Tim Harrington, what's the last great thing you saw?

I am a fan of the artist Tom Sachs. Last week his giant new exhibition "SPACE PROGRAM: MARS" opened at the Armory on Park. It is a Smithsonian-scale collection of equipment he has made for an imaginary trip to the red planet, featuring full sized space rovers and landers made out of plywood, lawn chairs, duck tape and countless other bits of cheap or found materials – stuff you could get at a reasonable hardware store or Everythings-A-Buck type place. It is incredible. I rarely say "incredible" with out being facetious. Sachs and his studio assistants have cobbled together the most ambitious testament to the power of DIY that I've ever seen. In a world where ambitious artists are too often puffed up blow hards or costly outsourcers, Sachs somehow pulls off his grand gesture with pleasure, sincerity and self-aware humor. He's kinda living a Wes Anderson LARP.

"SPACE PROGRAM:MARS" seems to coincide with the arrival of an actual Space Shuttle. On June 7, the decommissioned Enterprise will be riding up the Hudson on a barge to its new home on Manhattan's West side. So, New York will be hosting a huge fake NASA Mars program on the East side, while the West side becomes home to an actual NASA space ship (which, by the way, is named after a fictional space ship.) The show at the Armory is like a kid's fantasy come to life: "I'm gonna build everything I need to go to Mars." In a surprising reversal, the actual Space Shuttle and the cancelation of the shuttle program feels like a reminder of how distant that goal is. In the end, both displays are just that, displays. Sachs' DIY space ship and the actual Enterprise Shuttle share about the same chances of getting into space anytime soon, which must mean something.

Anyway, the whole thing blew m'mind. I was thinking a lot about how marvelous Sachs' whole process and point of view was and found these wonderful videos he's made. There are several which together form a kind of Sachs manifesto. The one above is a great illustration of how deep his projects go. They are so severely obsessive, but kinda kidding, but really not. They inspire me to take time to formalize my processes and to remember how simple means can become so much more when pushed to their limits. Hopefully you'll enjoy them as well. Check out the whole series of videos at

Tim Harrington is an artist and frontman for Les Savy Fav.
MAY 22, 2012  •  GREAT THING 17 OF 20

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