AWOL Presents "Mare Tenebrarum"
Satellite Art Show Austin
March 13- March 17, 2019
AWOL presents an installation in remembrance of the brief yet remarkable career of NASA’s third Mars Exploration Rover Impression that explored an area of the red planet opposite Spirit and Opportunity. It landed without incident in the isolated seabed Mare Tenebrarum, and was the first of the rovers to analyze feldspar. Darkness beset the launch of Impression on March 20th, 2003, as the first U.S. military strikes upon Iraq overshadowed media attention. The rover’s triumphant landing and power-up on February 4th 2004, was equally beset by distraction. The website launch of Facebook that day was complicated by a tiny but vociferous Flat-Mars Society campaign, proclaiming all planetary robotic missions as “hoaxes”. Mechanical difficulties began almost immediately. Imagery received was clouded by dust, and visual interpretation was required to make sense of every picture. Most troubling were the rover’s answers to JPL commands. Under continual observation, “Impy” (as engineers called it) exhibited behavioral problems. Routine requests returned error messages that appeared idiosyncratic. As objective operations failed, unprecedented responses became legible as language patterns. Impy’s last received transmission baffled the space community with a disquieting message that could scarcely suggest anything but machine self-awareness. During a perfect storm of extraordinary solar radiation and seasonal dust cyclones, Impy’s last transmission contained these words embedded in binary code:
-My battery is low, and it’s getting dark.
Nothing has been heard from Impression since November 2, 2004. It is believed to retain low function, based on its ability to hibernate and conserve power during planetary winter. Whatever challenges Impression experienced, it nonetheless was able to traverse vast distances across the Martian surface, entering areas still unknown. The complete story of Impression’s mission may never be understood – until further contact, we can only conjecture.
Mare Tenebrarum is a project developed by artists Jim Ovelmen and Andrew West.
Jim Ovelmen is an internationally recognized artist based in Los Angeles. His mixed-media work has been shown all over the world including museums and galleries in United States, Europe and Asia. He has shown his work in QiPO 01 Mexico City, numerous times in Art Basel, and is work was featured in the 2010 Aichi Triennial in Japan and the 2016, 2017 Satellite Art Show in Miami Art Week. His drawings, paintings, videos, animations, and musical performance work has been featured at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, FilmForum Los Angeles, Pacific Asia Museum, Torrance Art Museum, Kristi Engle Gallery, PØST Gallery, Kristine Koenig Gallery in Vienna, and Artist Space in New York. He is also a Professor of Art at California State University Los Angeles.
Andrew West was born in New York City, received his MFA from the University of California, San Diego, and has lived and worked in Los Angeles for nearly 15 years. In 2019, he has presented a solo show at Santa Ana College, joined AWOL at QiPO 01 in México City, and will feature in the group show Blind Courier at the Brand Library in Glendale, CA. He has had solo shows in recent years at PØST in Los Angeles, and Long Beach City College. Group shows include work at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, the Centro Cultural Riviera, Ensenada, México, the Yokohama Triennial, and galleries in Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, New York, and Japan. He has participated in residencies in México and the Netherlands, and has work in private collections throughout Northern and Southern California, New York City, Boston, Canada, Amsterdam, and Münster, Germany.