After years of hard work, to have your graduate show cancelled because of the pandemic lockdowns has got to be gutting. And while many are going virtual, to mixed reaction, the graduates of Liverpool John Moores University BA in Fine Arts say as “our planet is currently broken,” they’re taking the opportunity to go intergalactic, staging their digital graduate exhibition on the surface of Mars.
Visit the grads’ dedicated website and you’ll be transported to the Martian surface via a speedy video tour, which uses Nasa’s detailed 3D scans of the planet, landing in the Gale crater amongst a set of “crash-landed” objects – each representing the work of a different graduating artist. Navigating the show using your keyboard and mouse, you can explore and choose an artist to focus on. Then, when you click on the artist’s portkey, you’re thrown down a wormhole to the “Earth gallery,” where the real designs sit in an empty IRL space in Liverpool (set up a week before lockdown), which you can also explore virtually. There’s also links to the individual artists’ websites to find out more about their practice.
The show opened 5 June with a live opening event, curated walkthroughs and recommended artworks chosen by external selectors including Ryan Gander, Miranda Sawyer and Hans Ulrich Obrist.
Far from an albeit very astute marketing ploy, the choice to place the show on Mars stems from the students’ decision to “acknowledge the present, rather than avoid it. This show is not a documentation of what might have been. [We] have opted for a multiverse approach that uses the past (ie. the IRL exhibition) and present as a means of making sense of the future,” the group says in a curatorial statement. “We are using Mars not as some futuristic sci-fi way out, but as a curatorial strategy to re-focus ourselves now and provide a unifying structure to allow for all the student responses to develop and cohere meaningfully in relationship to each other. Mars sets up the idea that we need a future here, and need to start to take control of it.”
Therefore the exhibited work is a direct response to the current circumstances. “The work presented is site specific and event specific: it responds to and reflects what we are all experiencing now. This show recognises that this is the most extraordinary time to be making artwork.”