Space photography of stellar nebula with background of stars.
Image: by NASA

Space Imaginaries Symposium

Presented by Powerhouse

At a crucial moment of cascading planetary scale crises, the questions that emerge around the possibilities and prospects of humanity living in space become ever more crucial. In this context it is necessary to imagine a diversity of futures in space and query those frameworks that reproduce ongoing historical harms of exploitation of people and nature. A purpose of this event is to generate a space of deliberation that might be better attuned to biocentric, sustainable, caring, just and inclusive approaches to outer space.

This hybrid one-day event that brings together diverse voices working at the intersection of planetary sciences, humanities, law, social and environmental justice, and space exploration to discuss ways for thinking alternative narratives of space futures and undoing the legacies of colonialism in space affairs. The format features talks, brief presentations, conversations, and creative work. Co-sponsored by Western Sydney University through an ARC Future Fellowship Grant (FT 190100729) led by Prof. Juan Francisco Salazar, School of Humanities and Communication Arts & Institute for Culture and Society.


9.30 am Registration
10 am Welcome and Opening
Opening remarks by Dr Deborah Lawler-Dormer and by Professor Juan Salazar.
10.15 am Opening Talk Astronomy and “Just Space”
A discussion with Dr Lucianne Walkowicz around their current and past works as an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium where they study how stars influence a planets suitability as a host for alien life. They will also discuss issues around diversity and access in the space industry. Introduced by Matthew Connell.
11 am Caring for Sky Country
A conversation with Krystal de Napoli around her newly launched book Astronomy: Sky Country 2022, co-authored by Karlie Noon, where she will talk about bringing together Indigenous astronomical expertise and practices of caring for Sky Country and dark skies, with current issues in astronomical sciences. Moderated by Professor Juan Salazar.
11.45 pm Being on Earth, Living in the Sky
What might we learn about space and each other if we begin and continue with knowledge, objects and cultures beyond the traditions of the western world? This panel with Shireen Taweel and Professor Pedram Khosronejad, moderated by Katie Dyer, considers the influence of Islam on art, astronomy and migration.
12.30 pm Lunch Break
1.30 pm Space Analogues
A conversation with Dr Michaela Musilova around her current and past work in astrobiology, the HI_SEAS project, as well as her vast space research experience working with NASA and the UK Space Agency. Introduced by Professor Juan Salazar.
2 pm Curating the skies
Members of the Powerhouse curatorial team will discuss collection, research and exhibition practices relating to space and astronomy. This conversation will range across objects, issues and projects that reveal tensions and challenges in the intersections between technical, cultural and environmental considerations. This conversation is between curators Dr Sarah Reeves, Dr Andrew Jacob, Matthew Connell and Emily McDaniel. Moderated by Dr Deborah Lawler-Dormer.
2.45 pm Space in cinema, arts and media
Artists, authors and filmmakers discuss their practice and work on producing and storytelling alternative narratives of space futures and imaginaries. Artists featured include Ceridwen Dovey, Dr Rowena Potts, Dr Anna Madeleine Raupach, Dr Diana Chester and Robert Nugent. Moderated by Dr Deborah Lawler-Dormer.
3.30 pm Tea break (catered)
4 pm Future imaginaries in the Australian Space Sector
Emeritus Professor Steven Freeland, Dr Annie Handmer and Dr Marie Le Pellec, Director of Sustainability for the Australian Space Agency, will discuss some of the key developments of the Australian Space sector and the diversity of perspectives emerging on the futures of Australia in space. Moderated by Professor Juan Salazar.
4.45 pm Closing Talk: ‘Other Worlds Others Views: Contemporary Artists and Space Exploration’
A discussion with Dr Nicola Triscott around interdisciplinary projects that engage in complex nuanced ways with social, environmental and political ecologies of space. Introduced by Professor Juan Salazar.


