MPA: Orbit
Feb 9–Feb 19, 2017



Essay
Orbit Log 
Observations from Ground Control

On February 9, 2017, artists MPA, Amapola Prada, and Elizabeth Marcus-Sonenberg entered Orbit, a continuous ten-day performance staged in the narrow space between the windowpanes of the Whitney’s Susan and John Hess Family Theater overlooking the Hudson River.

The enclosed environment—which included a composting toilet, plants, a ten-day supply of food and water, basic bedding, a treadmill, instruments, and a three-camera video-surveillance system—was inspired by the simulation projects conducted by universities and space agencies to test the viability of human life
on spacecrafts and on Mars. The participants’ conditions partially emulated those of astronauts orbiting Earth: they slept in scheduled rotations, received messages on a delay, exercised daily, and tracked their energy usage. They embarked on
Orbit without rehearsal, with their own assignments, objectives, and visions of the future and survival.

Orbit was conceived by MPA as part of her Whitney exhibition RED IN VIEW, which considered how the potential colonization of Mars, the red planet, exists in the cultural imagination. As part of her ongoing research into the topic, she asked many people to draft written accounts of Orbit, ourselves included. We had a unique position in the project. Having organized the show with Jay Sanders, former Engell Speyer Family Curator and curator of performance, we were asked by MPA to serve as “Ground Control” for the entire trajectory. In a sense, this moniker cast us in a role we already perform at the Whitney in support of artists’ projects. We sat in the back of the theater with our red laptops every day during Museum hours, usually together, though on the weekends we took shifts. We were the tether between Orbit and our earthly institution, communicating with the artists daily. We chose to record in real time the actions that we observed, letting our two voices intermix as one, even while we sometimes wrote as “I” from singular perspectives. What follows is our data diary.

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