatches he paints is surrounded by gold leaf, intended to evoke the halos of Old Master Christian iconography. Long before Pilat taught Basia to sit, she was already studying classical portraits. She likes to use these techniques when painting technology to draw connections between today’s machines and historical aristocracy, wealth, and religion.
She sees how technology is sometimes extolled as a modern messiah.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk, left, talks about Crew Dragon improvements while astronaut Doug Hurley looks on.
Credit: Philip Pacheco/AFP via Getty Images
“When you think about technology and religion, there are many parallels. One of them, of course, is the utopian idea of a better future,” he said.
The similarities extend to the fandom surrounding the super-rich CEOs who also run these companies, he adds. Musk, for example, has a fairly reverential following, especially on X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter, which purchased last year.
“You could use the word ‘worship,'” he said.