words // Brennan Hiro Williams
Tom Sachs' SPACE PROGRAM: MARS opened this week at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, transforming the Wade Thompson Drill Hall into an expansive, dynamic art installation.
Artist Tom Sachs takes his SPACE PROGRAM to the next level with a four week mission to Mars that recasts the 55,000 square foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall as an immersive space odyssey with an installation of dynamic and meticulously crafted sculptures. Using his signature bricolage technique and simple materials that comprise the daily surrounds of his New York studio, Sachs engineers the component parts of the mission—exploratory vehicles, mission control, launch platforms, suiting stations, special effects, recreational amenities, and Mars landscape—exposing as much the process of their making as the complexities of the culture they reference.
SPACE PROGRAM: MARS is a demonstration of all that is necessary for survival, scientific exploration, and colonization in extraterrestrial environs: from food delivery systems and entertainment to agriculture and human waste disposal. Sachs and his studio team of thirteen will man the installation, regularly demonstrating the myriad procedures, rituals, and tasks of their mission. 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.
Beneath the compulsive tinkerer’s mentality and ribald wit that permeate SPACE PROGRAM: MARS, and Sachs’ work at-large, is a conceptual underpinning that addresses serious and profound issues—namely the commodification of abstract concepts such as originality, shock, newness, and mystery—expressing them in the personal and physical terms of production and process. With the recent shuttering of NASA’s shuttle program and the shifting focus towards privatized space travel, SPACE PROGRAM: MARS takes on timely significance within Sachs’s work, which provokes reflection on the haves and have-nots, utopian follies and dystopian realities, while asking barbed questions of modern creativity that relate to conception, production, consumption, and circulation.
The accompanying Tom Sachs: NIKECraft capsule collection will be sold alongside the show at an adjoining installation in the Park Avenue Armory. The capsule includes the Mars Yard Shoe, the Trench, the Marsfly Jacket and the Lightweight Tote. Sachs, true to his bricolage style, utilized several unique materials, taken from car air bags, mainsails from boats and even space suits. Every item is crafted for a "voyage through space," with interesting details like zipper pulls that have storage capability, paracords and the periodic table screened on the inside of the Trench jacket, all combining "visual interest with purpose."