During our chat with artist Tom Sachs about the landing of the Mars rover Curiosity (and cheeseburgers), he told us that his proposal to have NASA fund his project “Space Program: Mars” (which included the plea “I bring sex to the Space Program”) was rejected. We wondered what kind of art does NASA fund? Well, now we know. Bizarre photographs of women in sexy skin-tight space-suits, wandering across a fictional sci-fi terrain with Martian ruins, and even giving birth.
According to the story in Wired, the artists, Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick, were approached by someone from NASA to create a commissioned photographic series. The result is Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea, a set of fictional images created using high-resolution “photo-mosaic” panoramas of Mars taken by the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which were provided by NASA, coupled with the artists’ own montages inspired by Romantic landscape paintings and the sci-fi illustrations of Chesley Bonestell. The narrative for the photographic series was based on the idea of a Martian dystopia, “hope based on gender dynamics” and Barbarella.
From the story:
Their narrative ideas came from “thought-form companions” – the manifestation of the physical by means of meditation – from Alexandra David-Néel’s Magic and Mystery in Tibet. After seeing prototype photos of slim-fitting astronaut suits they decided they wanted to try and “bring NASA into a kind of Barbarella age again.” And since Mars is named after the Roman god of war, seeing the red planet ridden with the relics of a fallen empire seemed natural.
While these slick and stylized images are light worlds apart from Tom Sachs’s installation at the Park Avenue Armory—a life-size tableau replete with a pinball machine, a Darth Vader-shaped fridge loaded with booze and a Landing Excursion Module—his version of the Apollo Lunar Module made from plywood, tape and glue with a monitor showing female explorers canoodling—they do have one thing in common with Mr. Sachs’s work: the vision that the first explorers on Mars will be two sexy women.