Laura Poitras: Astro Noise
Mar 17, 2016

Anarchist: Power Spectrum Display of Doppler Tracks from a Satellite

Laura Poitras (b. 1964), ANARCHIST: Power Spectrum Display of Doppler Tracks from a Satellite (Intercepted May 27, 2009), 2016. Archival pigment print on aluminum, 45 1/4 × 65 in. Courtesy the artist

Laura Poitras: Astro Noise is an interactive exhibition which offers visitors a unique museum experience.  One of the most interesting things about this exhibition is observing how differently people act in this space compared to other spaces within the Whitney.

Laura Poitras (b. 1964), still from O’Say Can You See, 2001/2016. Two-channel digital video, color, sound. Courtesy the artist.

The exhibition starts with O'Say Can You See (2001/2016), which is a double-sided projection. On the first screen that visitors see, there are slow motion clips of people reacting to the ruins at the World Trade Center site a few days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. On the other side of the first screen, there is video footage of military interrogations that happened shortly after the attacks. Greeting visitors in this confrontational way sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition, which can be seen in the audiences’ responses.

Laura Poitras (b. 1964), still from Bed Down Location, 2016. Mixed-media installation with digital color video, 3D sound design, infrared camera, and closed circuit video. Courtesy the artist

Following these projections is an installation titled Bed Down Location (2016). Visitors are invited to lie down on a large square “bed” in the center of the room and watch a projection of skies in different locations. Because this room is dark, the people entering it begin walking in slow motion, perhaps full of hesitation and fear of making body contact with a stranger. This kind of tense atmosphere really helps convey the emotion that accompanies the projection on the ceiling.

After leaving this room, viewers enter a dark black corridor in which people have to peek into small openings to see either a document or a video. The fact that viewers must be very close to these small spaces to understand what they are looking at contradicts the expectation throughout the rest of the museum to stay an arm’s length away from artworks. Not only is the work in this exhibition very thought-provoking, but the experience of it is as important as the artwork itself.

By Jocelyn, YI Leader