Laura Emrick

Esther Schipper

In her exhibition entitled “Regolith and Reproduction,” Laura Emrick incorporated science and technology in her art. She takes for granted a familiarity with the newest developments in the media and in technology, as well as with the images, stories, desires, and utopias they produce. For her, the seminal event in the development of media culture was the first moon landing. The voyage through space; the broadcasting of information by satellite; and the creation of utopias are simultaneously real and science fictional, opening outer space itself to larger-than-life fantasies as well as to flight. Replacing the simple bomb shelter with a rent-a-place on another planet—an imaginable possibility for surviving the destruction of the Earth.

The Space Age has long since begun, and Emrick works with the ideas and the cultural residue that the dreams and delusions of this age have produced—objects anyone can find and collect. The Space Age has been integrated into everyday American culture, or so this exhibition reports. It’s a commodity, a handy and omnipresent myth fragment that offers hope in proportion to the fame and excitement aroused by space travel. On the shelves, made out of metal ironing boards, the paraphernalia of space travel has been collected and displayed: knick-knacks, figurines, framed ads, playing cards, etc. Entitled GE and the Final Frontier, 1991, and Moonlust, 1991, these works remind us that “It’s Time to Go for Another Walk” and inspire us to see that “Nothing’s More Realistic than a Strong Vision.”

The gallery windows were covered with wallpaper printed to represent the moon, and in front of them photos of planets were mounted on translucent glass range-top heating units. Emrick calls this work Domestic Universe, 1989. The set of computer-designed Moonbase Placemats, 1991, arranged around a table, presents a heightened utopia familiar even in the dining room. In this installation she completed the living space/house created by shelves, table, windows, and wall hangings with an entertainment corner furnished with a sofa and magazines that contained articles about the conquest of space, the new home, as well as flights to Mars and the Moon.

Above the sofa, a windshield served as a frame for a photo of a Martian landscape, Marscape: The Angry Red Frontier, 1990. There were also slides that informed with numbers, fact sheets, and images about the possibilities of emigrating to Mars and the “Freedom Space Station” project. These “scientifically” supported scenarios promised a glorious future, even under the least-favorable conditions imaginable, as they are being actively pursued by the scientific community. Here the possibility of transplanting pioneering work in outer space into the art world is suggested. Emrick carries on this process beyond the confines of this exhibition by training herself in satellite-image technology. The exhibition becomes a balancing act between the fascination so often stimulated by foreseeable, nearly palpable, technological advance and the media criticism of this ideology of progress. At the entrance of the gallery, printed on the wall, Emrick has quoted George Bush delivering his statement on the subject: “And next—for the new century—back to the moon—back to the future. And this time, back to stay.” Emrick’s critique can also be seen as a commentary on this propaganda.

Jutta Koether

Translated from the German by Leslie Strickland.