By Kate Phillips
Sopris Sun Correspondent
Thought-provoking and awe-inspiring, the Aspen Art Museum’s (AAM) groundbreaking summer exhibition “Mountain / Time” is a captivating, time-based media experience that entices visitors to reimagine their worldviews.
Featuring notable works loaned from the Rosenkranz Collection and the Whitney Museum of American Art (WMAA) Collection, the museum-wide exhibition highlights 12 diverse artists who transport visitors across time and place through film, dance, music, archival research, language and science fiction.
“[The exhibition] speaks to our general ambition in creating moments of surprise, and presenting ideas and programs that our audiences aren’t necessarily familiar with,” said Simone Krug, assistant curator at the AAM.
Completely revamping the museum, WMAA curators Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz and Chrissie Iles, along with AAM curator-at-large Anisa Jackson and Krug, created an experience that intertwines artists’ ideas around “re-mapping, migration, Black and Indigenous geographies, storytelling and time,” according to a press release.
“I think that Nicola [Lees, director of AAM,] and Chrissie had been in conversation for a long time and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be atypical and incredible to do an exhibition of this sort in a way we’ve never done?’” explained Krug.
With over six hours of content, and spread throughout the museum’s three stories, the exhibition is indeed atypical, and ambitious. However, it was never intended to be viewed all at once, but rather over time, similar to the approach one would take when exploring the Rocky Mountains.
“Museum-wide, time-based media exhibitions are often shown in major urban centers like New York, London or Los Angeles. We want to consider what it might mean to show an exhibition of this sort in the mountains,” Krug said. “Chrissie and Anisa are such incredible researchers. They came out here and visited ACES [the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies], and they started to think thoughtfully about the systems in our surroundings.”
Inspired by the strength and connectivity of the intricate and multi-layered Pando root system of the Valley’s aspen forests, “Mountain / Time” weaves together artists’ stories to create a wonderland of thought that “re-maps” our historical notions.
“We’re in a moment where everything in our surroundings is being questioned, both in academia and the kinds of exhibitions we put on,” Krug continued. “Re-mapping considers the idea of questioning the status quo or questioning what we think we know, and reframing it from a new perspective.”
Clearly speaking to the concept of re-mapping, Brazilian artist Clarissa Tossin’s video “Ch’u Mayaa” explores cultural appropriation of Aztec architecture through movement and sound. Using Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1921 Mayan-inspired Hollyhock House as the setting, a dancer uses poses and gestures from ancient Mayan pottery and murals to dramatically re-map the building, transforming it back into a Mayan Temple.
Joining Tossin on the ground level are artists Alan Michelson and Doug Aitken. “Pehin Hanska ktepi (They Killed Long Hair)”, by Michelson, Mohawk member of the Six Nations of the Grand River, uses a 1926 film, projected onto a wool trade blanket, of veterans celebrating the 50th anniversary of a war victory, showcasing Indigenous strength and culture. Aitken’s work “migration (empire)” playfully provokes the idea of the false “wild west” through surrealistic film of wild animals in interior settings.
On the lower level, race and social injustice are at the forefront in the film “Mary of Ill Fate” by transgender activist and filmmaker, Tourmaline. Illuminating the ongoing and unjust erasure of Black, queer and transgender folx over time, viewers follow the story of Mary Jones, a Black trans woman living in Seneca Village, New York City during the 19th century.
Grounding visitors on the upper level, Thai artist Korakrit Arunanondchai’s installation transforms the room into a mysterious forest floor covered with soil that invites visitors to interact with the art. His films, “Songs for Dying” and “Painting with history in a room filled with people with funny names 3”, ponder Thailand’s geopolitics and the artist’s personal relationships, specifically what it means to be alive and how we interact with our surroundings.
Running through Sept. 11, “Mountain / Time” also includes the works of Kahlil Joseph, Kandis Williams, Arthur Jafa, Anicka Yi, Ian Cheng, Maia Ruth Lee and Mark Lecky.
“We hope ‘Mountain / Time’ expands our visitors’ understanding of what art can be,” Krug said. “And hopefully our viewers absorb and learn something they hadn’t known before.”
Related events are ongoing throughout the Valley, with the upcoming July 30 viewing of two films by Thai artist Apichatpong Weerasethakul at The Arts Campus at Willits. On Aug. 4, artist Korakrit Arunanondchai and director Alex Gvojic will present “Together” in an Aspen meadow. Registered attendees will participate in the Itinerant Cinema event inspired by cinematic practices of rural Northeast Thailand.
Visit www.aspenartmuseum.org to learn more.