The Oxygen Garden

[Image: The Oxygen Garden, from Sunshine; courtesy of DNA Films].

The sci-fi film Sunshine – which finally opens in the United States tomorrow – includes a set called the Oxygen Garden.

[Image: The Oxygen Garden, from Sunshine; courtesy of DNA Films].

As the film's official website explains: "Oxygen production is vital for manned long-term space flight." Accordingly, "a long-term mission should have a natural, unmechanical way of replenishing its oxygen supplies."
Making a few visual references to NASA's early experiments with "space gardens" – and to other artificial landscapes, such as Biosphere 2 – the film's artistic team thus wired together a network of plants, aeration devices, cylindrical grow chambers, and hydroponic vats.

[Image: The Oxygen Garden, from Sunshine; courtesy of DNA Films].

The Garden is "one of the most interesting sets" in the film, the website claims, "as the cold, clean 'spaceshipness' is juxtaposed with the wild, dirty nature – this is the only set where there is anything 'green'. All of the plants you see on the set are real, there's not one plastic fern in there at all. When you walk in you are immediately struck by how the set smells. It smells alive."

[Image: A close-up of the Oxygen Garden, from Sunshine; courtesy of DNA Films].

I have to admit to a certain fascination with surrogate earths: those portable versions of our planet, and its climate, that pop up everywhere from hydroponic gardens, terrariums, and floating greenhouses to complex plans for manned missions to the moon.
If only for the purpose of growing vegetables, how can we use technology – fertilizers, UV lights – to reproduce terrestrial conditions elsewhere, in miniature?
Under rigorous interpretations of, say, The Bible or The Koran, would this be considered a sin?

[Image: A glimpse inside the Oxygen Garden, from Sunshine; courtesy of DNA Films].

And, finally, what does it mean that the earth itself can enter into a chain of substitutions – a whole economy of counterfeits and stand-ins, referring, through simulation, to a lost original – only to produce something so unearthly as a result?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

ooooh thanks for previewing this geoff! somehow this was totally off my radar.

"surrogate earths", or replicated ecosystems, were the subject of my mfa thesis in photography from cca in sf (may 2007) - there's a bit here:

i basically ended up shooting at biosphere 2 in tuscon, biodome in montreal, the uc davis greenhouses, among other places, to build my own narrative about these spaces.

working furiously to get a real website up featuring the installation i did for the show... hopefully by end of next week.

July 19, 2007 7:59 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Wow, Kathryn, that sounds like an awesome project - definitely let me know if you get a website up. Or if there's some other way to see your photos.

And let me know if you see the movie, if you like it.

July 19, 2007 8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, please share your photos. That is a wonderful idea!

July 19, 2007 9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An oxygen garden, in the shade?

July 20, 2007 7:01 AM  
Blogger Amran said...

'Surrogate Earths' reminds me of the 'other earth' rumoured to have been created by the Technocore, in Dan Simmon's Hyperion.

Great blog post, as usual. Keep em coming. :-)

July 20, 2007 12:51 PM  

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