Visual Arts

"The Interview" Explores Life on Mars at CAMH

Complete with the possibility that viewers will be able to pick up a phone and talk with the artist MPA and ask questions, the exhibit “THE INTERVIEW: Red, Red Future” at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston focuses on life on Mars. 

The titular work, The Interview, is based on live audience exchanges with the artist via phone. According to Dean Daderko, curator of CAMH and the exhibit: “There'll be a phone people can dial. If she can, she'll pick up. If not, there's a message prompting people to tell her what they think life on other planets will be like in the future.”

The process mimics astronaut debriefings and highlights the sense that information, when presented in a formal interview, is given legitimacy and considered factual.

“Looking at the colonization of Mars, [MPA] considered lots of things. How is a planet like that going to be run, for example. Who's going to be in charge? How are people going to interact with each other? And what about the idea of private property? Will that change when we're on a new planet? We don't know what the exchanges between the audience and artist will be like. Hopefully, both audience and the artist will be surprised,” Daderko says.

The exhibit is made up of entirely new work including CODEX (a sculpture), Long Line (an assemblage) and The Interview (a participatory work). The exhibit is a continuation of MPA's exploration of the colonization of Mars via abstract art.

“I think [the work] combines art with science, without any hierarchy,” says Daderko. “Science is about conjecture, about what we come to know and about what might be possible. Art is like that. It requires imagination to create the art and it requires imagination to view the art. It's that collective imagination that makes this possible. With an expedition to Mars planned for 2017 – which is incredible – mixing science and technology with myth and imagination is very timely now.”

Daderko equates the courage of astronauts blasting off to that of a person creating art. “Both acts say, 'Yes, I'm willing to welcome the unknown.'”

The highlight of the exhibition is CODEX, inspired by the cycle of 16 sunsets and sunrises experienced every 24 hours by astronauts in space. It features a large aerial photograph of a Peruvian geoglyph (the black-and-white image is bound to the museum floor).

MPA divided the image into 36 squares and covered the squares with glass plates. The plates, which have been treated with photochromic dyes (think transitional lenses in eyeglasses) change from clear to opaque black or ruby red, then back to clear when exposed to UV light.

The changes in color are slow and gradual. “It affects the way people experience [the piece]; it slows them down," Daderko says. "That allows the transition, the changes, to become the focus of the work.”

There's an opening reception including a performance of The Interview 6:30 to 9 p.m. February 26. Regular viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays; noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Through June 5. Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose. For information, call 713-284-8250 or visit Free.

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Olivia Flores Alvarez