October sees Akim Alonzo’s Itakos Project gallery host an exhibition of art that chimed a strong bell with me, thanks in part to my cosmological interest in astronomy, space exploration and science fiction. Located in the Black hall of the gallery, Space Oddity features a selection of 14 images that are predominantly monochrome in tone, with just touches of colour that give them an almost heartbeat-like splash of life.
It’s an exhibition that apparently grew out of a common interest both Caly and Akim share for the beauty of deep space, and also a mutual love of the music of David Bowie. Given Caly’s attraction to things like cybernetic enhancements and the use of prostheses in her avatar images, these interests combine to present a selection of 14 pieces that are framed by two stanzas from Bowie’s 1969 single, Space Oddity, released just five days ahead of the launch of Apollo 11 and which itself drew inspiration from the Kubrick / Clarke masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in the most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
– David Bowie, Space Oddity, 1969
These 14 images take us on a voyage, one that wonderfully encompasses several elements, all of which could be said to be reflective of thoughts of space – inner and outer – whilst touching on elements of identity and of human progression and the state of the world around us.
Intentional or not, the offered images appear to be split into three groups, each with its own story, each of which it turn goes beyond the subject our deep space.
On entering the hall and turning to the left, the far end features a series of avatar images set against backdrops that seem to offer up views of who we are and what we might become, indicated by the various cybernetic and machine elements evident in some, and also by the almost tribal-like markings, some red and some blue. They also frame both the reality of our place in the cosmos (star fields and black voids suggestive of endless space) and the conceit that once attempted to put us at the centre of the universe (a head at the centre of an orrery, the planets orbiting around it).
A further set show a hardsuited figure on a planetary surface, mechanical hands clutching a posey of daisies. These again perhaps offer a mix of themes. On the one hand, they could indicate the wonder of the universe that somewhere out there, one day, on another world, we may well encounter the beauty of life (represented by the daises), that we will cherish. But might they also tell other stories? One perhaps that not matter how far we progress in space, Earth – as represented by the daisies – will always call to us? Or another that stands as a warning that if we do not start nurturing the world around us, the only way we might come to see its open spaces is from within the confines of hardsuits, the promise of life a scarce an precious find within its barren fields?
For here am I sitting in my tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do
– David Bowie, Space Oddity, 1969
The final group of images take us to the original theme of the exhibition as discussed by Caly and Akim: that of floating in space. But here again the interpretation of the images is mixed.
On the one hand, the presence of the odd little fish, with their translucent scales revealing their skeletal forms suggest some of these images don’t represent outer space, but the inner space of an ocean. But is this again the ocean of another world, and the fish its strange inhabitants? Or is it a reminder that there is a vast “cosmos” around us on this very planet within the oceans that make up the majority of its surface, there is much that we have yet to discover – including the wonder of lifeforms of which we’ve remained ignorant for so long? It is, again for you to decide the narrative – although, as with the other images, selecting one story does not exclude any of these others.
Multi-layered, beautifully presented Space Oddity is a marvellously engaging exhibit that should be seen by all who appreciate art that stirs both the heart and the mind.
- The Itakos Project (Black Gallery – ATL, rated Moderate)