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The INTERVIEW: Red, Red Future

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, Texas, USA
February 27, 2016 – June 5, 2016

Wild Moccasins at ACL Live on August 28, 2015

Wild Moccasins at ACL Live on August 28, 2015

Wild Moccasins at ACL Live on August 28, 2015

Human colonization of Mars is expected to begin in the coming decades as NASA and independent space ventures partner with corporate investors to explore the future of life on the planet. The recent discovery of flowing water on Mars’s surface fuels speculation that the red planet may already support life. Within this extraordinary context, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is pleased to present THE INTERVIEW: Red, Red Future, a solo exhibition by the artist MPA presented in CAMH’s Zilkha Gallery. Working closely with the artist, CAMH has commissioned an entirely new body of work: a dynamic installation that combines sculpture, light, and photography; a participatory work in which visitors can converse with the artist via phone; and an artist’s publication. Combining advanced technology and Minimalist aesthetics, MPA’s work sheds light on invisible forces and power.

MPA is an artist based in 29 Palms, California. This exhibition is the culmination of more than three years of her ongoing investigation of human colonization of Mars. This exhibition offers evidence of MPA’s thoughts about Mars’s future and her speculations about life the planet may already support. More broadly, MPA’s exhibition considers the colonial implications of settling the planet, how scientific and mythical beliefs can co-exist, and imagination as a source of power.

The centerpiece of this exhibition is the sculpture CODEX (2015). Viewers circulating around this floor-bound work encounter a large aerial photograph of a Peruvian geoglyph. Dug into the ground, geoglyphs are massive earthwork —some as wide as 660 feet across— that depict a variety of animals, humanoid forms, and geometric motifs. This particular black and white photograph of a series of intersecting triangles is divided into 36 individual units, each 1 foot square. The glass plates positioned atop this photographic overview are treated with photochromic dyes. When exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light waves, these dyes—most popularly encountered as the transitional lenses of some eyeglasses—shift in color; CODEX’s glass plates reversibly transition from clear to opaque black or ruby red. These color shifts are initiated by the work ISS Clock, in which a programmed sequence of UV light reproduces the cycle of 16 sunrises and sunsets astronauts aboard the International Space Station experience every 24 hours —roughly, one sunrise or sunset every 45 minutes.

A second work, Long Line (2015), is an assemblage of lacquered wooden stakes that stretch across the gallery floor, augmented with selected objects —bits of weathered plastic, metal, Styrofoam, rubber, and ceramic shards— MPA has gathered on walks through the desert near her home. Long Line offers another way in which a view of a landscape takes an unexpected arc upwards; this arrangement of litter found atop the dusty soil suggests a bird’s eye view of the artist’s trajectory through her local landscape. Here again, the terrestrial and intelligible couple with the imaginary and unfamiliar.

In the participatory work The Interview (2016), visitors are invited to pick up the handset of a hotline telephone, which initiates a call to the artist; during their intimate conversations, MPA and visitors will speak about life on Mars. For the artist, this exchange functions as an analogue for both astronaut debriefings and the interviews required of civilian applicants to space exploration programs such as Mars One or SpaceX. MPA states: “Interviews have the weight of fact, but don’t have to rely on fact. A testament has its own agency. The Interview is a testament.” The Interview’s one-on-one exchange is an opportunity for mutual imagining that creates the possibility of a subjective counter-narrative. Who is interviewing whom? The artist? The visitor? In this open exchange, two beings come together to imagine with one another.

Photo: Max Fields
Courtesy of the artist and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston


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