Entertainment Trumps Subject Matter in "This Is a Present from a Small Distant World" at SMoCA

The human race's fascination with space, extraterrestrial life, and the possibility of intergallactic travel is nothing new -- we've spent hundreds of years staring at the sky, thousands of words on space travel, and countless dollars shooting our own kind into the atmosphere.

"This Is a Present from a Small Distant World" on view at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art addresses these fascinations and attempts through the eyes of design collaborative New Catalogue with composer Judd Greenstein.

In the print edition of this week's New Times, Jackalope Ranch Editor and staff blogger, Claire Lawton takes a look at the space-themed exhibition at SMoCA:

In 1977, NASA approached American astronomer, astrophysicist, author, and popular science communicator Carl Sagan with a mission: Find out what it means to be a human on Earth and we'll send it into space, so that intelligent life might one day understand. Sagan and a team of artists compiled a time capsule of 116 images, an assortment of natural sounds and musical collections, and messages spoken in 55 languages on gold-plated audio-visual discs that were attached to NASA's Voyager 1 and Voyager 2.

Thirty-four years later, New Catalogue (which includes artists Luke Batten, Jonathan Sadler, Mary Vorhees Meehan, and Neil Donnelly along with composer Judd Greenstein) brought its own sounds, images, and a massive "spaceship" installation to SMoCA to revisit Sagan's mission on a large, interactive scale.

... A higher intelligence might laugh at a clip of a Hollywood movie or wince at a sound of a baby crying (both of which are included in the capsule), but after deciphering the scribbled handwriting, phallic doodles, and biblical references, they -- and it turns out we -- might be left wondering, "Why now?"

Read the full review of "This Is a Present from a Small Distant World" here and check out the show now through October 7. For more information, visit SMoCA's website or call 480-874-4666.

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