This guest blog post is from Julia Attias, a King’s College London researcher studying the European Space Agency’s “SkinSuit”. Here she shares her favourite things about the Sci-Art collaboration behind the Intergalactic Travel Bureau Stage Show, and what she learned from the artists who translated her research for the stage.

The Intergalactic Travel Bureau’s agents prepare to take Londoners on a fantastical trip through the Solar System and beyond. Image by Richard Eaton.

The Intergalactic Travel Bureau show: words that I think have rarely been put together in a sentence before! And what do I love the most about them? That they are becoming appropriately linked to each other now.

As a space scientist, nothing is more pleasing to me than seeing space science become more of a “thing”. I have seen a vast shift in the awareness of such a field to the general public over the past couple of years, so that now when I explain what I do, the look on the listener’s face is slightly less bewildering than the years prior! Most of that is with huge thanks to Tim Peake, British astronaut who spent 6 months on the International Space Station last year. This show also wouldn’t have been possible without the surge of interest and momentum that he created in “Curious Georges” across the country.

Julia Attias in the lab with fellow researchers studying the future bodywear for space travel.

The Intergalactic Travel Bureau show was a depiction of what it will be like for a space traveller to venture into microgravity, through the incredible art of aerialist performance. In other words, making the audience understand what it might feel and look like to be an astronaut, but without the use of many words; rather through carefully crafted acrobatic-like (amongst other) movements that we can all make sense of.

I am very used to reading and writing words, facts and figures, and unfortunately, I am guilty-as-charged of living in a scientific bubble day-in day-out, which only really reinforces much of the same. I saw an opportunity to get involved with the ITBS not only from a scientific-advisory point of view – ensuring the correct depiction of the space traveller experience from a physiological standpoint – but also for a personal eye-opening experience.

“The most amazing thing for me was understanding how profoundly you can portray scientific concepts through the art of movement.” – Julia Attias

Empress Stah – a woman who I met at a space conference in 2015 – was coincidentally the headliner aerialist. We had met prior to this show, but I didn’t get to know as much about her as I did through this experience. She explained about how she simply felt at peace, and at one when she was in the air. And you could just sense it. The way she moved, how she looked – and clearly felt – so graceful, yet managed to depict all that we had spoken about in such a tangible manner was awe-inspiring.

Aerial artist Empress Stah dazzles as she translates the effects of microgravity on our bodies into hypnotising solo performances on the hoop. Image by Richard Eaton.

The most amazing thing for me was understanding how profoundly you can portray scientific concepts through the art of movement. I always thought that the best way to learn was to read a textbook, and now all this time I think I was wrong! I think the portrayal of science through art is truly fascinating; how a concept can come to life so clearly, which requires a totally different part of your brain to comprehend, yet it stays with you. I think this is especially true for children; they are much better at comprehending things that are watched as opposed to heard and I think that we all need to tap into that a bit more.

I wasn’t the top of my class in school, but I always felt like one of the most determined. When I realised that actually, curiosity, passion, perseverance, determination and dedication were really quite valuable qualities for a scientist (as well as a semi-decent brain of course), my confidence boosted and I knew I could do it. So now, little makes me happier than seeing a curious youngster – many of which I stumbled across during the show. I encourage them to keep that with them in all that they do, because qualities like that will take them a long way in all aspects of their life.

Julia Attias joining in on the interactive moments from the Intergalactic Travel Bureau Stage Show. Image by Richard Eaton.

It truly was a joy to be part of this event, and I certainly learned a lot. I have always believed that the merging of multiple scientific disciplines is much stronger than any on their own, and although a regrettably new encounter for me, I wholeheartedly support and encourage the discipline of SciArt! I look forward to continuing my development within this arena at Secret Garden Party Festival’s Space Yoga workshop at the end of this month. Hope to see you there!