Tom Sachs' Mission to Mars Takes Off at the Armory this May


This spring, Park Avenue Armory and Creative Time will join forces with artist Tom Sachs to launch the next flight of his SPACE PROGRAM with an unprecedented four-week mission to Mars, all within Park Avenue Armory's soaring 55,000-square-foot drill hall.

Following his 2007 mission to the moon, Sachs and his team will take audiences to the further reaches of the universe with an installation of dynamic and meticulously crafted sculptures. Using his signature bricolage technique, Sachs fashions aeronautical equipment and the world of another planet out of simple materials-foam-core, hot glue, plywood, and other standard materials that have been salvaged or are readily available from D.I.Y. catalogues. With painstaking detail, he creates elaborate spacecraft, exploratory vehicles, mission control, launch platforms, and a Martian landscape, recasting the Wade Thompson Drill Hall as an immersive space odyssey at an ambitious scale. SPACE PROGRAM: MARS will be manned by Sachs and his studio team of thirteen, who will perform the myriad procedures, rituals, and tasks of their mission at the Armory from May 18 to June 17, 2012.

In preparation for their lengthy mission, Sachs and his crew have engineered all that is necessary for survival, colonization, and scientific exploration in extraterrestrial environs, from food delivery and astronaut entertainment to human waste disposal. They will perform mission tasks and systems throughout the run of the exhibition, including Space Camp, Rover Deployment, Red Beans and Rice Preparation, and Suiting Protocol. The team will also "lift off" to Mars several times throughout their residency at the Armory, with real-time demonstrations playing out various narratives from take-off to landing, including planetary excursions, their first walk on the surface of Mars, collecting scientific samples, and photographing the surrounding landscape.

"For the launch of SPACE PROGRAM: MARS, Tom Sachs has produced elaborate instruments of space travel out of glue, packaging, and found materials, and will create a dynamic interplay among astronauts. He is thus simulating all aspects of the iconic experience without actually getting to Mars. The work is both humorous and serious, giving viewers insight into the challenges of space travel, but also leaving us to ponder one's place in the universe," said Rebecca Robertson, President and Executive Producer of Park Avenue Armory. Kristy Edmunds, Consulting Artistic Director at the Armory, added, "The shift in space travel from the public sector to the private mirrors Sachs' own work, which has often commented on the commercial impulse inherent in our society."

"Tom Sachs' work taps into the role of space flight in America and in the American psyche, particularly relevant given the recent grounding of the NASA shuttle program," said Anne Pasternak, President and Artistic Director of Creative Time. "SPACE PROGRAM: MARS blurs the lines between art and science, offering audiences a fresh perspective on the past, present, and future of space exploration."

Evident in SPACE PROGRAM: MARS, and in Sachs' practice at-large, is a compulsive tinkerer's mentality and ribald wit. Beneath this is a conceptual underpinning that addresses serious and profound issues-namely the commodification of abstract concepts. From his crude perversions of weaponry and luxury accoutrements-including such works as HG, (Hermès Hand Grenade), 1995, and Chanel Guillotine (Breakfast Nook), 1998-to the complex inspection and detournement of re-imagined living systems-as seen in Sachs' SPACE PROGRAM-Sachs provokes reflection on utopian follies and dystopian realities. Throughout all of these explorations, Sachs' central concern is the craft of constructing. He strives to emphasize the presence of the human hand, reminding the viewer of the hard work involved, while asking barbed questions of modern creativity that relate to conception, production, consumption, and circulation.

In conjunction with SPACE PROGRAM: MARS, the Armory and Creative Time are developing educational programs that underscore how imagination and exploration are fundamental to both art and science. Additionally, they will host a guest lecture by experts on space travel, including scientists from NASA laboratories with whom Sachs worked while researching and developing his mission to Mars.

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