Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster with Joi Bittle, Cosmorama, 2018, mixed media, 9' 10“ × 26' 3”. Photo: Nicholas Knight.
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s “Martian Dreams Ensemble” is the artist’s latest attempt to meld art with science fiction. Taking Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles (1950) and The Illustrated Man (1951) as sources of inspiration, Gonzalez-Foerster treats the red planet as an object of thought, while once again underscoring her desire to create immersive experiences. The artist produced the show, curated by Julia Schäfer, together with the ensemble of its title: a team comprising a graphic artist, a musician, an architect, and a diorama designer—Marie Proyart, Julien Perez, Martial Galfione, and Joi Bittle, respectively.
Through a curtain of suspended luggage straps reminiscent of Brazilian vernacular home decor, the viewer enters an anteroom bathed in orange light. One is then invited to take off one’s coat and don a cape made from printed cloth, a nod toward Hélio Oiticica’s Parangolés, 1964–79. Gonzalez-Foerster’s capes feature political memes and fashion-shoot images, as well as stills from science-fiction films, all compiled from the anonymously authored @textil5 Instagram account. Throughout, Gonzalez-Foerster’s sublime Martian visions seem to have a strong tropical resonance; many of her references point to her former adoptive home of Brazil—admittedly not a country offering much scope for utopian thinking these days. (The artist currently lives in Paris.)
Moving on, one encounters Cosmorama, 2018, a diorama of a Mars landscape modeled on the ones found in natural-history museums. Designed by Bittle in shades of red with embedded black volcanic stones, the work locates the viewer within the artist’s dreams of the fourth planet from the sun. The space beyond the diorama presents five such dreams in the form of vinyl texts applied to the ceiling and diagrammatic renderings (by Proyart) that translate those visions graphically onto wallpaper. This installation evokes the graphic design practice and history long taught at the renowned Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig, while the other side of the gallery partition features short, abstract, oneiric phrases, along with bold stripes and curvy shapes in metallic vinyl that bring to mind musical compositions or variations on the organic line as used by Lygia Clark.
This grouping of text and graphic works is interrupted by Exotourisme, 2002, a video installation by Gonzalez-Foerster and Christophe Van Huffel, replete with a porthole offering viewers a glimpse onto liquid bubbles and rocket contrails in outer space. Here, as if situated inside a spacecraft, one prepares for the exhibition’s final chapter. Stepping into a triangular space bathed in blue light and lying down on a carpet designed in shifting shades of blue, white, and orange, the visitor is immersed in a swirl of spacey, atmospheric sounds by Perez. Gonzalez-Forster and Perez are planning a concert this spring with their band, also named Exotourisme, at a concrete-and-glass sphere being built in Leipzig after a design by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, dating from shortly before his death in 2012. With the landing of this globular structure atop an existing factory building, tropical modernism arrives in the former East Germany. The setting should provide Gonzalez-Foerster with yet another occasion to envision galactic travel.
— Tobi Maier