Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you Anton Stuebner’s review of Metahaven: The Sprawl at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The author notes, “[…] Metahaven poetically suggests that trauma’s real origins aren’t found in the images on screen—they’re located within ourselves and in our inherent capacity for perpetuating violence in the world around us.” This article was originally published on February 2, 2016.
A massive red moon appeared in the night sky on September 27, 2015. Scientists hailed the occurrence as an astronomical phenomenon, a rare optical effect resulting from the confluence of a lunar eclipse and a supermoon. Christian extremists, however, interpreted the event as an apocalyptic sign, with claims that the “blood moon” marked the beginning of the Earth’s imminent destruction. These fanatical fears became so widespread that CNN, the Guardian, and the Washington Post ran columns exploring possible end-of-world scenarios.
The world did not suddenly implode on September 27. But it’d be easy to think otherwise given the litany of violence that made headlines in 2015. The Syrian refugee crisis, the proliferation of ISIS, and mass shootings in France and the United States mark only a handful of horrors that should make us collectively wonder if a near-constant state of trauma is suddenly the new norm. The blood-hued moon in the sky may not be a divine harbinger of doom, but the cultural metaphors that it provokes—of a supernatural lunacy, of violence and blood—are too difficult to ignore.
It’s hard to take your eyes off of the colossal red moon that dominates The Sprawl, the video-based installation at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts by Metahaven, the Dutch-based design collaborative founded by Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden. Projected against the gallery’s rear wall, its ominous presence dwarfs the five mounted television monitors that function as the exhibit’s primary means of display. This juxtaposition between natural phenomena and technological devices raises questions about how screen-based media continually define (and redefine) our perceptual experience of surrounding environments. But in drawing on the symbolic associations around the “blood moon,” Metahaven’s installation evokes the anxiety and paranoia of living in a world marred by violence, while also critiquing how images reinforce violent narratives through visual association and metaphor.