The Apollo 11 space mission to the moon is today the stuff of legend. For German-born artist Ati Maier, the first Moon Walk serves as both metaphor and unifying theme to her latest exhibition, The Map Is Not the Territory. With a series of new abstract paintings, four looped videos, and a floor sculpture, Maier will transform Pierogi and our second exhibition space, The Boiler, into an immersive environment within which to meditate upon the essence of that “giant leap for mankind.”
The Boiler show features Maier’s live action film, The Map Is Not the Territory, from which the show takes its name. Herein the artist plays her alter-ego: A helmeted space-rider mounted on a horse walking languidly across two unknown planets following a series of blinking lights that mimic the outline of the first Moon Walk. (The path is mirrored in the sky as a star constellation.) This strange juxtaposition of scientific and quasi-religious imagery becomes then an emotional vehicle for us to consider our own place in the cosmos.
In coining the phrase, “The map is not the territory,” Polish-American philosopher Alfred Korzybski argued that human knowledge of the world is limited by the structure of language. Or, as Carl Sagan said, “Our understanding of the cosmos begins in the mind.” The Brooklyn-based Maier here turns communication into a political game when the space-rider plants her own imprinted flag into the ground, staking claim upon the territory. As if to further exemplify the tragic weight of Western history, the space-rider follows a bright comet shooting across the night sky, implying that mankind’s interstellar manifest destiny is not exempt from man’s long-sought spiritual enlightenment.
On view at Pierogi will be Maier’s recent works on paper. In one, E.T., Maier reprises the line of the first Moon Walk, which overlaps an image of the Eiffel Tower, an embrace of pop culture that questions once more the notion of scientific discovery within space and time. For both the Eiffel Tower and the Apollo 11 mission represented the cutting-edge of human technology in each of their eras, a notion easily overlooked in today’s high-speed digital environment.
The emotional core of the show ultimately lies with the 3D animated short, Goldilocks Moon, which takes its name from the astronomical term for habitable zones. “Ultimately,” says Maier, “I am looking for a place where I feel at home.” The film is based on her symphonic visual painting Out of the Blue (2011); it begins wondrously with a group of vibrantly-colored planets rotating in rhythmic motion. The orbs spin so quickly that they lose all sense of structure, unraveling into a series of lines that revolve hypnotically inside a funnel until, in the end, we come out on the other side at the Goldilocks planet where the journey began. That such an experience in visual chaos instills tranquility rather than vertigo in the viewer is Ati Maier’s way of reminding us that venturing out into the unknown is nothing to fear at all. –Brian Chidester
Ati Maier currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. A previous 3D video animation was included in the Fokus Bienial in Lódz, Poland. Her work is part of the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (NYC), the Museum der bildenden Kuenste Leipzig (Germany), among others, and has been included in exhibitions at the Städtische Galerie Wolfsburg (Germany) and the Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC). This will be Maier’s fourth one-person exhibition at Pierogi.