The New Cubists – Q & A with iam8bit

Posted on September 23, 2013


Celestial Charging Station artwork by L.A. based iam8bit – Courtesy of iam8bit

Ukube-1 is the United Kingdom’s first satellite. The 3u (10cm x 10 cm x 30 cm) Cubesat is being designed and built by UK based Clyde Space LTD. The tiny spacecraft will be launching in late 2013 and will carry five academic, educational and experimental payloads, including a Funcube Amateur Radio communication system provided by AMSAT-UK, into orbit.

The satellite will also be carrying one unique payload on it’s outside – original artwork by L.A. based artists Amanda White and Jon M. Gibson. White and Gibson run iam8bit, an artistic production company that produces a variety of creative experiences from events to one-of-a-kind mailers to commercials and films to, what many consider, the first piece of commercial pop art to be launched into orbit. Their “Celestial Charging Station” is a tongue-in-cheek invitation to any passing extraterrestrials, to not destroy our planet.

Radio Frequency International Report (RFIR) contacted the duo and put several questions to them about their artistic process, satellites, amateur radio and the future of art in space.

Amanda White and Jon M. Gibson – Courtesy of iam8bit

AW is Amanda White and JG is Jon M. Gibson.

(RFIR) UKube-1 is the UK Space Agency’s first Cubesat. It’s being launched in a few months and it’s been in development for several years. At what point did Clyde Space approach you about incorporating artwork on its exterior?

(AW) Clyde Space reached out to us 3 years ago and we immediately jumped on the idea.  It took us a while to land on a design that would fit well onto the satellite and evoke the tongue-in-cheek response we were aiming for.  Fortunately, the timing with Clyde Space worked out so that we delivered the final artwork to them at precisely  the time that they needed it, about a year ago.

(RFIR) Can you take me through the creative process for developing the artwork? None of the payloads on the satellite have a direct connection to a charging station so I’m wondering who came up with the idea, or how did you develop the overall concept

(AW) Our creative process is collaborative and organic in nature.  We came up with the idea together, building off one another in a brainstorming process spurred by our shared interests in pop culture, technology, community and connectedness.  We wanted the artwork to be accessible enough that just about anyone could relate to it, while at the same time, having the flexibility to allow the observer’s imagination to buy into the idea that aliens encountering the satellite might also be amused by the imagery.

(RFIR) What elements did you, personally, want to see embodied in this work?

(JG) Our ultimate goal was to inspire everyone who encounters it to, quite simply, exercise their imagination. Humans are such beautifully complex creatures – but we so often clog our creative senses with the rigors of everyday life. Rent, school, relationships – rinse, repeat. For us, this was all about fun. If you think about it, we’re just tiny, insignificant, microscopic blips in the grand scheme of the universe. A ‘celestial charging station’ is our *high five* to alien visitors.

(RFIR) How was your artwork applied to the satellite? What did you have to provide to Clyde Space for them to be able to incorporate it into the satellite build?

(JG) We provided Clyde Space an Adobe Illustrator file, and then the design was laser etched out of metal. A decal or screen print just wouldn’t survive the harsh conditions of space, so raw materials were the only way to go.

UKube-1 – Courtesy of iam8bit

(RFIR) What, do you think, is the future for art in space?

(AW) Space is the new frontier for privatization, for better or for worse.   We see the installation of art in space as an aspirational and progressive choice within this inevitable future.  We dream about art galleries floating weightlessly amongst the heavens.

(RFIR) Would you like to see more projects like this incorporated into future satellite/spacecraft builds?

(JG) Hell yes! A satellite is certainly a unique canvas, but it’d be a shame just to slap any ole’ image on it. We like to think about art in context, because that way, you get results that resonate on a much more emotional and personal level.

(RFIR) Was anyone at iam8bit familiar with amateur radio or Cubesat  technology prior to working on this project?

(AW) Not at all.

(RFIR) What role does modern technology play in your creative process, both in terms of inspiration and the actual process of creating?

(AW) We stay on top of technological developments to the best of our ability because of course, understanding what’s out there opens our minds up to even further possibilities – we always try to push the envelope – we’d get bored if we didn’t.  That said, the actual process of creating remains pretty analog for us until we get to the envisioning stage, where things become digital, so that we can really bring them to life for ourselves and our clients.


Artists conception of UKube-1 in orbit – Courtesy of UK Space Agency

(RFIR) Your name, iam8bit, could you explain it’s origins? There seems to be a direct connection to modern technology.

(JG) iam8bit began in 2005 as L.A.’s first epic group art show – and the theme was old-school video games. It was a celebration of a very special time in the 70s and 80s when games had graphical limitations, so imaginations were ever so important. Players had to project their own fantasies onto the screen, filling all the blanks left by infantile technology. Since our initial success, iam8bit has expanded our reach, becoming a creative production company that explores all facets of human experience. We work with all sorts of companies and artists to produce experiences that expand human consciousness. We’ll often build out marketing campaigns that merge the real world with the digital space, helping brands connect with the community. But we also have a space in Los Angeles were we mount our own projects and develop brave new IPs that aim to innovate the mediums of film, games, fashion, music, art or whatever catches our fancy.