Magnhild Øen Nordahl

Mad Mike Rocket Workshop


Workshop at Aldea Center for Contemporary Art, Design and Technology

In 2018 "Mad Mike" Michael Hughes made international press when he successfully launched himself 500 m into the air over the California desert in a home made steam powered rocket. I purchased parts this rocket that he had used on his mission to prove that the Earth is flat to include in the exhibition The Frisbee Perspective, a solo show at Sogn og Fjordane Kunstmuseum later that year.

The same fall we were opening up the doors of Aldea Center for Contemporary Art, Design and Technology in Bergen and as one of our first public events we invited Mad Mike to come to Bergen and hold a rocket building workshop in our brand new metal workshop.

Our plan was not to start launching rockets, but to introduce our workshops to the public by initiating a conversation about practical knowledge and technology in a broader sense, and at the same time to burst our own filter bubbles and engage in a common activity with people across political divides in a practical hands-on context. Mad Mike was not 100% convinced about the flat earth theory, so his goal was to get up into space and see with his own eyes what shape the Earth really has. His rocket launches and other stunts was his way of fundraising to achieve this dream.

This persistence in using ones own senses as a source of information coupled with an impressive hands on know-how about DIY rocket building seemed like an exciting frame for a discussion about what role the body plays in our understanding of the world today. How can we know the things that we know? Which authorities do we trust and not when the different fields of knowledge has become so specialized and the abstractions so great that there is no way for us to verify facts by ourselves? Before the workshop started Mad Mike presented his mission to get into space and we had a panel conversation with artist Jessica MacMillan, physicist Vladislav Kochback and Aldea director Cameron MacLeod discussing such and similar questions of epistemology, practical knowledge and post truth.

In 2020 Mad Mike tragically passed away after an unsuccessful rocket launch in California.