Dr. Sarah Jane Pell is passionate about taking steps to qualify creative practitioners for space. In 2016 she qualified as a PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Candidate a.k.a. "Artist-Astronaut" for a polar suborbital aeronomy research project in the upper mesosphere. Bending Horizons supports this vision. Pell knows that her skills as an artist have the potential to provide new tools for the communication of experience currently beyond our own. The high altitude environment of Mt. Everest is another magnificent example of an analogue space environment: so extreme, climbers must wear protective clothing to shield from exposure to low temperatures, and high Ultra Violet radiation. Climbers are also tethered to ropes, they rely on limited communications with mission control and perform onerous physical exertion often with the support of breathing apparatus, while monitoring vital signs of life, and knowing that if something goes wrong, that it will be their own mental resilience and resourcefulness that will get them through it because the chance of rescue or recovery is very low – just like an Astronaut.
As Astronauts have set time-monitored tasks to perform during Extra Vehicular Activities (EVAs or “Spacewalks”), Pell creates artwork at various altitudes during the ascent of Mt. Everest in 2015. While performing these tasks she wears body-monitoring systems to see if each period of reflection and expression had any impact on her overall performance and wellbeing. She also records her journey in 4K HD for a hybrid 360-degree interactive documentary and further research. Sarah reached Everest Base Camp (5564m) on the 12th April and acclimatised well before facing the Gokha Earthquakes. By promoting the human-scale of exploration, Pell is seeking to frame an awareness of the connections between bodily and sensory experience from sea, to summit, to space.