Lita Albuquerque 20/20: Accelerando
Lita Albuquerque’s 20/20: Accelerando tells the story of a mythical space traveler who crashes to Paleolithic Earth. Suffering amnesia, she regains her identity and purpose through communion with unspoiled Nature. Each of the USC Fisher Museum’s three galleries is dominated by a monumental projection showing slightly different versions of Albuquerque’s film, in an approximately 30-minute loop. The work is set to a dramatic score of spoken word and rhythmic beats; the spectacle of theater is in full effect.
Walking into darkness from the main entrance, you are immediately confronted by the first of the projections. An extended take of the female protagonist anchors this video. Cropped tight to her face—pale skin with uncanny blue eyes and now big as a house—the projection is framed as a portrait on a free-standing wall. Her bleach-blonde hair flows out to either side, spilling on to the gallery wall behind. The result shifts between flatness and form. The left gallery houses an installation: a deep field of salt stretches from the screen forward into the room. The field is dotted with Albuquerque’s signature globes; larger, more complex, glass apparatuses stand individually and a paper scroll of cryptic writing splits the field. The feeling is alchemical. To the right, a single projection fills a floor-to-ceiling wall set diagonal to the space. The only light is the video.
Thematically and visually, Accelerando culls liberally from the totems of the New Age: sacred geometry, cosmic consciousness, ancient astronauts, neo-pagan spirituality, and wise, indigenous medicine men. Visually, the work awes with high-def images of lush and fantastic locales, aerial shots of majestic nature, and the untamed fury of storms. Simple and apparently profound ceremonies play out onscreen, all captured in the golden hour. We join a sci-fi heroine as she traverses her own Eat, Pray, Love journey through the ancient past.
Though I appreciate Albuquerque’s novel take on the Chariots of the Gods mythos, I’m troubled by the path she uses to get there. Why, for instance, is “cosmic consciousness” only paired with exoticized, Polynesian-looking islands or the presence of vaguely-Southwestern American medicine men? These have been tropes of the New Age for almost a century and today these associations are near ubiquitous in mass media and advertising imagery. Yet, beyond the first twist, they are presented here very literally and without further comment. Albuquerque pioneered these themes in her work for decades but I can’t escape the feeling, in Accelerando at least, that their invocation is too close to the same old exoticization, just given a fresh and dazzling coat of paint. In the end, I’m impressed by the sheer visual extravaganza but I’m left wanting for deeper substance.
Photo Credit courtesy of the Artist and USC Fisher Museum of Art, otherwise taken by Michael Carter