Lost in space

by Nicholas Laughlin on June 2, 2010

Finding My Way Home 2 by Tavares Strachan

Finding My Way Home 2, by Tavares Strachan, from Orthostatic Tolerance. Image originally published in the Boston Globe

The Bahamian artist Tavares Strachan’s latest project — Orthostatic Tolerance: It Might Not Be Such a Bad Idea If I Never Went Home — opened at the MIT List Visual Arts Centre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, last month. The gallery explains:

Since 2006, Strachan has been working on this multiphase body of work that explores space and deep-sea training. “Orthostatic” means to stand upright, and “tolerance” refers to the ability to withstand pressure. Combined, the phrase refers to the physiological stress that cosmonauts and deep-sea explorers endure while exiting, and re-entering our home, the thin surface of planet Earth.

Reviewing Orthostatic Tolerance for the Boston Globe, critic Sebastian Smee writes:

The mythological figures of Icarus and Odysseus are twin spirits presiding over the show, which sets the consequences of ambition and curiosity in tension with the idea of circling back, or homecoming.

One gallery, for instance, contains a set of works collectively called “Blast Off,” all relating to a project in which the Bahamian-born, New York-based Strachan built a rocket made from glass and launched it from the shallow surf of a Bahamian island. The glass was made from island sand (Strachan studied glass-blowing at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence) and the rocket itself fueled with sugar cane (a plentiful local crop).

In black-and-white footage that is weirdly mesmerizing, we see the rocket shoot up, tip over and plunge straight back into the surf, breaking into several pieces. Both the broken pieces and an intact version of the original are displayed in vitrines.

The show includes sculptures (including “a submersible underwater sea rover entirely out of blown glass”), installations, video works, and what the gallery calls “a nano-sized topographical landscape.”

Smee adds:

Perhaps most remarkably, he is trying to establish an education center, the Bahamian Aero Space Exploration Center in his homeland. “With a collapsing educational system and the distraction of tourism,” he explained to Farver, “a focus on developing an agency that allows its citizens to expand beyond its waters seems appropriate.”

Expand beyond one’s waters, sure — but into outer space?! What the hey, why not?

(I’m still rather in awe of Strachan’s 2005 project The Distance Between What We Have and What We Want, which involved extracting a 2.5-ton block of ice from a frozen river in Alaska and shipping it to the Bahamas, where it reposed in a solar-powered freezer.)

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