No More Worlds
Why begin with a reference to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris for this exhibition? In this film, scenes of the future consist of the same highways of the director’s own Soviet Union and the cosmonauts experience horrors based on the same afflictions that clouded their minds back home. What we build up as otherworldly echoes our own contemporaneity and in effect, what occurs is a reworking of our own culture into far-off lands and fears. This is more effectual than a far off utopia and more than a simple lesson in appropriation. The artistic identification with otherworlds is a vampiric tendency—we draw the life out of the past and cause its perpetual return. As a result, this has given us the awkward fashions of Ed Hardy and neon Ray-Bans, but also deft returns to a sometimes messy, painterly expressiveness (Racer LeVan) and first-person performance video (Shana Moulton).
Moulton’s video series Whispering Pines consists of sugary, colored landscapes with an anachronistic-sounding synth-pop soundtrack. The protagonist, Cynthia, played by Moulton, is beleaguered by the ailments of her body, manifested in bouts of mild depression, headaches, neck pain, and even mere discomforts like feeling chilly. Throughout the series, Cynthia tries various techniques to improve her relationship to her body, trying out a number of remedies, whether pore-cleansing strips, new age therapies, or Crystal Light. Regardless of the method, the resolution is always the same, and in WP Episode 6, the episode shown in this exhibition, puzzle pieces literally return Cynthia to her worrisome, confused self. Cynthia seeks a utopic body—Deleuze and Guattari's body without organs—but at the end of each episode, Cynthia is left alone with the various ailments of her body and back to the beginning of her process of different intensifications, rather than developments.
Mark Hensel, another artist interested in the reconventioning the past, has uploaded old science fiction paperback covers onto his Flickr account. Documents of what was, the covers on these out-of-print editions—populated by scenes of a lonely cosmos or solitary wanderers—echo the oftentimes desolate landscapes in Hensel’s own comics and installations. Taken from decades past and placed in the here and now, the shape of a melting cryptostructure conjures up images outside of sci-fi convention, whether images of ecological devastation, topaz bric-a-brac found in the desert, or Post-Minimalist experiments with mass and form. Is it juvenile? Maybe. Playful? Yes, but without any stereotypically boorish adolescent behavior.
Regardless of the artist, many of the works in this show lack human subjects. This refusal to give art a human presence, whether through the motifs of portals or passageways, shows how an experience of art depends on the addition of viewers, of bodies. Sometimes portals (Madeleine Bailey, Jessie Mott) are scarier than the final destination. However, the range of highly detailed, gorgeous, unkempt, and even (colorful) disasters that comprise No More Worlds are privy to the enjoyment of spectacle as much as the anxieties that plague our continual enchantment with otherworlds and our presence in them. Without us, these would be lonely worlds.