Dinca — contemporary art blog

April 17, 2011: SPACE PROGRAM presents: Mercury, or One-Half a Life Spent in Darkness is One-Half a Life Spent Facing the Sun

“Mercury, or One-Half a Life Spent in Darkness is One-Half a Life Spent Facing the Sun”
Curated by Ben Russell

This Sunday!
April 17, 2011 | 7:30pm
at Thalia Hall
1807 S Allport, Chicago, IL, 60608 (map)
$5 suggested donation

Messenger Mercury is retrograde until April 23, but with this SPACE PROGRAM screening series, Mercury turns direct on Sunday, April 17th, 2011. Guided by the afflatus of the planetary teachers, Space Program projects indelible cinema in the historic, Pilsen-based Thalia Hall — both NASA employees and non-NASA employees are invited — but please note that this space is unheated, so bring warm clothes, sleeping bags, blankets, beaver pelts, caribou furs, and other warm goods. Considering the typical 40°–80° Chicago-flux of weather this time of year, it is advised that you bring extra beaver pelts and warm materials.

Synopsis of the Mercury Programme: “In honor of its eccentric orbit, its 176-day day, its large iron core, its tidal bulges and Beethoven Crater and its ‘gently rolling, hilly plains,’ your navigators at SPACE PROGRAM hereby propose an audiovisual third fly-by of the smallest galactic sphere: MERCURY.  The innermost planet of our Solar System, Mercury is metaphorically volatile, changeable, fickle and flighty.  It is a slow rotation with a sharp edge; one that occupies the two poles of our human psyche – Mercury is radical darkness, sorrow and despair; Mercury is blinding radiance, heat and wonderment.  Mercury is youth.  It is the cusp of adulthood, the terrors of development, that bittersweet joy of (not) knowing enough.  Viewed from our telescope, Mercury is Eva Marie Rødbro’s constellation of Texan teenagers, all infrared desire and insect and nipple pierce and imminent danger — the anxiety of that next rotation is deep, soul-shaking.  When we focus again, we see Mercury in the overwhelming sweetness and sorrow of Martin Bell and Mary Ellen Marks’ Streetwise (1984) — a document of a 1980s gang of Seattle street kids living in abandoned spaces (echoes of Thalia Hall), with the sort of heart-baring openness that can only come from living far too close to the sun … Where there is light, there is darkness.”

Below is a letter from the curator, Ben Russell:

Fellow Travelers,

On behalf of your friends at Mission Control (Pilsen), I am proud to announce the launch of SPACE PROGRAM* – a screening series in four parts that will temporarily re-colonize a world heretofore lost to Silence-and-Darkness in the name of Light-and-Sound.  Presented in the shadowy maw of Pilsen’s historic Thalia Hall under the guidance of artist/astronaut Ben Russell, SPACE PROGRAM is a satellite alternative to dominant media practices, a time-image map for those new constellations rapidly forming in your heads.  From April 17th onwards, each of the initial four SPACE PROGRAM screenings are named after and thematically curated in relation to one of the planets of our solar system.  Come, discover new worlds with us!  More specifically:

April 17th, 2011: MERCURY (see details below)
April 24th, 2011: VENUS (details TBA)
May 1st, 2011: MARS (details TBA)
May 8th, 2011: JUPITER (details TBA)

Space Is the Place,

Ben Russell


I Touched Her Legs by Eva Marie Rødbro (15:00, video, 2010)
Streetwise by Martin Bell and Mary Ellen Marks (91:00, 16mm, 1984)
TRT 106:00

I Touched Her Legs by Eva Marie Rødbro (15:00, video, 2010)
These Texan youth are the descendants of David Bowie’s ‘Young Americans’, and they are both invincible and as fragile as a deer caught in the headlights of an approaching car. The Danish artist Eva Marie Rødbro’s sound-and-image montage is an extraordinary experience – a deeply poetic anthropological study of the self-destructive rites of passage of teenage life. This is the fragility of youth, caught shattering.  Everything is simultaneously animal and human, domestic and ethereal – that kid backflipping off his couch is an astronaut, untethered in space; those forgotten Jesus hymns are portals to St.Elsewhere, true.  If this video is a document then it’s also a vision – not just about what one looks at, but how one sees and hears the world.

Streetwise by Martin Bell (91:00, 16mm, 1984)
“The first time I saw this film, when I was a child, I felt like running away and living under a bridge, someplace or other. It’s an extremely beautiful film, which captures a time and a place that no longer exists in this way.” — Harmony Korine

Martin Bell’s unforgettable vérité documentary was shot on the streets of Seattle in the mid-1980s, and follows a group of homeless teenage kids aged between 13 and 19, who live off ‘container-raiding’, stealing and hustling. Rat, the dumpster diver, Tiny, the teenage prostitute, Shellie, the baby-faced blonde, DeWayne, the hustler, all old beyond their years.  They talk as if they were port workers, but behind the tough façade lie the vulnerable, small beings that have chosen the freedom of the street instead of the broken homes they come from. A raw masterpiece, and a kind of documentary precursor to Larry Clark’s Kids (1995), which Harmony Korine himself wrote the screenplay for as a teenager.  This is a film that is rarely screened, one that you’ll never forget.


STREETWISE courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

SPACE PROGRAM is made possible by a grant from Propeller Fund and through material support from the The Foundation for Emerging Artistic Talent (E.A.T.).

Launched in May 2010, Propeller Fund is administered jointly by Gallery 400, UIC and threewalls. Initial support for the program is provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts as part of its initiative to promote informal and independently organized visual arts activities across the United States.

The Foundation for Emerging Artistic Talent (E.A.T.) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promote the arts by providing exhibition opportunities and educational resources for emerging artists in the Chicago-land community. E.A.T.’s goal is to enrich the neighborhood of Pilsen through inspired artistic productions showcased in Thalia Hall’s 800-seat theater and gallery space. E.A.T’s dynamic programs will cultivate a supportive artistic network where emerging artists can be empowered to share their voice.


Thalia Hall

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *