Mundos Alternos at NYSCI: Alien Toy by Rubén Ortiz Torres


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Image credit: Rubén Ortiz Torres, Alien Toy (La Ranfla Cósmica), 1997. Video still. Collection of Tom Patchett. Courtesy of Track 16, Los Angeles.

Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas brings together contemporary artists from across the Americas who have tapped into science fiction’s capacity to imagine new realities, both utopian and dystopian. Science fiction offers a unique artistic landscape in which to explore the colonial enterprise that shaped the Americas and to present alternative perspectives speculating on the past and the future. In the works featured in the exhibition, artists employ the imagery of science fiction to suggest diverse modes of existence and represent “alienating” ways of being in the world.

The New York Hall of Science is one of several satellite installations and programs at partner institutions throughout New York City, including: The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, SoHo; the Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria; Queens Library, Corona;and Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling, Harlem.

On view at The New York Hall of Science is artist Rubén Ortiz Torres’s Alien Toy (La Ranfla Cósmica) (1997). The video features a kinetic sculpture inspired by the customized aesthetics of Chicano Lowriders. Alien Toy is a lo-fi pastiche of popular science fiction imagery, like Star Wars and UFO sightings, as they come together with a white Nissan pickup truck, a model commonly used by U.S. Border Patrol. Borrowing graphics from the Border Patrol logo, the vehicle is labeled “Unidentified Cruising Object” and “Space Patrol.” Alien Toy illustrates a technological iteration of the Chicano “rasquache” attitude of playful, irreverent flamboyance.

Alien Toy uses humor and camp to provoke serious reflection on the ways popular representational practices intersect with discourses of immigration, street culture, and science fiction.

Rubén Ortiz Torres’s installation will be complemented by a weekly family activity in the NYSCI Design Lab titled Bots and Borders. For this activity, visitors will design and build bots then select frames to to generate sketches and light patterns that they can take home. Similar to Ortiz Torres’ Alien Toy, make a robot to help you imagine new worlds, where you get to choose the borders. Bots and Borders is open every Saturday and Sunday between April 6 – August 18.

Mundos Alternos is organized by UCR ARTS at the University of California, Riverside, and curated by Robb Hernández, Assistant Professor of English at UCR; Tyler Stallings, Director of the Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion at Orange Coast College, and former Artistic Director of the Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts at UCR ARTS; and Joanna Szupinska-Myers, Senior Curator at the California Museum of Photography at UCR ARTS. The traveling iteration is organized by Hitomi Iwasaki, Director of Exhibitions and Curator at the Queens Museum, and Joanna Szupinska-Myers.

Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas at the Queens Museum is made possible by lead support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Major support for Mundos Alternos at UCR ARTS at the University of California was provided through grants from the Getty Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Consulate General of Brazil in New York, Fundación Jumex, and Galeria Luisa Strina. Major funding for the Queens Museum is generously provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the Lambent Foundation, the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc., the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, and the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation.

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