Magnificent Desolations: Imagining Ambition, Anxiety and Indifference in Outer Space



Article for Progetto Grafico magazine (Issue 36) that explores the influential role of desolation imagery in shaping a predominant Euro-American space imaginary.


From the late 19th century and into the present, planetary desolation remains a powerful visual and rhetorical theme shaping collective imaginations of outer space. Desolation can mean destruction or emptiness, and both images interact together to create a sense of agency and urgency among those advocating for expanding human civilisation beyond planet Earth. 

Fears of existential threats meet the material promise of alien landscapes, ready to be exploited for human benefit. Imagining desolation is then explored as a disruptive force, pivoting on an inversion of a human indifference to nature. Here, the cold and lethal ambivalence of space environments exposes troubling contradictions in common narratives of space futures that are rendered both dated and flawed.