Those who remember the vaginal Spaceship of the Imagination in Carl Sagan's 1980 show Cosmos will experience a Proustian moment upon entering Agnieszka Polska's video installation The Happiest Thought at the Frye Art Museum.
Polska is a Polish artist based in Warsaw and Berlin. Her current show at the Frye is called Love Bite. It has two parts. One part consists of two videos of a blinking sun that talks a lot and brings to mind a creepy character in a children's show. The second part of the exhibit occupies a large black space that has a huge screen and a collection of soft foam furniture. This is the part of the installation that recalls the Spaceship of the Imagination, the spaceship the most popular scientist of the second half of the 20th century, Carl Sagan, traveled through space in.
But whereas Sagan explored galaxies, stars, planets, and moons known to the science of his time, Polska's spaceship in The Happiest Thought explores cultural and historical spaces.
At one moment, we are passing through a belt not of asteroids but of swirling hammers, nails, keys, and cans of paint (what remains of a blasted Anthropocene). Another moment, we are watching the evolution of continents on earth during the period of the Great Dying, which happened 250 million years ago and which scientists call the Permian- Triassic extinction event. (No one knows for sure what caused it, but we are, of course, in the process of another extinction event that is obviously caused by humans.)
At another moment in The Happiest Thought, we are on earth looking up at giant dragonflies flying through a blue sky. At another, bubbles are floating up to the surface of a blue sea.
In the Spaceship of the Imagination, Sagan was the coolheaded guide through the spectacle of stars and the vast stretches of empty space. In The Happiest Thought, Geo Wyeth—a queer, trans American performance artist—is the guide. Wyeth leads us out of the belt of human stuff and transports us to the heart of the human solar system, which is not the sun but the third planet orbiting the star. His talking voice is so seductive and soothing—but when he sings, you can hear and feel in your being something that's like the deepest part of the universe.
All in all, the experience of this installation is perfected by a mind that is properly stoned. And guess what? We live in a state that legalized weed. So take a deep drag or two of a joint, walk into the Frye, lie down on the black foam, and float through the life and death of our sentient universe.