Life on Mars – It’s a wrap

Life on Mars – Paul Thek
Life on Mars – Wolfgang Tillmans + Vija Celmins
Life on Mars – Marisa Merz + Bruce Connor
Life on Mars – Rosemarie Trockel
Life on Mars – Rivane Neuenschwander + Thomas Hirschhorn
Life on Mars – Haegue Yang + Ranjani Shettar

There has been, as to be expected, a lot of commentary and Monday morning quarterbacking about Life on Mars. The majority of the commentary seems to be from beyond the Pittsburgh region and ranges from comparing Life on Mars favorably to the Whitney Biennial to suggestions of what the Canegie International should have been.

On one hand, I appreciate what the Carnegie International brings to the region. Although I can’t say I connected with every work or artist that was exhibited in Life on Mars, it is an important experience insofar as it brings a glimpse of a larger world to Pittsburgh.

On the other hand, I think that the Carnegie International exemplifies the disconnect between the international and regional arts spheres. Similar aesthetics, quality or themes are being pursued by regional artists, at least here in Southwest Pennsylvania. But the international sphere only has a few portals for entry, none of which are accessible regionally. The Carnegie Museum, as well as several of the other renowned venues in Pittsburgh, has a history of distancing itself from the region’s art and artists. Given that, it is no surprise that Life on Mars does not reach out to include Life in Pittsburgh. In fact, the only participatory program for local and regional artists are in discussion forums where local artists are permitted to talk about their responses to the works installed in the Life on Mars exhibit.

Interestingly enough, the local arts scene has forsaken the Carnegie International too. The long-term planning for the exhibit and the length of the installation presents a raft of opportunities for the local and regional arts sphere to hijack some of the International’s energy. But there has been no related exhibits in the city’s visual arts venues, no matter what their standing is beyond the region. Instead, the banner that everybody is rallying to is Pittsburgh 250, the year-long celebration of Pittsburgh’s founding. Not that this isn’t significant, but surely the city is large enough to address multiple celebrations of significance.


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