Deborah Lawler-Dormer is a Research Manager at the Powerhouse. Her work is transdisciplinary and often engages art, science and technology in collaboration with industry, tertiary and community partners. She is the lead curator for the exhibition Invisible Revealed (2022) developed in partnership with Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation. She is also a visiting Research Fellow with the Expanded Perception and Interaction Centre at University of New South Wales and Adjunct Research Fellow at Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University. Recent publications include ‘Critical posthumanist practices from within the Museum’ in The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Posthumanism (2022).

Professor Juan Francisco Salazar is a Chilean-born researcher, author and filmmaker whose academic and creative work explore the coupled dynamics of social-ecological change and is underpinned by a collaborative ethos across the arts, science and activism. He is Professor of Communications and Media at Western Sydney University and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow (2020-2024). He has conducted numerous projects in Antarctica and has written widely on social studies of outer space. Among his recent publications are the co-edited volumes Anthropologies and Futures: Researching Emerging and Uncertain Worlds (Routledge, 2017), and Thinking with Soils: Material Politics and Social Theory (Bloomsbury 2020). His film credits as director include Nightfall on Gaia (2015), The Bamboo Bridge (2019) and Cosmographies (in production).

Dr Lucianne Walkowicz is an astronomer and the co-founder of the JustSpace Alliance. Walkowicz studies the ethics of space exploration, stellar magnetic activity, how stars influence a planet’s suitability as a host for alien life, and how to use advanced computing to discover unusual events in large astronomical data sets. Until 2022 they were the astronomer at Adler Planetarium in Chicago and from 2017-2018, Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/LOC Chair in Astrobiology at the Library of Congress. Walkowicz is also the founding director of the LSSTC Data Science Fellowship Program, an initiative to provide astronomy graduate students with training in advanced computing. They write regularly on topics at the intersection of science and society, which have appeared on, Slate, The Washington Post, Vox, and more. Walkowicz holds a BS in Physics and Astronomy from Johns Hopkins University, an MS and PhD in Astronomy from the University of Washington, and held postdoctoral fellowships at UC Berkeley and Princeton. They are also a TED Senior Fellow and a working in a variety of media, from performance to sound.

Krystal De Napoli is an astrophysics graduate and Honours student at Monash University researching the star formation rates of galaxies from ASKAP RACS data. She is an advocate for Indigenous sciences and Indigenous astronomy and co-author with Karlie Noon of “Astronomy: Sky Country” (Thames & Hudson 2022). Krystal is the host of Indigenuity for Triple R 102.7FM a weekly conversation with Indigenous knowledge holders showcasing all forms of Indigenous ingenuity. In 2018/2019 she was a research intern with CSIRO’s Data61 division, where she used evolutionary algorithms to refine granular particles used in soft robotics.

Professor Pedram Khosronejad is curator of Persian Arts at the Powerhouse Museum. His research interests include cultural and social anthropology, visual anthropology and ethnographic film, covering topics such as visual and material culture, with a particular interest in the Persianate societies, the greater Middle East and the Islamic world. He is currently studying and developing related objects of the Powerhouse collection. He obtained his PhD at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris and is an Adjunct Professor in the Religion and Society Research Cluster at Western Sydney University.

Katie Dyer is Senior Curator, Contemporary, at the Powerhouse Museum, where she leads and develops creative cross-disciplinary contemporary curatorial programming. She has extensive curatorial experience writing about and working with visual artists, material culture and collections. Her research areas focus on creative practice as a response to contemporary conditions, transdisciplinary and collaborative cultures, and the reimagined museum. She was lead curator for the ARC Linkage project ‘Curating Third Space: The Value of Art-Science Collaborations’. Recent publications include ‘Objects and Energies’ in Curating Lively Objects: Exhibitions Beyond Disciplines, Routledge, and ‘What you Care for Will Care for You’ in Pliable Planes, UNSW.

Shireen Taweel is a Sydney based multi-media artist working on Gadigal Land. Shireen’s research driven practice engages with cross-cultural discourse around the construction of cultural heritage, knowledge, identity, language, and draws upon her experiences of being Australian Lebanese. The project development of Shireen’s works are often site-specific, weaving local narratives and research with a focus on experimentation in material and sound through site.

