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’sZilkha 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 earthworks—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.
About the Artist
MPA (b.1980) has explored a range of meditative, durational, theatrical, and actionist modes of performance to engage “the energetic” as a potential material in live work. Enriched with ritual, her performances and installations critically examine behaviors of power in personal and social spaces. In previous works, she has proposed questions on the global arms race, patriarchy as governance, and the dysfunctional union of art and capitalist commodity. MPA’swork has been exhibited at the Swiss Institute and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE); the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Museo de ArteContemporáneo de Oaxaca, Mexico. Her dynamic body of work Directing Light onto Fist of Father (2011), co-curatedby Dean Daderko and Alhena Katsof for Leo Koenig Projekte in New York, combined a looping 16mm film and a plaster cast of MPA’s father’s fist in an installation that incited three durational performances. In Trilogy (o) (2012), presented at Human Resources in Los Angeles, NASA sound recordings of dying stars accompanied 31 photographs of Nike war missiles arranged as a moon calendar. A frequent collaborator, MPA is a visible muse for many contemporary photographers, painters, and performers. After receiving a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant in 2013, MPA relocated from New York City to 29 Palms, CA to continue her research of somatic practices.
This exhibition has been made possible by the patrons, benefactors and donors to the Museum’s Friends of Steel Exhibitions: Director’s Circle: Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, Fayez Sarofim, Ms. Louisa Stude Sarofim, Curator’s Circle: Dillon Kyle Architecture, Inc., Mr. and Mrs. I. H. Kempner III. Major Exhibition Circle: A Fare Extraordinaire,Bergner and Johnson Design, Jereann Chaney, Sara Paschall Dodd, Marita and J.B. Fairbanks, Greg Fourticq, Barbara and Michael Gamson, Brenda and William Goldberg, Blakely and Trey Griggs, George and Mary JosephineHamman Foundation, Leslie and Mark Hull, Jackson and Company, Louise D. Jamail, Anne and David Kirkland, KPMG, LLP, Beverly and Howard Robinson, Lauren Rottet, Robin and Andrew Schirrmeister, Yellow Cab Houston, Mr. Wallace Wilson, Michael Zilkha. Perspectives Exhibition Circle: Bright Star Productions Inc., Elizabeth HowardCrowell, Dillon Kyle Architecture, Inc., King & Spalding L.L.P., Leigh and Reggie Smith and Susan Vaughan Foundation, Inc.
The Museum’s education and outreach programming has been made possible by the patrons, benefactors and donors to its Families of Steel Programming: Vera and Andy Baker, Mary and Marcel Barone, Louise D. Jamail, Kinder Morgan Foundation, Robert and Pearl Wallis Knox Foundation, Leticia Loya, Marian and Speros Martel Foundation Endowment, M.D. Anderson Foundation, Elisabeth McCabe, Andrew R. McFarland, Nordstrom, Nancy O’Connor,Cabrina and Steven Owsley, Ms. Louisa Stude Sarofim, Texas Commission on the Arts, Kim and Gerard Trevino and Bridget and Patrick Wade.
Funding for the Museum’s operations through the Fund for the Future is made possible by generous grants from Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, Jereann Chaney, Marita and J.B. Fairbanks, Jo and Jim Furr, Barbara and Michael Gamson, Brenda and William Goldberg, Leticia Loya, Fayez Sarofim, Robin and Andrew Schirrmeister and David and Marion Young.
The Museum’s operations and programs are made possible through the generosity of the Museum’s trustees, patrons, members and donors. The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston receives partial operating support from The Brown Foundation, Inc., Houston Endowment, the City of Houston through the Houston Museum District Association, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts, The Wortham Foundation, Inc. and artMRKTProductions. CAMH also thanks its artist benefactors for their support including Michael Bise, Bruce High Quality Foundation, Julia Dault, Keltie Ferris, Mark Flood, Barnaby Furnas, Theaster Gates, Jeffrey Gibson, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Jim Hodges, Joan Jonas, Jennie C. Jones, Maya Lin, Julian Lorber, Robert Mangold, Melissa Miller, Marilyn Minter, Angel Otero, McKay Otto, Enoc Perez, Rob Pruitt, Matthew Ritchie, Dario Robleto, Ed Ruscha, Cindy Sherman, Shinique Smith, John Sparagana, Al Souza, James Surls, Sam Taylor-Johnson, William Wegman and Brenna Youngblood.
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