Alien Spotting: Damien Hirst’s Beagle 2 Mars Lander Calibration Target and the Exploitation of Outer Space
Damien Hirst’s Calibration Target for the Beagle 2 Mars Lander (2003) is one of the most recent art-in-space projects reflecting the contemporary state of the visual arts in Europe. The Calibration Target positioned itself in a tradition of messages for aliens and therefore testified for a changing concept of art. The chapter focuses on three questions: First, how did the Calibration Target evolve from the ‘humanistic’ Voyager 1 and the ‘modernist’ Voyager 2? Second, must Hirst’s functionalist and pseudo-scientific ‘spots’ be read as a post-ideological statement – or do his nihilistic neo-abstract artworks rather stand for a new globalized, ‘universal’ language apt to communicate humanity’s greatest value, that is capitalism? And third, are Hirst’s oxidized iron ‘spots’ just an ironic facet of space exploitation?