Greetings again from the darkness. This is one of those rare times when an approach to film commentary simply eludes me. Is this a film, an art exhibit, a film about an art exhibit, an observation of earthling’s place in the universe, or a mechanism to bring Tom Sachs’ vision to a (slightly) wider audience? Perhaps it’s a bit of all those things … or perhaps it’s none.
At a minimum, Van Neistat’s film, or visual presentation if you prefer, is an intriguing look at a team of people (led by Mr. Sachs) who are really into their project of building a space program from scratch, and “sending” two astronauts (both female) to Mars to find signs of life. This we learn after the opening 1969 quote from Buckminster Fuller: “Science and Religion are on a parallel course to answer the question, Are we alone?”
Artist Tom Sachs had a New York City exhibit in 2012 entitled “Space Program 2.0: MARS”. This is the filmed version of the exhibit/project featuring Mission Control – Sachs is the Commander, while others are his team of experts (crew members), plus two astronauts, and a live audience – with laughing and clapping. Before you start picturing some big budget Hollywood production like Apollo 13 or Gravity, you should know that this is a complete “bricolage” project, and bricolage is defined as the creation of something from a diverse range of available objects. In this case, the first part of the movie goes into detail about the use of plywood and steel (amongst other things) to create the multitude of items necessary for this space program to succeed (including a landing module and astronaut suits).
The production, at times plays like performance art, but there is a certain level of seriousness to it … despite the scotch drinking and other shenanigans to lighten the mood periodically. The narration and electronic score complement the use of models, cameras, audio/radio, and other devices for the simulation. We even see an IBM commercial and the use of an Atari video game … yet, for this viewer, the unanswered question had little to do with whether we are alone in the universe, and more to do with what was the goal, vision, purpose, or ambition of this project?
watch the trailer: