You're probably not familiar with the name Jake Garn. A Utahn, he represented his state for 20 years in the United States Senate and, as a member of the 1985 Discovery space shuttle mission crew, was the first sitting congressperson to fly in outer space.
He said upon his return, "The seven of us on board (the Space Shuttle) represented five different religions. But we were all agreed. It just doesn't make sense how people on earth treat each other. It doesn't make any difference what language we speak. It doesn't make any difference what country we come from. It certainly doesn't make any difference what the color of our skin is. We are all children of God traveling on spaceship earth together."
This weekend The PASEO returns for its fifth year, and its theme is "Space." It will take over the Taos historic district on Friday and Saturday (Sept. 14-15) from 7-11 p.m. As always, the outdoor participatory art exhibition is family-friendly and free to all.
"This is the first time we have had a theme associated with The PASEO," noted J. Matthew Thomas, Director of The PASEO Project, "but in the 18 months since our open call for artists, we recognized it as a narrative that seems to be running through art right now."
That narrative isn't focused only on looking upwards. It also looks directly at us, here in our communal collective. "We're offering some of the best artists who utilize Western technological advances in their works while integrating artists who are influenced by the elements of indigenous beliefs and practices," he said. "It's not just about the universe. It's also about the space we share here."
Artistic Director and Curator Agnes Chavez, curatorial contributor Anita McKeow, and The PASEO staff have assembled a mind-blowing festival including 18 exhibitions and representing over 30 local, national, and international artists.
"Art, science and technology (will be) used to contemplate the cosmos, our place in nature and to reimagine society. Prepare to have your senses activated, curiosities stimulated, and minds transported to a wondrous universe in flux," said a statement from the curators.
Although exhibits are featured on Civic Plaza Drive and around the historic plaza, the heart of The PASEO 2018 is beating in Kit Carson Park where "The Space Cloud" is sure to enthrall you as you enter the park. A rainbow of LED-activated lighting that emanates from the interior of the futuristic inflatable pavilion -- its first visit from Spain to North America -- will illuminate the six exhibits and installations within its 8,000 square feet.
"The artists you'll meet in the Space Cloud have coordinated with each other to offer festivalgoers an event that is part interactive and part immersive," Thomas said. Whether you choose to take an active role or are content as a spectator, you'll find plenty to capture your imagination.
"Conformation," the work of electronic artist Reilly Donovan, "explores how computer simulations, machine learning and interactive environments challenge the boundaries of our senses. It examines how machines are molding our future, changing our culture and confronting our perceptions of reality," according to his artist statement.
Once you don your virtual reality goggles and gloves, you're invited to create your own painting on a three-dimensional canvas and then share your workmanship with spectators as it is projected against a backdrop of brilliant colors and moving, abstract shapes.
With two others and working in tandem, experience "Push Pull Turn" presented by Parker Laughlin Jennings. Its simple concept--that, working together, we can alter our outlook of the world -- is illustrated in the machine's use of GPS and viewers' cooperative effort in moving their perspective from outer space back to Taos.
"Interium," presented by the multidisciplinary team, Noisefold, will transport you to a virtual reality world inhabited by 3-D alien life who, though artificially generated, will playfully respond to your presence. You can also enjoy the 3-D models of the sea's microorganisms in Victoria Vesna's "Noise Aquarium," whose actual imagery has been captured through the rigors of scientific study and enhanced with animation and sound.
Colombian trio "The Landscape Re-Invention Society" will travel on stilts from the Space Cloud's courtyard throughout The PASEO and, using only physical language, ask you to rethink your perceptions of architecture and space.
Or, maybe you just want to dance. VIZIOPHONE's "Cosmic Systems" puts you in the midst of swarming particles that are happy to be your partner. And from 10-11:30 p,m,, VJ CHIKA returns to Taos, partnering with DJ Rehka for a sound and light dance party called "COSMOS: Total Universe."
On your walk over to Civic Plaza Drive, be sure to stop by Christopher Cichocki's "Circular Dimensions" for live performances and mesmerizing projections and "Indigenous Cosmology Meets Particle Physics," a collaboration between the Taos Pueblo Day School and Taos Integrated School for the Arts.
"In order to engage the community's children, we hold prefestival school workshops to educate students on how science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the arts work together," said Thomas. "Their project includes using Tagtool to 'paint' the outside of a tepee with images that represent indigenous and Western explorations of the universe."
When you reach Parr Field, enter the world of "Gleamscape" by AudioPixel. Play a musical instrument and create "ripples of color and 3D patterns across an immersive landscape of LEDs," said the press release.
Along the way you'll visit "GLOWpod," in which you can move between an earthly greenhouse and an extraterrestrial nursery in "Growing Life on Other Worlds." The ambitious project is a collaboration between UNM-Albuquerque's social media workshop and the Red Willow Farm of Taos Pueblo.
The digital media and fine arts departments of UNM-Taos offer "Cross-Pollination Portraits" where, using coding and gaming equipment, you can weave unique facial features into a whole.
Billie Mitchell's "2U" reflects your image back to you via numerous screens and mirrors and infuses it with an altered reality. If you like this augmented version of yourself, feel free to take a selfie.
And esteemed curator Erin Elder has compiled four installations, all of which share the subset of space themes. "No Grounds" (Sarah Ashkin), "Private Party" (Anais Duplan), and "CauseLines: Coherence/Interference" (Winter Count) challenge people's relationships with their property and their neighbors, with intimacy and technology.
"Live Stream," by Christine Howard Sandoval, is her real-time walk along the length of the Acequia del Madre del Río Pueblo, drawing attention to its forgotten branches and highlighting its breadth through town during a time it was a sole source of irrigation to many. Sandoval will be filming her surveillance and streaming it back to Civic Plaza Drive.
"As in other years, we have partnered with Twirl Play and Discovery Place and Studio 107B. "All Roads Lead to the Same Place" (Ollie Bell) will also be at the plaza, where DJ Oliver will host a dance party until 11 p.m. Galleries along Kit Carson Road are planning special events for the weekend, and John Dunn Shops will host their annual Grand Block Party with entertainment, art and food vendors," Thomas noted. "We're grateful for the continuing support of these and our other sponsors."
"Of course expect random acts of art to pop up all around you," he adds.
Beyond The PASEO 2018, other events may grab your attention. Visit paseoproject.org for a map and complete description of The PASEO, and a schedule of related events through town.