Lentos Museum of Modern Art Presents Ralo Mayer: Obviously a Major Malfunction

The Lentos Museum of Modern Art presents Ralo Mayer / Obviously a Major Malfunction on view through 23 October 2011.

4.56-billion-year-old meteorites, a painting from the collection of the LENTOS, a closed eco system and a checklist that travelled to the moon and back with the astronauts on board Apollo: four highly diverse objects that are used by Ralo Mayer (b. 1976, lives/works in Vienna) in the first part of his exhibition to throw light on his own work from the last few years. Space, the history of its exploration and utopias that tried (in the past) to predict what the world would look like in the future form the thematic backdrop for these works. Like all science fiction that deserves the name, they are deeply rooted in present-day reality and transfer social and economic facts into multifaceted stories.

An overview of the Columbia debris reconstruction hangar in 2003 shows the orbiter outline on the floor with some of the 78,760 pieces identified to that date. More than 84,000 pieces of shuttle debris were recovered, some of which is included in a traveling NASA display to stress safety.

In the second part of the exhibition Mayer presents a new large-scale installation. It continues his exemplary exploration of objects in time and space, focusing on “the most complex piece of machinery of all times”. This title rightfully belongs to the United States Space Shuttle, which is said to consist of more than 2.5 million individual components. Two space shuttles broke apart in mid-air, one in 1986 and the other in 2003. When Challenger disintegrated into plumes of white smoke, a NASA commentator famously informed the tens of millions of horror-stricken viewers following the catastrophe on TV that “obviously a major malfunction” had occurred.

What about the period whose beginning and end are marked by space shuttle disasters? What events does it owe its specific flavour to? Mayer’s reconstruction features not only charred remains of the space shuttles but also fragments of the reactor in Chernobyl, the Berlin Wall and the Twin Towers. His presentation of these reliques takes its cue from an emancipatory interpretation of the so-called Cargo Cults, with which Melanesian and other tribal societies tried to cope with their traumatic encounters with colonial powers. The “cargo bay”, a storage space for all kinds of freight, is also an important feature of the Space Shuttle.

The Space Shuttle was conceived in the late 1960s as a reliable vehicle able to commute between the earth and the space colonies then in the pipeline. The Vietnam War and the United States’ economic woes subsequently caused NASA’s budget to shrink and the Space Colonies remained science fiction. The Shuttle was built nevertheless, and for a vehicle whose original purpose had all but dissolved into thin air its 30-year record of service is impressive. The Space Shuttle will complete its last mission in the summer of this year.

Ralo Mayer is the winner of the TRIENNALE LINZ Award, which was first presented at the TRIENNALE LINZ 1.0 in summer 2010.
The exhibition is organised in collaboration with Kunsthaus Baselland, Switzerland, where it will be on display from 28 January to 25 March 2012.


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