Is There Art On Mars?
By Michael MaherJune 15, 2012
With plywood moon modules, golf cart Mars Rovers and pseudo-scientists on scooters, Tom Sachs creates a space for considering mankind’s move to Mars.
Like Andy Warhol, Tom Sachs is a creature of New York. At his Factory on Union Square, Warhol and his eclectic collection of camp followers turned out paintings, silk screens and films. A little further south on Manhattan — in SoHo — Sachs works from his so-called Allied Cultural Prosthetics studio where he practices what he terms bricolage: the cobbling together of "functional contraptions out of already given or collected materials". Plywood, glue, duct tape and other everyday hardware-store purchases are the media from which much of Sachs's art is crafted. And also like Warhol, he's given to exploring American iconography.
What could be more iconic than the space program? "America's space program is really about hearts and minds and ideas. So much of going to the moon was an idea," says Sachs.
Cardboard Rocket to Mars
"What we learned in the 20th century is that if you have an idea and believe in it, as wild as it may be, you can achieve it. One hundred years after [the novelist] Jules Verne invented the idea of sending men to the moon, we actually did it."
The 21st century has upped the ante. "The idea of a collective consciousness has been achieved through the power of the internet," Sachs told The Global Mail.
In keeping with this notion, he has devised an imaginary mission to Mars.
In the drill hall of the Armory on Park Avenue, once used to train soldiers for war, Sachs's earnest young assistants, wearing white business shirts and thin ties, are busy operating the panoply of consoles, space buggies and rocket ships that have been assembled for a journey to the Red Planet.
It's installation art on a grand scale. The public is invited to watch training films and undergo indoctrination before venturing out into the space show that Sachs controls.
So is there life on Mars?
"There is evidence of water on Mars, and what we do know through science is that where there is liquid water there is life," says this master of his own universe.
In fact, so confident is Sachs of finding water and life on Mars that he's taking the accoutrements of the Japanese tea ceremony and the opium den with him.
"We'll be bringing the tea ceremony along with opium poppies to Mars because the tea ceremony is perhaps man's greatest achievement in appreciation of nature, of harmony, of accepting the inevitability of life having an end, and of the cycle of nature," explains Sachs. "On the other side, the opium den presents man's nadir — his fears and indulgences, his hedonistic side. We aim to experience both of these together on Mars."
As an act of the imagination, Tom Sachs's show Space Program: Mars is nothing short of galactic. And it's a lot of fun.
Installation co-commissioned and co-curated by the Park Avenue Armory and Creative Time.