It's not everyday that a replica of a space shuttle pops up in New York City, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. Always one to deliver the unexpected, the New Museum in Manhattan has transformed its fifth floor gallery space to simulate the inside of a spaceship for it's newest exhibition, 'Report on the Construction of a Space Module', in conjunction with the Eastern European contemporary art network, Tranzit.
The organisation, which consists of autonomous but interconnected creative groups based in Austria, Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, has chosen to exhibit 117 art pieces from the region against this fictional background, which draws from space shuttles that appeared in science fiction films during the Cold War period. The minimalist, white installation opens with a chamber that comes complete with a transporter portal, which is surrounded by video screens showcasing slideshows of Soviet Modernism and other archive imagery, audio and video footage (from 1957 to present day) from around the region.
A second chamber leading off this first one is dominated by one large screen, which in addition to showing a loop of 25 films, interviews and video commentaries with artists, will serve as a communication launch pad where the show's artists will be able to communicate with people back in their hometowns during special public programming.
This Mission Control-esque room leads on to a smaller video installation, and then finally an antechamber, which has been filled with over 75 artworks, ranging from sculpture and video works to print and drawing, and appears like a cultural time capsule of sorts. Tranzit's challenge to the traditional institutional approach towards presenting artworks is really at the core of the group's message. 'We hope for the exhibition to make the facts of time relativity, cultural translation and spatial distance not only explained by curatorial conventions (i.e. text and wall labels), but also by visitors as they move inside the space and experience it as explorers,' they say.
Organised as part of the 'Museum as Hub' initiative, New Museum's international partnership programme, Tranzit's art historical approach to contemporary art works and new commissions exposes the cultural lexicon of this Eastern European region in a refreshing way. The spaceship setting not only recalls the futuristic fantasies that were prevalent on the European side of the Iron Curtain, but also highlights the ideological significance of the space race in the region.