Dr. Michaela Musilova is an astrobiologist and the Director of the HI-SEAS analog space research station. She has worked for NASA, University of London Observatory, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and was the Commander of over 30 simulated missions to the Moon and Mars. She is also a visiting Professor at the Slovak University of Technology, Faculty at ISU and the Head of Research of the satellite technology company NEEDRONIX.Michaela has received numerous prizes and research grants, including the Emerging Space Leaders Grant from the International Astronautical Federation; Women in Aerospace – Europe Young Professional Award and she was selected as one of the most promising 30 under 30 by Forbes Slovakia. We

Emily McDaniel is the curator of the City of Sydney’s Harbour Walk, a First Nations public art and interpretation strategy and program. As an independent consultant, she has advised on curatorship, engagement, learning and interpretation in the public domain, media and the museums and galleries sector. She has also held curatorial positions at the National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Museum of Contemporary Art, Biennale of Sydney and Kaldor Public Art Projects. McDaniel’s creative and cultural practice centres on truth-telling, storytelling and revealing histories through the work of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and creative practitioners.

Dr Sarah Reeves is science curator at the Powerhouse Museum, focusing on the areas of astronomy and space. Sarah holds a PhD in Astronomy and for her thesis she studied the evolution of galaxies using radio telescopes like ‘The Dish’. Before joining the Powerhouse, worked for several years as an astronomy guide at Sydney Observatory. At the Powerhouse she has co-curated a wide range of science exhibitions, including the highly successful Apollo 11 exhibition, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing. Sarah is passionate about sharing her knowledge about science and technology with the public through the Museum’s collection and exhibitions.

Dr Andrew Jacob is a Curator of Astronomy and Space at the Powerhouse museum. His research interests include everything astronomical and astrophysical and their related histories. He has a particular interest in Australian astronomical history including the role of Sydney Observatory. His PhD project made use of the Sydney University Stellar Interferometer, resulting in a contribution to the calibration of the cosmological distance scale. Andrew developed the Astrographic Catalogue display for the Observatory’s East Dome. He is presently involved in developing a new exhibition for Sydney Observatory.

Matthew Connell’s research and curatorial interests include computing history, mathematics history, media art and design, interaction design, STEM education and learning, and curatorship. He is currently involved in research projects relating to post-disciplinary curatorship, curating art/science collaborations, interactive immersive systems, audience engagement and learning in maker spaces, and the industrial and cultural implications of digital manufacturing technologies. Matthew is also Adjunct Professor, iCinema Centre for Interactive Cinema Research, University of New South Wales.

Ceridwen Dovey writes fiction (Only the Animals) & non-fiction (On J.M. Coetzee: Writers On Writers) and has won an Australian Museum Eureka Award & UNSW Press Bragg Prize for her science writing. She likes to experiment across genres and collaborate with other artists. As a Research Fellow at the Powerhouse Museum, Ceridwen has been working with filmmaker and anthropologist Rowena Potts on a film quartet about ethics and emotion in outer space (including Moonrise and Requiem for the Space Station) as part of her Doctorate of Creative Arts at Western Sydney University.

Dr Rowena Potts holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from New York University, and is a current Visiting Research Fellow at the Powerhouse museum. Her short films have explored a wide range of subjects, from the lives of pigeon breeders in Brooklyn, New York, to the complexities of human activity in space. She is currently collaborating with writer and space environmentalist Ceridwen Dovey on three short archival film projects: the first, about the planned decommissioning of the International Space Station at the end of this decade; the second, about the emotional power of space exploration as embedded in collections of space memorabilia; and the third, about the shifting history of the tiny constellation Musca in the Southern Sky.

Dr Anna Madeleine Raupach is a multi-disciplinary artist working across drawing, animation, installation, AR and VR; and a Lecturer in Print-media and Drawing at ANU School of Art & Design. Raupach explores how people have observed natural phenomena throughout history, both personally and scientifically. This research aims to reflect narratives about understandings of time and space in the natural environment, contributing to expressive forms of science communication in the context of climate change. Her current research has explored the use of natural objects as AR markers to explore the hidden affordances and timescales of rocks, fossils, trees and leaves.

