Shotgun Reviews

Red in View at the Whitney Museum of American Art

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Jasa McKenzie assesses Red in View at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

MPA , Entrance, 2014–2016; Pigmented inkjet print mounted on mat board and painted wood; 7 × 7 in. Courtesy of MPA and the Whitney Museum

MPA. Entrance, 2014–2016; pigmented inkjet print mounted on mat board and painted wood; 7 × 7 in. Courtesy of MPA and the Whitney Museum of American Art

Red in View by MPA aims to explore the potential colonization of the Red Planet, Mars. In a time when plans are underway for Mars One, an international project to build a colony on Mars, the artist prompts us to reflect on the endeavor as a resource for our own planet and to examine the human drive to colonize.

The exhibition stands in the Whitney’s lobby gallery, a dark and secluded space adjacent to the main visitor traffic. The installation, however, reaches far beyond the room. A red line runs around the entirety of the lobby and the central staircase. The line begins in the lower level, next to a box marked “Heart,” which mimics a transplant organ carrier and invites us to consider human viability outside the home planet. Extending to the third floor, the line leads viewers to a theater, where related performances will be held throughout the exhibition’s duration.

The gallery itself is painted entirely black, evoking the black expanse of space. All of the artwork is spotlit, creating a feeling of isolation between each piece, as if one is passing stars while traveling through the black void. The objects are mostly large-scale but do not overcrowd the space.

A red outdoor lounge chair sits just off center in the gallery. A phone sits on a table next to the chair, along with a sign that reads, “The interview is live. Please pick up the phone.” Various options await on the other end of the line. One might get a message asking if one has considered living on Mars and to leave a phone number to receive a call back. Otherwise, MPA might answer to ask a few Mars colony-related questions. This mysterious interaction isolates participants as they wait alone, nervous about what this interaction has in store for them.

Performances accompany Red in View, including Prelude, a three-hour performance that takes place in the lobby during which the two Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, circle each other twenty feet apart, wearing pants with the rear ends removed. (Get it? Moons.)

Although the physical installation of Red in View might be modest, the scope of the project is expansive. The exhibition successfully envelops the viewer in the dark, surreal experience of outer space. The red line ensures that the exhibit in never far from the museum-goer’s mind, while the performances question what this planetary advancement might mean for the human experience.

Jasa McKenzie is a curator and artist based in New York City. She is currently a fellow in Curatorial Practice at the School of Visual Arts.

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