A traveling exhibition of contemporary art that explores the infinite potential of
Space Is the Place at the Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, is an exhibition that focuses on contemporary art addressing the theme of space exploration, its infinite potential and its historical successes and failures. This exhibition, in its only New York showing, is on view from June 21 – September 7, and features work made during the past fifteen years by an international group of artists, whose work includes paintings, sculptures, photographs, installations, and sound and video works.
Global attitudes toward space exploration have changed radically between the time the Soviets launched their Sputnik satellite more than fifty years ago and the loss of American space shuttles in 1986 and 2003. By the same token, many of the artists in Space Is the Place manifest a powerful nostalgia for a future that never was.
While the exhibition’s works are united by the primary theme of outer space, the open-ended parameters of the subject invite consideration of issues relating to the technological, environmental, and sociopolitical forces affecting life on earth. For example, Polish-born artist Aleksandra Mir’s video, First Woman on the Moon (1995), which was performed on a beach in the Netherlands thirty years after the first moon walk, uses the fantastical context of space exploration to comment on the continuing problem of gender inequality.
Space is the Place includes new works such as a piece from NASA’s first artist-in-residence, Laurie Anderson. “When you hang out at NASA,” Anderson observed, “you realize that a lot of research has to do with beauty, starting with Einstein, who rejected certain theories because they violated his aesthetic sense.” Recent works, relating to Anderson’s musical/performance pieces inspired during her time at NASA, highlight the importance of imagination and dreaming in the quest for space travel.
MIR, Gravitation, Off!, 2001
In space, the body becomes simultaneously free and vulnerable. In a zero-gravity vacuum, it is capable of extraordinary feats, but is only a few layers of metal or clothing away from instant death. The possibilities for and threats to the human form in space are investigated in several of the works. The video from the group MIR (Microgravity Interdisciplinary Research) explores this notion as they depict people delightfully floating during a performance work that took place on a zero-gravity flight.
Diverging from factual reality but imitating its appearance, Julian LaVerdiere’s F.A.M.S.F./Crash Site Memorial (2000),adopts the presentation styles of history museums and documentary films. The artist infuses these seemingly straightforward approaches with dramatic intimations of conspiracy theory and the tropes of Romanticism. A fictitious narrative, is set up to revolve around the German World War II V-2 rocket, which was actually used to bomb London during the final stages of the war and was the first missile to enter space. In his fiction, LaVerdiere develops a pseudo-narrative using toy models, a hoax film documenting the discovery of the lost V-2, and photographs with captions adhering to the format of an Associated Press statement. In a final gesture of humorous defiance, he inserted some of these fabricated images into the Associated Press archive, certain to confound future V-2 and space program researchers.
The idea of space exploration has changed quite dramatically since the first moonwalk, a time period that is conjured, albeit darkly, in the work of British twins Jane and Louise Wilson. Their photographic work, Service Module, Mir (2000), was made at an antiquated cosmonaut training facility outside Moscow. The Wilson sisters gained access and captured images of such iconic subjects as the now-defunct hangars used to launch, store, and transport rockets, as well as abandoned piles of space suits and lockers signed by generations of cosmonauts and astronauts. This meditation on the decaying facility once the epitome of space-age modernism—serves as a potent reminder of the hubris, courage, and naiveté that fueled the space race.
Artists in the Exhibition
Marko Peljhan in collaboration with Pact Systems
Jane and Louise Wilson
The exhibition Space Is the Place is organized and circulated by
iCI (Independent Curators International), New York.
The guest curators are Alex Baker and Toby Kamps. The exhibition, tour, and catalogue are made possible, in part, by a grant from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, with additional support from the iCI Exhibition Partners.
The Hudson River Museum is located at 511 Warburton Avenue, Yonkers NY. Minutes from the Saw Mill River Parkway, exit 9, north or southbound. Information and directions: 914.963.4550 and www.hrm.org. Wed - Sun 12- 5 pm. Fridays 12-8 pm. Admission: Adults $5; Seniors 62 & older and youth 5-16 $3. Fridays 5 to 8 pm free.
The largest cultural institution in Westchester County, the Hudson River Museum is a multi-disciplinary complex that draws its identity from its site on the banks of the Hudson River, and seeks to broaden the cultural horizons of all its visitors. It engages in the presentation of exhibitions, programs, teaching initiatives, research, collection, preservation, and conservation – a wide range of activities that interpret its collections, interests and communities.