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Opening Reception

Really Large Numbers: The Observatory

January 18, 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Smack Mellon
92 Plymouth Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201 United States
(718) 834-8761

Smack Mellon is pleased to announce the start of its 2020 exhibition season with two solo exhibitions, Really Large Numbers: The Observatory and Cecile Chong: _other Nature, opening concurrently on Saturday, January 18, 2020. In both exhibitions, the artists depict the effects of traumatic events on the landscape, contemplating humanity and our relationship to the earth and nature. Really Large Numbers (Julia Oldham and Chad Stayrook) imagine the earth after it has been ravaged by climate change and foresee an uncertain future for its human and non-human inhabitants. In her project, Cecile Chong ruminates on the intricate connections between nature and culture, searching for ways to transcend barriers through commonalities in our ties to the natural world.

Really Large Numbers (Julia Oldham and Chad Stayrook) create immersive installations/laboratories, which resemble science-fiction experiments that imagine speculative future worlds. Integrating both in-depth scientific research and fantastical invention, they build playful narratives that are at the heart of their multimedia environments, which are represented through video and performative actions that take place in built spaces. The two artists work remotely for most of the year, exchanging blueprints, scripts, and sketches, and they come together to realize projects in person in residencies and art spaces.

The Observatory, Really Large Numbers’ multimedia installation at Smack Mellon, envisions a post-climate change, post-apocalyptic future. Inside an imposing sculptural observatory is a video monitor showing the daily routines of Stayrook, the last remaining human. A three-channel video projection on the large gallery wall depicts earth as a deserted wasteland with a female artificial intelligence (AI) system, performed by Oldham, who acts as both companion and guide to the human, teaching him how to navigate the harsh environment, but also as her own independent character, exploring the world without bodily limitations. Flipping gender-typical roles, the male human is a captive and limited stargazer searching through a telescope for something unknown in the heavens, while the female AI character has absolute agency. The Observatory reflects on the human desire for immortality in the face of ecological collapse, while taking into account the inevitability of great change.