Rocket launches are a synthesis of speed, force, gravity and sometimes pure beauty. Attempting to capture that, former Concordia student Charles Stankievech created Ghost Rockets World Tour. The exhibit, however, is a failure to launch.
Ghost Rockets is based on a series of 12 launches that occurred over the course of a year. Stankievech travelled around the world to launch his rockets in conjunction with local artists in locations that include the Mojave Desert, MIT laboratories, Cape Canaveral, Florida (NASA HQ), various military bases and the Arctic. Some of the launches were in areas easily accessible to the public, while others were at more remote or “high-risk security locations.” All of them trace the geographical history of rockets, from their invention in Europe to NASA launches and their refinement in northern research locations.
Each launch site was set up with music, lights and smoke grenades, paralleling the setting of a global celebrity music tour.
The exhibit takes place in a small, dimly lit room with a floor-to-ceiling screen placed in the centre. The projector repeatedly plays a video of three of the 12 rocket launches, with a leather couch in front of the screen. The first scene is in a deserted area covered in heavy snow. Stankievech approaches the site with music blaring in the background, ignites a rocket and steps away. The rocket lights up and, with incredible speed, bursts in the air.
While the theme is an interesting one, the video is low in quality. At certain parts of the video, the audio and visuals are unclear, the sound becoming incoherent, the picture fading, and at one point stopping altogether.
The images lack explanation and coherence. People watching the video may not be able to identify the locations, or why it was chosen in the first place. All that they can speculate is that he was in a desert, in the arctic and on an island.
Next to the screen, there are two displays. One is a collection of three black frames on the wall. Each shows what appears to be the launch pads of different rockets. The other is a glass display with various items related to the launch scattered together. The objects vary from space crystal sand sand from the desert to a Zippo lighter that was used to light the rockets. Each display lacked labelling. The entire setting of the exhibit is disappointingly average.
Stankievech, who received his master’s in fine arts at Concordia, is a conceptual artist and writer who incorporates architecture, sound and theory in his projects. A previous exhibition of his, Magnetic North, at the Leonard & Bina Ellen art gallery last spring, examined the Arctic. Ghost Rockets is meant to complement Stankievech’s 2009 DEW project (another field work piece examining missile defence infrastructure). Ghost Rockets has stopped in Paris and New York City, and was done in collaboration with artists Will Cotton, E.V. Day, Haseeb Ahmed and Mai Hofstad Gunnes.
Fifteen minutes is all the time that is needed to view this event. While the idea of launching rockets around the world is unique and creative, Ghost Rockets itself failed to excite and live up to expectations.
Ghost Rockets World Tour is on display for free until Nov. 13 at the Donald Browne Gallery, at 372 Ste-Catherine St. W.