Unholy contraptions

Tavares Strachan's rockets, plus 'The Boat Show' at Drive By, and 'Sensed, Unseen' at GASP
By GREG COOK  |  June 23, 2010

UNDERNEATH: In the video of her performance piece, Faith Johnson rolls a plastic bag filled with water back and forth over her face, smooshing and smothering herself.

“Tavares Strachan: Orthostatic Tolerance — It Might Not Be Such a Bad Idea if I Never Went Home” | MIT’s List Visual Arts Center, 20 Ames St, Cambridge | Through July 11

“The Boat Show” | Drive By, 81 Spring St, Watertown | Through August 28

“Sensed, Unseen” | GASP, 362 Boylston Street, Brookline | Through July 2

In Tavares Strachan's video The Rocket Launch (2009), two black men in white chemical suits load sugar cane into the back of a three-wheeled mini-truck, then drive down a palm-tree-lined road to a run-down building labeled Bahamas Aerospace and Sea Exploration Center. A police officer on a motorcycle then leads the truck, with a six-foot-tall clear glass rocket mounted on top, to a beach where a man in a chemical suit and a police officer move the rocket onto a launch platform. The camera pulls back to show the rocket standing in the shallows of a lovely beach. After a long wait, smoke billows from the rocket. It curves up into the sky and then slams back down into the shallow water, shattering. Men collect the glass shards from the water, as if picking up the pieces of their crackpot Right Stuff dreams to return to the drawing board.

The silent, 14-minute, black-and-white video — now on view in the Strachan exhibit "Orthostatic Tolerance: It Might Not Be Such a Bad Idea If I Never Went Home" at MIT's List Visual Arts Center — is a meditation on fragility and futility and aspirations. It is absurd and serious and kind of lovely. But what is Strachan doing daydreaming about a Bahamian space age?

Strachan, who studied at RISD and Yale and now lives in New York, keeps getting drawn back home to his native Bahamas. He attracted attention by creating one of the landmark pieces of global-warming art, The Distance Between What We Have and What We Want, a solar-powered refrigerator preserving a 2.5-ton block of ice carved out of an Alaskan river in 2005. He displayed it at the grade school he attended in Nassau, and then at the 2006 Art Basel fair in Miami. It makes a physical connection between Arctic melting and flooding of islands closer to the equator, as well as to the fossil-fuel consumption that's driving the problem.

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Related: Slideshow: ''Stan VanDerBeek: The Culture Intercom'' at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, The proto-web utopian consciousness of Stan VanDerBeek, Autumn blossoms: Our 10 most anticipated art shows this fall, More more >
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , List Visual Arts Center, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, MIT,  More more >
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