Dream Travel and Space Scares

Seeking an escape from the heat? Escape a step further into the imagination of Hungarian artist Andrea Dezsö. The Rice Gallery exhibition "Sometimes in My Dreams I Fly" (which closes this Sunday, August 8) is a direct link to the world of Dezsö's dreams--spacey creature-scenes that come to life through shadows and light. Growing up in Romania, the artist was fascinated with 1970s space missions and the concept of dream-travel. Dezsö explains, "There was always this idea of a possible escape place, and because we did not have passports and could not go anywhere in Communist Romania, travel was only possible in your mind. What captured my imagination was how not being able to go somewhere physically opens the possibility of epic mental Odysseys, and how we can stuff empty space with rich imaginary worlds--then move in." (Dezsö's going to freak when she sees Inception.)

Empty space is exactly what Dezsö found at the gallery. In layers, she crafted 45-foot-tall panels back-lit by green, pink and blue light. Life-size three-dimensional tunnels feature paper cut-outs of creatures and plants inhabiting imaginary cities. There's even a giant representation of Sputnik, the Soviet satellite that heralded the space race. Each cut out was crafted by hand and assembled in each panel thus developing a surreal narrative Dezsö identifies as 'tunnel books'. Although you're separated from the world by glass, you're still drawn into the extraterrestrial worlds.

While installing the pieces Dezsö noted: "I was trying to recreate this sense of when you travel and you get to a place that's so entirely new and different that you can't figure it out right away when you see it. It's just a very sensory experience, a very visual experience and you try to make sense of what you see, but you're not at that point yet where we are so often now in our regular life when we look at something we've seen before, and we don't even entirely take that scene in ... I'm trying to strip away those categorizations and just show something that is so unusual that you can just really open up and look as if you've seen something for the first time."

In conjunction, tonight Rice is screening Sputnik Mania, a documentary which "Reveals one of the scariest moments in American history,"' according to Variety magazine. Winner of an International Documentary Association award in 2007, the film captures the height of the Cold War when the U.S.S.R. launched the first satellite to orbit the earth. At first, Americans were filled with awe, but it quickly morphed into fear. Could it be a weapon of mass destruction? Narrated by Liev Schreiber with tons of archival footage, Sputnik Mania delves into the events that brought the earth's super-powers to the brink of a full-fledged nuclear war.

"Sometimes in My Dreams I Fly" is on view through Sunday, August 8th, Rice Gallery, 6100 Main.

Sputnik Mania screens tonight, Thursday, August 5, 7:00 p.m., Rice University's Sewall Hall 301

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