Vostok 5 was a Soviet space mission, launched in June 1963, which still holds the record for the longest manned solo flight within Earth’s orbit. It used the Vostok 3KA spacecraft, which Yuri Gagarin used for the first ever space flight.

They had hoped that the mission would last eight days, but due to solar flares, Cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky landed on earth after five days inside the cramped spacecraft. Vostok 5 was launched concurrently with Vostok 6, which was the first mission to send a female Cosmonaut (Valentina Tereshkova) into space. As had happened with Vostok 3 and Vostok 4, the two cosmonauts orbited close together and established a radio link.

Shoreditch’s Outside World gallery will be hosting an exhibition on people and animals in space during the first week of September, put together by a collective of five London based musicians.

Darren Hayman has long been fascinated by space. In 2001, he released 'Alan Bean', a fictional take on the thoughts of the fourth astronaut to walk on the moon. In this exhibition, he turns his eye to Russia, and specifically to the many dogs that were sent into space.

These dogs became hero figures in Russian society (Hayman has a collection of the commemorative stamps issued to celebrate these dogs), but animal lovers would see clamping dogs into small spacecraft as somewhat cruel. Hayman’s pictures explore this. “I still want to make some beautiful art about these pretty creatures but I think that I need to make it sad as well”, he says.

Sarah Lippett, of the band Fever Dream, will be presenting a series of pictures telling the story of Yuri Gagarin, the first man ever to go into space. On this side of the old east-west divide we know far less about this remarkable feat than we do of later astronauts who flew with US flags on their craft. At the time, much of his story was secret, although he did of course become a worldwide hero.

Paul Rains, of Allo Darlin' and Hexicon, will also be doing pictures about the Russian space programme. But, he has also posted some interesting bonus material to the Vostok 5 blog, pointing out that if Apollo 11 hadn’t crashed, and if the head of the Russian space programme hadn’t died, Neil Armstrong probably wouldn’t have walked on the moon.

Much of the exhibition is about Russia, but there are also nods to America. Robert Rotifer (who leads the band Rotifer) has offered one unsettling image of a monkey being sent into space – an eerily cheerful image.

As well as the exhibition, a nine-song album has also been recorded, packaged in a limited screen-printed sleeve, which will be on sale at the exhibition. Duncan Barrett, from the band Tigercats, has written a song about Wernher von Braun. He was the man who developed the V2 Rocket for the Nazis, but who went on to oversee the Saturn rockets used in the Apollo space programme. He could be characterised both as an American hero, or a war criminal.

There will be an acoustic performance of the songs on Saturday September 3rd, at the Gallery and then there will also be a Vostok 5 concert held at the Wilmington Arms in London on September 21st.

The exhibition runs at the Outside World Gallery in Shoreditch from 1st September until 7th September.

Anyone interested in finding out more can visit the Vostok 5 blog here: http://vostok5.tumblr.com/

One of the interesting aspects of this exhibition is the way it has developed in public. When the Vostok 5 blog began, it seemed that all that had been finalised was the date of the exhibition. All those involved seem to have responded to the posts made by their collaborators – having followed the blog for several months now, it will be fascinating to see what the finished project looks like.

We’ll have more coverage of the exhibition, after the event, next month.

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