The Need for Artists and Creative Storytellers for Space

CHEF’S TABLE, Netflix, Episode 1, Massimo Bottura, April 26, 2015

  • Opening scene: Homemade footage of an earthquake in Italy. Voiceover of a news reporter.
  • Thirty seconds later: Scene of a castle partially collapsed, multiple structural cracks on the tower, voice-over continues. Followed by footage of a rumble.
  • Cut to a fine dining restaurant table, the camera focused on a plate with a gold ring, everything else is white. Chef Massimo starts recounting the time when the earthquake hit with clients in the restaurant.
  • Multiple shots of Chef, intimate framing, as we listen to him telling about the event.
  • One minute into the episode, the introduction of the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano. Chef states he got a call for help from them.
  • Cut to footage of collapsed shelves with hundreds of thousands of parmesan wheels. The light sound of a hum in the background, in a really slow crescendo, bringing a sense of eeriness.
  • Back to the tight frame of Chef as he says this could be the end of half of the production. Change the background music to a light crystal sound. We hear the snap of fingers as Chef says the words “Act very quickly” and proceeds to share the worst-case scenario.
  • Chef tells how he called the Consorzio and told them he is going to take care of it, cooking an Italian dish, in restaurants all over the world, using parmesan cheese.
  • Cut to dishes from restaurants in different cities using the risotto with cheese. Chef tells how everywhere they were cooking Risotto Cacio e Pepe.
  • Light catchy optimistic music. Massimo shares that forty thousand people were eating parmesan pasta and the 360,000 wheels of damaged cheese were sold. No one lost a job and no cheesemaker closed business. “This was a recipe for social justice,” he says.
  • Cut to Chef’s Table intro. Antonio Vivaldi, Winter, The Four Seasons (Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 8, RV 297), recomposed by Max Richter, starts with a punch.
  • Montage of people, artifacts, and food using different techniques – time-lapse, zoom, slow motion; all to evoke a sense of artistry, craftsmanship, teamwork, hard work, and perfection

It was seven years ago and I still remember this. The very first introduction to a show featuring the top Chefs in the world and the opening is about an earthquake and how the number one Chef on the planet is helping the people of Modena by turning his exceptional culinary skills and international power to producing a simple dish that can be mass-produced. The show didn’t begin with his upbringing, his apprenticeships, his signature dish, or what made him so great, no! It started with a tragedy that reduced him to a simple man in a kitchen looking to help his city. For Massimo, it wasn’t about making his artistry better. It wasn’t about something for his restaurant to become busier and more profitable. For him, it was the reason why he had become a Chef, because the food was above all a human story.

Beyond their cooking skills, there is something quite amazing about top Chefs. They are artists who are constantly reshaping the story of food, turning the mundane and taken-for-granted into masterpieces and unforgettable experiences. Top Chefs don’t see food. They see art as a blank canvas waiting to come to life through their imagination. They see the potential for experiences that will transcend the necessity to feed our bodies. They see community and resiliency. They see the past, the present, and the future dancing on a plate with humanity at the center of it.

No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.” Oscar Wilde

While journalists are in the pursuit of the facts and the hidden, and content creators follow trends and deliver what the public wants, artists are storytellers who seek the invisible and unspoken. They look for what is beyond and in between. Their goal is not to follow but to lead you. They are explorers celebrating or criticizing the human story, creating with the intent of taking you on a journey of discovery so that you can expand your horizons.

“I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them.” Pablo Picasso

In the 15th century, the world changed with the Renaissance. From the streets of Florence in Italy, an influx of new capital combined with an extraordinary vision led to a boom in science, philosophy, technology, architecture, music, literature, and exploration that spread all over the globe. Pushing this awakening were artists backed by their patrons. Or was it patrons manifested through their artists? Who knows! And who cares? The answer really doesn’t matter. The reality is it takes two to tango and both were necessary to successfully create this evolutionary leap.

Today, we are standing at the edge of a new era. For the first time ever in the history of life on Earth, one species is about to do what the planet has been waiting 4.6 billion years, to take life to outer space. The leap that is offered to us will dwarf the scale of change brought by the Renaissance. This profound transformation will unite and/or divide us and looking at the recent Salesforce Super Bowl commercial and most of the media coverage of last year, it seems that unfortunately the story being written is one of conflict, virtue signaling, and pointing fingers. And the reason for that is simple, the artists are missing. The human story is absent.

What is needed is for space companies to take in artists-in-residence and hire creative storytellers. Axiom, Sierra Space, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Relativity Space, SpaceX, and all the other big players should see the value in competing in having the best artists in-house so that each can promote a vision of the future for humankind that is bigger than their technology. There is nothing grandiose and inspiring if technology is at the expense of humanity. What the space community must understand is that we are asking almost the impossible from the public. Change is hard and space is more than change. It is for many a suicide mission and a waste of time/resources all tightly wrapped in a package of abandonment. So how can we change this perspective?

As a solo wilderness explorer and with FEEL THE WILD, my goal was to reframe our relationship with life, and with ourselves, using nature as a framework for personal transformation. By understanding the principles and dynamics found in nature, we would come to understand the structure of our journey on Earth and find a certain comfort within this roller coaster that is called life.

Now with THE FUTURE OF SPACE, through my words, images, videos, and interviews, I want to tell the human story as we venture beyond the Earth. I want to bring nature to the narrative of space. I want to world to understand why we are going there and the benefits it will bring to us and to the Earth. I want to connect the excitement of one side to the worries of the other side so that together they balance each other. I want us to go beyond the fear of the unknown so we can embrace the opportunity for growth. And I want the corporate world to invest in this.

That said I want to recognize two individuals who understand the power of storytelling. The first one is Yusaku Maezawa: “What I want to do is show the people of Earth just how beautiful our planet is by taking artists up there so that they can convey that beauty to the world.” His dearMoon project will take six to eight accomplished artists around the Moon.

The second is Jared Isaacman. Inspiration 4 was a triumph in every shape or form. From the selection of the crew to the expedition’s execution, from the fundraising to the Netflix docu-series, the story of the expedition was carried out with perfection and succeeded at turning 180 degrees the negative press that had been generated at the expanse of Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin. While none of the passengers were professional artists, art was present through Dr.Sian Proctor and the creative partnership with the Space for Art Foundation.

One more thing. If we need to look at one moment that captures the power artists have in expressing the essence of a moment and its power for transformation, just look at William Shatner stepping out from the Blue Origin cockpit. Here is someone who has made a living expressing emotions and the impact of the experience doesn’t need to be explained – just watch.

I am leaving you with images and a video excerpt from ZIMA BLUE, an Alastair Reynolds’ short story adapted for Netflix expressed through the vision of Robert Valley. For me, this animated story is a pure gem. It captures so perfectly how art will tell the invisible and unspoken, the beyond and in-between of our journey into outer space. Thank you Alastair for your words, and thank you Robert for your creative vision.

PS. If you are a company that shares this vision, DM me.

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Above. Copyright Netflix. Artwork done for ZIMA BLUE, from top to bottom: Robert Valley, Patricio Betteo, Daniel Cacouault, and Robh Ruppel.