Los Angeles-based artist Liz Glynn presents her most ambitious project to date in MASS MoCA’s signature Building 5 gallery, a sprawling sculptural experience of sight, sensation, sound, and scent stretching nearly a football field in length. The Archaeology of Another Possible Future expands Glynn’s interest in the rise and fall of empires, the assignment of cultural value, and labor and production. This multi-level presentation — which invites viewers to experience the museum’s former factory spaces from catwalks 18 feet above the floor — examines our physical and psychological relationship to our increasingly abstracted world. Glynn is particularly interested in the shift from a material-based economy to one in which technology companies seem to generate billion dollar valuations out of thin air, nanotechnology continues to operate beyond the field of the visually apprehensible, and capital is accumulated as a pure concept. Glynn seeks to reconcile the presence of physical bodies and individual subjectivities within this contemporary state, emphasizing the experience of physical movement in time and space by creating a two-tiered labyrinth. She suggests the sense of ephemeralization through elevated walkways and platforms that host digital printers above while presenting abstract sculptures below that translate abstract data into three-dimensional, nearly tectonic forms and cave-like structures made of shipping pallets that host a number of analog sensory experiences, focusing on touch, sound, and scent.
Glynn's exhibition begins with a sequence of three "analog caves" constructed of reclaimed forklift pallets that hearken back to basic sensory experiences.
The first cave, TOUCH, contains hanging stalactites and piles of industrial felt.
The second structure, SOUND, features listening stations with a turntable, vinyl records, and a cassette player and tapes, playing recordings made without digital processing.
The third cave, SMELL, includes a series of hand-formed ceramic vessels based on platonic forms each containing scents linked to philosophical ideas, such as the Epicurean notion that partaking in pleasure leads to well-being.
Phase II of Glynn's exhibition features a series of abstract sculptures based on models of human progress. Many of them are inspired by bar charts and stastical diagrams.
In 1965, Gordon Moore observed that the amount of circuit components that could fit on a microchip has doubled every year since 1959. He extrapolated that information to make a prediction known as Moore's law that the computing capability would grow exponentially and costs go down exponentially, setting the standrd for the tech industry.
A staircase leads to a network of three scaffolding towers, each of which hosts a 3-D printer. A nod to the factory of the future, the 3-D printers output objects throughout the course of the exhibition. One produces a model forklift pallet, echoing the pallets used to craft the caves; another prints usable pieces of hardware, while a third produces a prosthetic element in reference to an absent body. These stations are connected by a system of catwalks suspened fourtenn feet over the ground, a stomach-churning prospective that evokes both the spectacle and precarity of the dematerielized econmy.
Responding to the notion that the machine age would bring the newly liberated population a time of great leisure, Aldous Huxley — the author of Brave New World — suggested that humans would in fact experience depression and boredom when machines replaced their jobs. Glynn creates an image of the classic, picturesque ruin with a grid of cast-iron columns removed from the museum's renovated buildings. Modified stainless steel hospital stretches-cum-lounge chairs, placed under tanning lamps, propose a post-industrial vacation wasteland, complete with stainless steel tumbleweeds.
Principal exhibition support is provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Barbara and Andrew Gundlach, and the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation.
Major support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger, The Mohn Family Foundation, and Formlabs. Contributing support is provided by Stacy and John Rubeli, Girardi Distributors LLC, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Barr Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Pam and Alix Karlan, and Guido’s Fresh Marketplace.
All photos by David Dashiell and Steven Probert, Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York