TX*13 Bienniale Outtake: Dion Laurent

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As we were making our way through the crowded parking lot to the Texas Bienniale at Blue Star Contemporary, we came upon this. What in the world is it? Or perhaps more appropriately, what in the out-of-this-world is it? Well, it appears to be a Mars Rover-cum-terrarium-cum-helicopter. And the best part of it? Our sources informed us the darn thing actually works!

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This brilliant contraption is the product of the fertile mind of Houston-based artist Dion Laurent. It’s the $2.6 thousand EarthRover1, which has only recently made its landing on Earth, and is still a work in progress. Closer inspection reveals engineering genius moshed up with eco-cultural statements, with a little bit of sci-fi magic to go along with it.

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Note the breathing apparatus, more about that in a moment…

For a gearhead like me, the genius is in the details. Inspired by the Mars Rovers, the chassis is made from laminated wood, with steel plates supporting the various articulating joints, which make this vehicle potentially quite nimble. At this point in time, only the two center wheels are motorized, but Laurent plans to add motors to all six wheels. It looks like it could be the ultimate Big Bend Rover!

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As we were checking out the Bienialle inside Blue Star, this sentient humanoid appears. A barefoot, spacesuit clad astronaut with plumbing only a Borg could truly appreciate, handing out fresh flowers. I will let you determine the message he’s trying to send. Regardless, the outfit is a technological tour-de-force, comprised of a mashup of objects both exotic and commonplace. The helmet appears to be a genuine space-age artifact, but then again I suppose you describe the swimming pool hoses and PVC plumbing fittings as contemporary artifacts as well.

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And behold! It’s Monsieur Laurent, who apparently has descended from EarthRover1 to bring greetings and perhaps a message to the sentient beings who inhabit the planet Earth. A planet that is pollution-choked and getting warmer with a rapidity that defies geological time. Do you think he’s trying to send a message? A warning? You decide…

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As we departed, we had another chance to examine EarthRover1. Apparently, it had been seized by government officials and was being loaded on a U-Haul trailer to be sequestered in a secret location somewhere in South Central Texas.

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From this perspective, you can see the plumbing that supports the terrarium, which provides life support to the EarthRover1 capsule. Either that, or the pilot is an avid gardener. Not sure which!

Stay tuned, there will be more blog posts from this event…

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