Approximately Infinite Universe is inspired by science fiction, with its exploration of other possible worlds, its dislocation of spatial and temporal trajectories, and its challenges to distinctions between human and alien, self and other. The seventeen artists featured in the exhibition understand art as a vehicle for time travel, employing an array of mediums as means to move backward and forward through time. Their work re-visions fraught histories and en-visions utopian futures, with the effect of gaining insight into the complexities of the present.
Recently, allusions to space travel and depictions of the cosmos have appeared with increasing frequency in the art world, occasioned, perhaps, by the dissolution of the American space program and the privatization of space travel. Beyond simply referencing the motifs and rhetoric of space travel, the artists in Approximately Infinite Universe employ ideas and strategies associated with experimental science fiction writing, such as that of a new wave of science fictions writers who emerged in the late 1960s and 70s, influenced by the social and political movements of that time—these include Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia E. Butler, and Samuel R. Delany, among others. More popular versions of the genre—Star Trek, for example—are referenced in the exhibition, too, all with a view toward rethinking cultural categories, imagining new and different sets of social and sexual relations, and creating alternative narratives of the past and the future. As Le Guin has remarked, “One of the essential functions of science fiction, I think, is precisely this kind of question-asking: reversals of a habitual way of thinking, metaphors for what our language has no words for as yet, experiments in imagination.”
The artists in the exhibition reference and borrow from existing science fictions, but they are also producing new science fictions. Their artworks take the form of thought experiments exploring ideas surrounding utopia and dystopia, aliens and cyborgs, bodily mutations, reproductive technologies, Afrofuturism, and cities of the future, among others. Artists in Approximately Infinite Universe include Edgar Arceneaux, Andrea Bowers, Matthew Buckingham, Luke Butler, Victoria Fu, Chitra Ganesh, Desirée Holman, Emre Hüner, Ann Lislegaard, Simone Leigh, Yoko Ono, the Otolith Group, Jacolby Satterwhite, Amie Siegel, Cauleen Smith, Kara Tanaka, and Saya Woolfalk.
Approximately Infinite Universeis organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and is made possible by generous gifts from the Cochrane Exhibition Fund, Valerie and Harry Cooper, and the LLWW Foundation. Institutional support for MCASD is provided, in part, by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.