How Los Angeles Artist and Performer David Roy Blasts into Outer Space

How Los Angeles Artist and Performer David Roy Blasts into Outer Space

In 2016, David Roy founded a space agency called BLACKNASA. He considers the process of making art “a practice of freedom that should never be estranged from everyday life.” Working with photography, sculpture, music, and technological installations, his mission is to conduct ‘rocket science’ on multiple levels, including “through the design, fabrication, and launching of rockets,” and “interventions in public space.”

Not Real Art Artist Of The Day Series

During the summer of 2019, Roy set out on his motorcycle on a cross-country trip from Southern California to Connecticut. As he traveled across the American heartland, his enthusiasm about getting an insider’s view of the nation while roaring through unexplored terrain was replaced by a burgeoning sense of malaise.

I experienced firsthand how environmentally damaged, economically depressed, and enduringly racist the United States is today. From coast to coast, there was not one mile of highway that was not littered with some kind of trash. Plastics especially stand out when you are scanning the road. On Route 66, where there are so many relics of better times for this country, I could see that America is corroding from the inside out. After a couple days, the feeling of nostalgia left me; one abandoned gas station and rusted out Cadillac too many.

Like a character in Easy Rider, Roy felt increasingly unwelcome in depressed rural areas the further he moved from the coast. As he pushed on through a stiff crosswind, he started worrying about finding secure places to dock. His conceptual notions of space exploration zoomed from macro to micro as he encountered atmospheric resistance and practical obstacles that nearly caused him to spin off course.

The weather is still hot, and getting more humid. The locals get colder, sometimes staring at me with a mixture of fear and contempt in their eyes. I begin to worry about finding safe places to refuel and camp. Travelling so exposed, while riding across the country by myself, brought terrestrial issues to the forefront of my mind which overwhelmed my consciousness. I am certain now that social, economic, political and environmental problems are all intertwined.

The trip had a profound impact on his work. Roy’s venture across a desolate and often treacherous planet confirmed his suspicion that all aspects of human existence are connected. It caused him to double down on his conviction that it’s up to artists and ‘rocket scientists’ to lead the way out of our current predicament. His multimedia performances, sound installations, pinhole photographs, and technological interventions seek solutions to environmental, cultural, and socio-political concerns through the lens of exploring outer space.

Table of Contents

David Roy — Artist Statement

David Roy. Headshot
David Roy

“There is No Better Way to See the U.S.A. than on a Japanese Motorcycle”

On August 14, 2019 at 7 A.M., I left my home in Inglewood, CA on my motorcycle headed for New Haven, CT. Eleven days and over 3,000 miles later, I did not anticipate that the things I experienced on the road would have such a significant impact on my life and work. As I rode, situations confronted me that were much more present than my previous artistic concerns, which were rooted largely in a speculative realm. I experienced firsthand how environmentally damaged, economically depressed, and enduringly racist the United States is today. From coast to coast, there was not one mile of highway that was not littered with some kind of trash.

Plastics especially stand out when you are scanning the road. On Route 66, where there are so many relics of better times for this country, I could see that America is corroding from the inside out. After a couple days, the feeling of nostalgia left me; one abandoned gas station and rusted out Cadillac too many. Something is very wrong here. In addition to the postwar ruins of the 20th century, there is an atmosphere that is difficult to describe…

Maybe it was the lack of air conditioning, feeling the atmosphere as a fluid medium, a constant force. At 75 M.P.H., the air feels dense, like moving through water. Turbulence ripples from big rigs upsetting me and the bike. It makes my knees involuntarily squeeze against the gas tank. In Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, crosswinds constantly force me to countersteer to keep going straight. Headwinds push the bottom of my helmet directly against my lips. In the Midwest, I overhear farmers lamenting another year of drought and failing crops. In Oklahoma, I start seeing tattered Trump banners and sweat-stained M.A.G.A. ball caps with increasing frequency. The weather is still hot, and getting more humid. The locals get colder, sometimes staring at me with a mixture of fear and contempt in their eyes. I begin to worry about finding safe places to refuel and camp.

Travelling so exposed, while riding across the country by myself, brought terrestrial issues to the forefront of my mind which overwhelmed my consciousness. I am certain now that social, economic, political and environmental problems are all intertwined. Every problem we face as a society will be magnified by our planet’s failing ecosystems. To solve such dire and complex problems we must make radical changes to our socio-cultural systems. For artists, I believe that this process begins by retreating from the broken structures of power under which we are living.

ART IS LIFE LIFE IS ART

David Roy – Grant Submission Work

David Roy. In reception there is unity. Performance Documentation.
In reception there is unity…
Performance documentation, January 2019
David Roy. Osiris (Interstage Coupler), 2021. Oil on canvas
Osiris (Interstage Coupler), 2021
Oil on canvas
60 by 48 inches
Smudge 1, 2015-2021
Pinhole photograph, digital scan
David Roy. BLACKNASA Cipher, 2021
BLACKNASA Cipher, 2021
Novel logo/identity for BLACKNASA,
Digital, dimensions variable
David Roy. Rocket in Apt. 201, Inkjet print.
Rocket in Apt. 201, March 2020
Inkjet print, ed. of 5 + 1 AP
20 x 24 inches

Artist Bio

David Roy is a multidisciplinary artist and educator from Los Angeles, California. His work, which spans performance, photography, sculpture, music, and technology is guided by the declaration of art as a practice of freedom that should never be estranged from everyday life. In 2016, he founded a space agency called BLACKNASA, with the mission of promoting the use of rockets for peaceful purposes only by conducting rocket science; both technical and social, through the design, fabrication, and launching of rockets, as well as interventions in public space. Since its inception, he has expanded BLACKNASA into an umbrella organization – to address its original purpose, and possibilities beyond.

David Roy on the Web And Social Media

Here’s is where to find out more about David on the web and social media:

About the Artist of the Day Series

All artworks have been published with permission of the artist. Our "Artist of the Day" series is a regular feature highlighting artworks from the 100's of grant applications we receive. The "Not Real Art Grant" is an annual award designed to empower the careers of contemporary artists, and this is one way we honor all entries we receive. Find out more about the grant program here.


Tags

africanamericanartists, artist, blacknasa, California artists, Los Angeles art scene, musiic, NASA, performance art, photography, public art, rockets, sculpture, sound, space, technology


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