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Spaceship Earth

Buckminster Fuller was one of the most inventive and prolific visionaries of 20th century who was keenly intuitive. Much of the work in the new Whitney exhibition, Buckminster Fuller: Starting with Universe, is on display for the first time. “We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody.”

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the science fiction classic, was created at the pinnacle of the Apollo space exploration project beginning with manned Earth orbiting missions and reaching its plateau with landing on the moon on July 20, 1969. The Hal 9000 computer gave us a preview into how computers would one day dominate our lives.

In Is Google Making Us Stupid? Nicolas Carr makes several references to Hal: “… the implacable astronaut Dave Bowman, in a famous and weirdly poignant scene toward the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, is calmly and coldly disconnecting the memory circuits that control its artificial brain. ‘Dave, my mind is going,’ HAL says forlornly. ‘I can feel it. I can feel it.’” Reading about Carr’s experience and how Internet searching and surfing has affected his thinking process and focus level, I realize that I am not the only one.

Are we becoming more aware of the hybridization of human and machine even though our minds are numbing by the plethora of information? As Internet has shifted our reading habits, how is it influencing the way we perceive art? Do we spend as much time contemplating works of art as we did in the past?

Depth and form are perceived in the visionary light creations of James Turrell (Season 1). His Roden Crater Project acts as a giant naked eye enabling viewers to see the sky as a dome and to feel the roundness of Earth. This is an experience similar to what Fuller experiences, “The earth is revolving to obscure the sun. The sun is not going down. I want you to really feel this with me. We’re rolling around to obscure the sun. We’re about to have a sunclipse: the earth is revolving around rapidly to obscure the sun. It’s perfectly easy to feel it, particularly if you face north and look over your left shoulder. Just watch! and you suddenly begin to feel this enormous earth revolving on its axis.”

Another visionary artist who is acutely aware of the environment is Roni Horn (Season 3). Her Vatnasafn/Library of Water replaces the solid with liquid as it engages the community to participate and to interact through a variety of activities. It is the epitome of relational art. An extensive collection of books on Fuller, Horn and Turrell are available for on site and take home use at the Art Collection of Mid-Manhattan Library.

At the 2005 Art Basel Miami Conversation, Hans Ulrich Obrist asked Robert Rauschenberg what advice he had for young artists and he replied, “Just nurture your curiosity and have respect for change. And I think the curiosity part will make life very exciting. It will also fight back habits like repeating oneself.”

Earthrise. NASA AS11-44-6548

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