Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
A Space Program: Analog Performance Art
original Mercury and Apollo astronauts were truly the best of the best. They
were phenomenally talented pilots who could also perform high level mathematics
in their heads. How square. Tom Sachs understands what the space program really
needs: hipsters who enjoy woodworking. As a love letter to DIY bricolage, Sachs
and his collaborators staged a raggedy, epoxied-together mission to Mars. It
was all done to scale of course, but the Park Avenue Armory offered room for generous
proportions. Van Niestat documents one of their irritatingly twee “demonstrations”
in A Space Program (trailer here), which opens today
in New York at the Metrograph, Lower Manhattan's newest first-run and repertory cinematheque.
nobody is going anywhere in these plywood crafts, but Sachs’ company will
pretend for the benefit of the audience. Launches and landings will be
simulated and a Mars rover will be driven round the enormous Armory Drill Hall
space. Granted, some craftsmanship went into their construction, but the performance
art aspects are annoyingly precious and sometimes rather lecturey. Probably,
the cleverest bit involves the use of the old Atari Moon Lander for the
supposed Mars landing. That game always used to be a nightmare to control.
the sake of grandstanding, Sachs (who serves as the Gene Kranz-like flight
director) mandated that the mission crew consist entirely of women, but he is
not really doing them any favors. Commander Mary Eannarino solemnly proclaims “a
woman did this” when she pretends to first set foot on Mars. Yes, well in that
case, we can only hope it does not set back the cause of gender equality more
than four or five years. By the way, feminists later get a sucker punch when
Sachs has the crew perform a hormonally charged **tch fit. Don’t worry, Sachs
isn’t laughing at all women, just those who think they can be astronauts.
Sachs’ pseudo-happening sort of reflects a Wes
Anderson aesthetic, but it lacks the wit and sophistication. Instead, it is
just nauseatingly smug. You can’t blame the Armory. Two years after this
silliness, Sir Kenneth Branagh staged his jaw-dropping production of Macbeth in the same venue. It is a
rather odd programming choice for Metrograph’s inaugural season, but they also have
some great repertory screenings scheduled that are infinitely more worthy of
your support (including the 6th Old School Kung Fu Fest). Not
recommended, A Space Program opens
today (3/18) at the new downtown art house theater.