Entering the Pod: Ann Lislegaard and 2001

It is easy to forget the elevator at the Henry Art Gallery if it is not typically essential to your visit.  The elevator’s history may not be as rich as the wall dissected by Jen Graves, but this structure has encased its own share of memorable, often subtler works.  Currently, Ann Lislegaard’s sound installation Science Fiction_3112 (after 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick) inhabits the space, serving as a portal between the outside world and Lislegaard’s three large scale video installations below, in the Stroum Gallery.

Image from Crystal World (after JG Ballard). Ann Lislegaard. 2005. 2-channel, 3-D animation with sound, two leaning screens.  Image from Ballardian.

Although I always appreciated the effect of finding art in the elevator during the time I spent working/interning at the Henry (And Deer and Trees and Things by Cat Clifford was one of my favorites), this use of the space strikes me as the most effective, ultimately enhancing my experience of the exhibition overall.  Particularly as someone with a limited history with science fiction (both in terms of film and literature), the elevator became my point of entry for Ann Lislegaard: 2062.

The year 2001 has played an intermittent role throughout my life. The first time I was really aware of its images was when the opening sequences were projected across the doors of my high school before a senior party.  I graduated in 2001, so the group of faculty members and parents planning the event found 2001: A Space Odyssey’s prophetic insight appropriate for such an occasion even though many among the graduating class had never seen it, myself included.

Trailer for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

This year, 2001 finally made its way back to me, when it was the most appealing movie available “On Demand.” The film’s level of impact on visual culture and its anticipation of our current dependence on images almost goes without saying by this point, and that became obvious after seeing it once.  A few weeks later, I returned to 2001 again inside the pod-like environment of Henry’s elevator. This time, it was in the form of Ann Lislegaard’s Science Fiction_3112, without any images; instead, the two and a half hours of Kubrick’s carefully selected sounds and silences are distilled into less than nine minutes of concentrated reverberations, instrumentation, and utterances, all contained within the elevator as it moves (or remains closed and motionless) between the museum’s three floors.

The theme of circularity permeates 2001: A Space Odyssey, and those were the images I clung to while in the elevator.  The view of the flight attendant walking along the wall and ceiling in a spiral as she delivers a tray of liquid dinner to Dr. Floyd and the rotation of the Discovery 1 as an astronaut exercises inside the perimeter were two moments that readily came to mind.  Likewise, at the back of Ann Lislegaard: 2062, a leaning black monolith, installed among the sounds of another film influenced by 2001 (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), brings us back to the references inside the elevator at the front of the exhibition. The focus of Ann Lislegaard: 2062 resides between these two 2001-related points of entry; yet the frame of Kubrick’s film reworked facilitates a deeper engagement with the main video works for myself, the non-sci-fi inclined, ultimately demonstrating the relationship science fiction maintains with universality through manipulations of time, sound and image.