The Conquest of Space : On Hannah Arendt

15 February - 2 April 2022 London

"It has been the glory of modern science that it has been able to emancipate itself completely from all such anthropocentric, that is, truly humanistic, concerns." - Hannah Arendt

Exhibition extended until 2 April.


The concluding show in Richard Saltoun Gallery's 14-month program dedicated to the writings of Hannah Arendt, The Conquest of Space will present paintings and works on paper by Sylvia PLIMACK MANGOLD (b. 1938) in the UK for the first time and pivotal early works by Elaine REICHEK (b. 1943) from her first solo show at Rina Gallery, New York in 1975. It will also include a focused selection of works with two new photographs by Carey YOUNG (b. 1970).


Hannah Arendt's essay "The Conquest of Space and the Stature of Man" was first published as "Man's Conquest of Space" in The American Scholar in autumn 1963. It appeared later that year in a special edition of the magazine The Great Ideas Today, before being added to the revised and expanded second edition of Between Past and Future in 1968. For The Great Ideas Today, Arendt was invited to contribute to the section "A Symposium on Space" which addressed the question: Has man's conquest of space increased or diminished his stature?

With characteristic vision and incisiveness, Arendt's contribution avoided the aggrandizement of science. Instead, it conjured a dark picture of the human race's journey into outer space, where our established methods of understanding and engaging with the world are rendered inadequate. She argues that the role of the scientist is to stand outside and beyond anthropocentrism; and that debates on the nature and status of humankind only constrain scientific inquiry. Inspired by Arendt's preference for defining herself as "a kind of phenomenologist," the exhibition moves between theoretical and phenomenological considerations of space and its explorations by three remarkable artists.


Brazilian sound artist and music producer Laima Leyton also responds to each essay in Arendt's publication through a new series of sound pieces commissioned by the gallery, collectively titled Infinite past, infinite future and NOW, available to experience via ‘Saltoun Online’ on our website. 


In partnership with the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College, join us each exhibition for the 'On Hannah Arendt: Virtual Reading Group' as scholars, artists and invited guests discuss key themes in Arendt's writing. The session on ‘The Conquest of Space’ will take place on Wednesday 16 February at 1pm EST / 6pm GMT, with a special introduction to the essay by Roger Berkowitz, Founder and Director of the Hannah Arendt Center, and Lyndsey Stonebridge, award-winning scholar and Professor of Humanities and Human Rights at the University of Birmingham.  Link to register here.


A video introduction to ‘The Conquest of Space’ by Samantha Hill, Roger Berkowitz, Founder and Director of the Hannah Arendt Center, is available to watch on the video section below.

Installation Views