Robert Nugent is a filmmaker grappling with entanglements, mainly between human and nonhuman places and situations. His films have arisen from purposefully taking a camera on speculative expeditions to remote locations in Indonesia, Guinea, Iraq, Ethiopia, Egypt, Tanzania and Australia. His films have screened at IDFA and HotDocs, Margaret Mead FF in New York, and iDocs in Beijing. His screen credits include ABC, ARTE, PBS, SBS and National Geographic. His film ‘End of the Rainbow’ was the story of an eternal gold mine, wandering from one place to another on planet earth and won international film awards in Europe, the US and Australia. ‘Memoirs of a Plague’, tackled the Locust story, and his last film, ‘Night Parrot Stories’, sought to reconcile western perspectives on a rare bird, with other ways of knowing and thinking about Australian geographies. He is a Doctor of Creative Arts candidate at Western Sydney University investigating cinemas of planetary regard.

Dr. Marie Le Pellec is an engineer with a doctorate in strategy and has over 10 years experience in strategy and sustainability. She commenced her career at the French Space Agency CNES in the Strategy & Programs team, before moving to Australia. She then provided strategic support to a broad range of organisations, delivering solutions based on robust analysis, stakeholder engagement and tangible objectives. Her passion for space has led her to join the Australian Space Agency where she is Assistant Director of Sustainability and leads the Space Situational Awareness and Space Sustainability in the Office of the CTO. She is also responsible for the delivery of the Agency’s roadmaps.

Dr Annie Handmer is Senior Manager Innovation and Policy at HEO Robotics, an Australian space start-up which does space-based imaging and on-orbit inspection. She is an Associate Lecturer in the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Science, in the School of History and Philosophy of Science where she obtained a PhD in 2021. She is on the Advisory Council for the Space Industry Association of Australia, a member of the Space Generation Advisory Council ‘Ethics and Human Rights in Space’ Project Group, the Space Law Council of Australia and New Zealand, program consultant to the Australian Youth Aerospace Association ASTRA Committee and is also the host and creator of the Space Junk Podcast.

Professor Steven Freeland is Emeritus Professor, Western Sydney University and Professorial Fellow, Bond University. He is one of the world’s leading authorities in public international law, space law, international criminal law, international human rights law. He is a Member of the Advisory Board of the Australian Space Agency and has been an advisor to the Australian, New Zealand, Norwegian and several other Governments on issues relating to national space legislative frameworks and policy. He has represented the Australian Government at Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) meetings. He is a Co-Principal of specialised space law firm Azimuth Advisory and is also a Director of the International Institute of Space Law. He has authored approximately 300 publications on various aspects of International Law and presented over 1500 expert commentaries on national and international media outlets worldwide on legal/geopolitical issues.

Dr Nicola Triscott is a curator, researcher and writer, specializing in the intersections between art, science, technology and society. Since 2019, Nicola has been Director/CEO of FACT (Centre for Film, Art & Creative Technology) in Liverpool, UK, where she curated the exhibition And Say the Animal Responded? in 2020. Previously, she was the founding Artistic Director/CEO of Arts Catalyst and Principal Research Fellow at University of Westminster (2017-19). Over 25 years, Nicola built Arts Catalyst into one of the UK’s most distinctive and respected art and research organisations, distinguished by ambitious artists’ commissions. Nicola lectures and publishes internationally.

Dr. Diana Chester is a sound studies scholar, composer, educator, and artist from New York, who holds a lecturer position in Media and Communications at the University of Sydney. Diana’s research in Sound Studies and Creative Practice produces critically influential studies, methods, and outputs that use sound to traverse disciplinary boundaries using feminist, de-colonial, and post-anthropocentric approaches to thinking and making. This work draws from sound studies, archival studies, and ethnography and relies on field recording and composition to explore sound in diverse contexts around the world. They produce work that is both scholarly and creative and puts research and practice in direct conversation—deepening the capacities of both. Diana is on the editorial board of Interference Journal, and is a Board Member of the World Listening Project.


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