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A Closer Look: AMC2 Issue 6: Space Conquerers!

Amc2 Journal. Issue 6, edited by AMC.
Published by Archive of Modern Conflict, 2013.
AMC2 Issue 6 comes to us in the form of a 32-page newsprint publication with the headline Space Conquerers! A launching rocket is pictured next to a sci-fi looking photograph of two people holding what we come to understand is a dog in a flight suit. The image doesn't seem real. With strapping, tubes and helmet, it's easy to miss the dog part and see the creature as a realization of a nightmarish Moebus illustration. The opening chunk of text puts this image into context. We read about Laika, the Russian stray who became the first terrestrial creature to enter space, and also the first to die, perishing from overheating and stress. The next fuzzy cosmonauts fared better -- Belka and Strekla returned to earth to become much-loved icons of space exploration. A few of their promotional appearances are pictured on the following pages -- two dogs depicted on stamps and in cartoon form, canine heroes of the space race. The images are charming also a bit strange after reading the text on the cover about the trials the dogs were put through before their selection for space travel -- training that is at times devastating for willing humans. The image of Baker the squirrel monkey sitting between her frightening looking space-travel restraint and her certificate of merit from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shows the American side to these animal tests. Another page and we are into human space flight and stirring and iconic images of men in globe-shaped helmets.

Amc2 Journal. Issue 6, edited by AMC. Published by Archive of Modern Conflict, 2013.
Amc2 Journal. Issue 6, edited by AMC. Published by Archive of Modern Conflict, 2013.

Issue 6 was assembled from the Archive's collection with the help of Cristina de Middel, whose recent book about an imagined African space program is now the stuff of photobook collector legend, and Thomas Mailaender, who has consistently proven his love and aptitude for the artistically strange. These seem like the prefect companions for such a project.

Amc2 Journal. Issue 6, edited by AMC. Published by Archive of Modern Conflict, 2013.
Amc2 Journal. Issue 6, edited by AMC. Published by Archive of Modern Conflict, 2013.

The images in Space Conquerers! don't go particularly deep. They are mostly promotional images, portraits, memorabilia and other material readily made for consumption -- postcards of rocket launches from every conceivable angle and instructions on how to launch a toy rocket, coloring book images about the history of space exploration, a weird series of photographs of a man and woman getting strapped into high altitude flight suits, skin-tight and a bit bondage-y covered in lacing and apparently necessitating some serious help to get in and out of. The dichotomy of the Russian and American space programs are continually at play. A mirrored image of a USA rocket launch sandwiches a center spread of astronaut and cosmonaut portraits -- Americans on one side in deeply saturated color images from the 80s or 90s, all positioned in front of the flag with a model shuttle in the foreground and slightly dopey grins. Most images are autographed, becoming like baseball cards, something to be collected. The cosmonauts are harder to place in time, but the black and white images are in striking contrast. They look stoically into the camera with very few smiles -- those seem to be exclusively on the faces of the non-Russians, their upper left arm bearing a patch of their country's flag. You won't see anything exceptionally shocking or unexpected in issue 6, but the book is cleverly designed to create a certain oddness, playing with the differences between what we know and what we see. -- Sarah Bradley

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