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Michael Najjar (1966-)

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  • Michael Najjar (b.1966) - nasdaq 80-09, from the series High Altitude, 2008-2010

  • Michael Najjar (b. 1966), Photography, Jenseits der Zeit, 2000


Michael Najjar Biography

Born in 1966 Landau, Germany, Najjar attented the bildo Academy of Arts in Berlin from 1988 – 1993, where he was trained intensively in conceptional and interdisciplinary art practices.[1] During this time he got in touch with media philosophers such as Vilém Flusser, Paul Virilio and Jean Baudrillard, which have had a strong influence on his later work. The marked global outlook shown in his art is colored by his life and work in Brazil, Cuba, Spain, England, Japan and the USA. Najjar currently works on a new series entitled “outer space“, which is dedicated to the latest developments in space technologies. He is one of Virgin Galactic´s Pioneer Astronauts and will be the first artist in space.[2]

Technological progress has accelerated to the point that the future is happening to us far faster than we could ever have anticipated. Michael Najjar belongs to the contemporary artistic vanguard taking a critical look at the technological forces shaping the 21st century. In his photo and video works Najjar approaches art with a interdisciplinary mindset, transmuting the fields of science, art, and technology into visions and utopias of future social structures emerging under the impact of cutting-edge technologies.[3] In his considered approach to the means and possibilities of photography, Najjar's conceptual work magnifies and re-examines the potential of the photographic image by a constant reconstruction of time and space using a wide range of techniques in thematically focused series. His pictorial language of form and content guides the view into a complex construction of simulated reality.[4] Along this, the performative aspect of his artistic practice has shifted more into focus, since he has decided to become an astronaut and fly into space on board a new spaceship. He now uses his own body for performative action putting himself in highly complex technical environments.[5]

Michael Najjar's work series "netropolis" (2003 - 2006) is an exploration of the way global cities will develop in the future. Najjar travelled around the globe and climbed – often evading the security guards - the highest towers of twelve megacities. His panoramic view transforms the reality of urban spatial structure into landscape. The digital fusion of panoramic views taken from different angles transforms the landscape into a woven fabric of relationships. The work shows the endless ocean of information, an all pervasive network. A compression of space and time evoking intense and constantly growing global interconnectivity.
high altitude

For “high altitude“ (2008 - 2010) Michael Najjar climbed Mount Aconcagua whose 6,962 meters (22,841 feet) make it the highest mountain on the planet outside of Asia. In the Andes Najjar photographed mountain ridges whose petrified zigzag curves served him as a representation of the monumentality of financial markets.[6] He patterned the shots he took on the expedition rigorously on the fluctuations of international stock exchange indices.[7] What he shows are the ups and downs of the markets, and how market reality and simulation are so intertwined as to be almost indistinguishable. What we see are the movements of the tectonic plates of the global economy over the past twenty to thirty years in whose course new peaks are thrown up and earthquakes and erosion are inevitable. Najjar shows the sublime in an age when information technology has become all-powerful.[8]
outer space

Michael Najjar's "outer space" work series deals with the latest developments in space exploration and the way they will shape our future life on Earth, in Earth’s near orbit and on other planets.[9] By leaving our home and flying to the moon or other planets, we change our understanding of two of the most fundamental questions confronting humankind – who we are and where we come from. The cultural dimension represented by emergent cutting-edge space technologies is very much at the center of Najjars´s work – in terms of the deeper knowledge these new technologies will impart about the universe, their impact on space travel, and the way they will influence and shape our lives and work on Earth.[10] This ongoing series started in 2011 with the final launch of the American Space Shuttle Atlantis[11] and currently comprises 24 photographic artworks and 4 video works. The artist has traveled to the world´s most important spaceports like the Kennedy Space Center, Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and the Guiana Space Centre near Kourou in French Guiana. He has met with numerous scientists, engineers and astronauts, and visited space laboratories around the globe constructing new spacecrafts, satellites and telescopes. He traveled to the Atacama Desert in Chile to photograph the world´s most powerful telescopes located at sites across high altitude plateaus in the Andes. His collaboration with leading scientists and space agencies has given him privileged access to locations which are usually unknown to and unseen by the public. The present series blends documentary and fictive scenarios to create visionary enactments of current and future space exploration.

One essential hallmark of Najjar’s work is the way it is deeply informed by an experiential hands-on approach. The intimate experience of “living through” situations which provide the leitmotifs of his art is vital to the artist.[12] This performative aspect has also become a fundamental part of Najjar´s work process and will culminate in the artist´s own flight into space. As one of the pioneer astronauts of Virgin Galactic Virgin Galactic, Michael Najjar will be embarking on SpaceShipTwo on one of its future spaceflights where he will be the first artist to travel in space.[13]

To prepare for this flight Najjar is conducting an intensive and ongoing astronaut training program at Star City (GCTC), Russia, the German Space Center (DLR - Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt) in Cologne and the National AeroSpace Training And Research Center (NASTAR) in the USA. Defying physical limits, the artist puts his body through a grueling series of training sessions including a stratospheric flight in a MiG-29 jet fighter, zero gravity flights, centrifugal spins, underwater space-walk training in a heavy astronaut suit, and a HALO Jump from an altitude of 10,000m: situations of extremities which he captures on camera to investigate his own physical and mental responses and exemplify them in his works.[14]

The series also includes an assembly of contemporary visions of future life and work in space. Inherent in the actual artworks, these visions are commissioned by the artist and articulated in a series of "vision statements" written by leading figures in space exploration, science, architecture and philosophy including Buzz Aldrin, Richard Branson, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Anousheh Ansari, Norman Foster, and Stephen Hawking.[15]

Works from the “outer space” series have been exhibited internationally in numerous galleries and museums. In 2014, DISTANZ Verlag, Berlin, published a comprehensive book on the series.

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