The New Colonists
Bemojake and The Photographers’ Gallery
The down-to-earth, all American surburban town of Mars, Pennsylvania, USA serves as the backdrop to Monica Alcazar-Duarte’s The New Colonists, … From here she builds out a narrative using additional sequences of images that chronicle how scientists are currently gathering data and doing extensive research in order to prepare ourselves for life on the red planet.
As Dr Marek Kukula explains in his accompanying essay, the idea of Mars as a future territory for mankind has preoccupied our view of space ever since the 18th century. Triggered by our communal imagination and stimulated by technological innovation, we have managed to obtain compelling visual approximations and records. Indeed, as Kukula writes, ‘photography has played a key role in our exploration of Mars, transforming [it] into a real place that we might one day hope to visit or even go to live.’ In return, our species has long assumed that the gaze was to be returned; convinced that Martians were studying planet Earth and its creatures too.
Alcazar-Duarte’s straightforward yet atmospheric documentary images of everyday life in Mars have a certain alienating quality. The complimentary segments focusing on the scientific preparations for life on Mars, the planet, meanwhile hint at the ongoing, human need for disclosure of unknown terrain. Both these elements – our preoccupation with an extra-planetary expedition and the imagined extraterrestrial observation of us – are smartly interwoven in this publication, beautifully designed by Ramon Pez.
Clearly, photography as a fact-bearing medium is being ushered towards more undetermined uses within its cultural production today and a keen selection of creative people are finding alternative routes to arrive at new forms of reportage on current affairs. Alcazar-Duarte is one such artist working in this still erratic enclave, a sanctuary for avant-garde documentary photography often exploring fantastical subjects, slowly but surely finding recognition within the international art world with a forthcoming exhibition at the prestigious Les Rencontres d’Arles, France this summer. ♦
All images courtesy of the artist and Bemojake. © Monica Alcazar-Duarte