FLEX (2023) UniSA MOD, Adelaide AU

Spacious Living

Sarah Jane Pell and David G. Barnes

Future life in Extremes (FLEX), University of South Australia (UniSA), Museum of Discovery (MOD), Adelaide, AU. 17 Feb - 24 Nov 2023.

Pell was commissioned to adapt four works from 2018 « Rock Stars | Bubbles on Mars | Warriors | Mars Olympiad » for installation on the MegaSceeens and Science on a Sphere (SoS) in the Universal Gallery. The constellation of interactive cinematic works set on Mars responded to the theme of Future Life in Extremes (FLEX) by asking, “Could home be 225 million km away?” FLEX was awarded Highly Commended Temporary or Travelling Exhibition at the 2023 Museums and Galleries National Awards presented at the Australian Museums and Galleries Association Conference 2023 in Newcastle, NSW. FLEX was MOD.’s seventh in-gallery exhibition with 66,875 people coming to visit. https://mod.org.au/exhibitions/flex/

Universal Gallery Screening:

Pell & Barnes “Rock Stars”, 2018 07:11 Starring – Sarah Jane Pell, Zac Trolley and Julia De Marines (Megascreen 3, Science on a Sphere).

A crew dressed in red flight suits and protective astronaut bubble-shaped helmets walking across an ancient riverbed of the Utah desert. They are picking up boulders and sand stones, shifting them across the landscape to create land-art patterns. The scale makes them look at once like giant soldier ants, and then tiny figures in a dinosaur’s backyard. The spacewalk simulations are mirrored and, like the trickery of desert mirages, the crew’s shadows and forms move across the landscape in kaleidoscopic geometries. Will future Mars crews create patterns in the landscape, and monoliths, like our ancestors? Will the spark of inspiration for cultural and site specific installations drive such labour and shape our new worlds?

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Spacious Living, 2023. Artists: Sarah Jane Pell & David G Barnes, FLEX, Museum of Discovery (MOD), University of South Australia, Adelaide. 17 Feb - 24 Nov 2023. Photos Sia Duff.

Pell & Barnes “Bubbles on Mars”, 2018 03:33 Starring – Sarah Jane Pell, Ryan Kobrick, Zac Trolley and Tatiyama Tasunari.
(Megascreen 2 and Science on a Sphere)

The playful juxtaposition of the serious labour and utility of conventional extra-vehicular activity (EVA), or is it? In 1971, Edgar Mitchell radioed mission control from the Moon as Alan Shepherd played Lunar Golf ‘his ball going for “miles and miles”’. This inspired Mikhail Tyurin to continue the game, and he hit a golf ball from the ISS during his spacewalk in 2006. So, is it game on for Mars? For now, Analogue Astronauts of Mars Desert Research Station Crew 188 try to understand the wind dancing through the ancient rock formations by holding up bubbler wands. Importantly, will their play and performance lead to Mars innovation, invention and discovery, or support crew wellbeing in inspirational, collective and creative ways?

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Spacious Living, 2023. Artists: Sarah Jane Pell & David G Barnes, FLEX, Museum of Discovery (MOD), University of South Australia, Adelaide. 17 Feb - 24 Nov 2023. Photos Sia Duff.

Pell & Barnes “Warriors”, 2018 05:00 Starring – Sarah Jane Pell and Julia De Marines. (Megascreen 1 and Science on a Sphere)

Celebrates our ancestral, primal and tribal nature. It shows a choreographed dual between a scientific and cultural warrior. The crew enact the exchange of ideologies, the resistance to translation, and defence against each other through interactive movement. Explorers expand into new worlds as warriors, traders, adventurers, and aliens of this new place. They are faced with the challenge of defending the old world, transferring skills and knowledge, and adapting to the new. Each time we explore a seemingly inhospitable and uninhabited place, we are faced with questions of environmental ethics, kinship, and cooperation or war in anticipation of survival challenges.

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Visitor Experience of Spacious Living, 2023. Artists: Pell & Barnes, FLEX, Universal Gallery, MOD, University of South Australia, Adelaide. 17 Feb - 24 Nov 2023. Photos Sia Duff.

Pell & Barnes “Mars Olympid”, 2018 02:26 Staring – Sarah Jane Pell, Renee Garifi, Zac Trolley and Tatiyama Tasunari. (Science on a Sphere)

One outcome of the ‘Bending Horizons 360’ experiments devised by Sarah Jane Pell and David G Barnes for the Mars Desert Research Station Crew 188 Analogue Mission 2018. Cinematic performance art on Mars analogue spacewalks. Explore the life of a Martian with a visit to the Mars Desert Research Station. Observe ritual co-operation, community, competition of art and scene-making in this extraordinary new world.

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Spacious Living, 2023. Artists: Sarah Jane Pell & David G Barnes, FLEX, Museum of Discovery (MOD), University of South Australia, Adelaide. 17 Feb - 24 Nov 2023. Photos Sia Duff.


« FLEX » future life in extremis

Visitor accessible experience of Spatious Living:

On the black floor at the Universal Gallery entrance, white text reads: “Could home be 225 million km away?” Just before you enter, wall text in the hallway reads: “Hello, and welcome to the universe. When things seem like life and death down here on Earth, out further there’s a lot going on that makes us pretty forgettable. Plans to live on Mars are not new, it’s something people have been thinking about for a while. As us tiny humans start venturing out to space, how should we go about it?” Covering the lower half of the walls are many portrait-oriented touchscreens. Each is around 1.5m high and .5m wide, and they sit flush with each other. Each group of three touch screens features one continuous interactive image of outer space. There are interactive areas on the screens which can be pressed to zoom in and out of planets and stars. Along the top of the walls is a long, continuous projection of a video work by artist Sarah Jane Pell with collaborator David Barnes, with contributions from the Mars Desert Research Station crew 188 and the Monash Immersive Visualisation Platform. Across the four walls is a sparse landscape which looks like another planet, but which is actually in Utah, USA. The rocky ground is pale grey-brown, the sky dull blue with white clouds. Across the landscape, the artist, and the MDRS crew are dressed in red spacesuits, perform tasks like blowing bubbles, moving rocks, and walking as though in reduced-gravity. Although it looks like a continuous landscape, the video is edited with mirror effects, creating simultaneous copies of the crew in the red spacesuits. The globe in the centre of the room features collected data about the Earth and planets, and Pell mapped 360 videos onto the surface like another worldly planet; the data display - called a Science in a Sphere (SoS) that can be modified by the interactive touch screen next to the globe.

Australia Council Logo

This project is part of the Performing Astronautics project assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

This work was co-produced by Monash University with support from the Monash Immersive Visualisation Platform during an artist residency 2018-2019. It premiered at the Cineglobe Festival, CERN Switzerland 2018 (in 180 Dome format); Life at the Edges Exhibition, Science Gallery Dublin, UK 2018 (in 360VR); SouthStart, Adelaide AU 2018 (as 2D-projection mapping inside the Adelaide Town Hall); and Moving Image Festival Adelaide Festival Centre (Mega Screen architectural wrapping), Adelaide AU 2019. In 2023, Pell adapted the works which MOD-renamed "Spatial Living" for the FLEX exhibition (Interactive Science on a Sphere and megascreens) MOD, Adelaide AU 2023.

⇐ Meet MDRS Crew 188 ⇐ Return to Performances ⇐ Return to Exhibitions ⇐ Check out MIVP Residency Projects