SECRET CENTURY Greylock Arts and Pure Theory, Adams, Massachusetts through August 27th 2009
(THE DNA-PHOTON PROJECT) RE-ADAPTED FOR SECRET CENTURY statement by Dan Rose:
“WHAT CAN WE HUMANS BECOME? BOTH THE NOVEL AND THE MACHINE INSTALLATION ARE QUASI-NARRATIVES, A MULTI-GENRE NOVEL WHERE ONE OF THE GENRES IS ASSEMBLED FROM GLASS, METAL, AND PLASTIC.”
DAN ROSE, 3 MARCH 1998
Secret Century, i.e., the 20th Century, the dual location exhibition at Greylock Arts and Studio Pure Theory by Dan Rose in Adams, Massachusetts employs some of the paradigms of secrecy and the accompanying pretentious clandestine code language and propagandistic modus operandi of governments, the military, the scientific community, and corporations as a means of achieving their political, scientific, and sociological ends.
Among the most notable of these were the secrecy and encryption that surrounded the Normandy Invasion, The Manhattan Project, Bletchley Hall-aka Station X, and The Enigma Machine, each of which were to their governments and agencies characterized as SECRET, TOP SECRET, MOST SECRET, CLASSIFIED, DECLASSIFIED and were neither confirmed nor denied by those respective agencies.
Encryption, encoding, and decoding which have been employed by individuals and agencies for millennia, became exponentially sophisticated in the 20th century, along with our ability to realize our fascination with the colonization of space… if for only short periods of time for now.
Among the group of objects and realizations by artist and theoretician Dan Rose that were chosen to be exhibited in Secret Century are those that were created for The DNA-Photon Project which was a previous collaborative exhibition by the artist circa 1998 at the University of Pennsylvania Department of Landscape Architecture as well as the Tough Gallery in Chicago, IL, Bloomington, IL, and Normal, IL.
The DNA-Photon Project was a parody of the clandestine workings of just such a TOP SECRET international collaboration where world governments, in an uncharacteristic spirit of co-operation, attempted to colonize space with human DNA from a single woman donor. The DNA-Photon Project was something akin to a techno-Eve in the Garden of Eden or Lucy-Out of Africa revisited.
Melissa Grey, who is a New York based sound artist, and Dan Rose have collaborated on several gallery installations. The sound track to a radio show called Photon Ecstasy which premiered at Columbia University Radio, which was one of their previous collaborations, accompanied the installation and performance of Secret Century DNA-Photon at the installation in Adams.
Dan Rose’s artistic vocabulary also owes a debt of influence to Marcel Duchamp in its employment of absurdist humor, puns, and devices and its appropriation of found objects. Agency, Rose claims, is the broadest physically transformative phenomenon that effects our interaction with matter and its interaction with us. It permeates the logic of our language and activities, and is addressed in some of Dan’s anthropological dissertations and treatises, and it is the subject some of Dan’s iconic installations at Greylock Arts entitled “How Language Moves Matter” and Nature’s Culture. “How Language Moves Matter”, for example, focuses on how we use words to turn on a fan. A toy model linguist scholar asks the toy child next to him how to turn the fan on, the child asks a technician to turn it on but the unplugged fan given the impoverished linguistic theories of today can’t work, because the cord doesn’t reach the wall outlet.
Despite its ironic narrative, Secret Century in particular and Dan Rose’s art in general contain a pragmatic and yet utopian message that is something akin to: It is imperative that we ought to be deeply concerned with what we’ve done to the earth so as not to perpetuate our mistakes. Dan’s poems, which are written matter-of-factly, express his concerns with the fate of his and our children in the short term―and the fate of their children in long term.
A product of the mid-to-late 20th Century, Dan Rose inherited a spectrum of visual influences that permeate his art. There is an evocation and appropriation of “primitive” art, prison art, naïve houses, plastic vehicles and toys from the 70’s and 80’s, self-constructed or modified vehicles and airplanes influenced by ’30’s aerodynamic streamlining, and the poetics and science of earth, soil, and dirt. These works paradoxically evoke both the pathos and joyful eruption of technological invention of the Secret Century. Dan’s on-street display outside of Greylock Arts of his one-off re-design of Peter Brock’s 1960’s Daytona Cobra is a stunning and timelessly elegant functional sculptural object that perfectly embodies our consuming and riveting fascination with the A-U-T-O-M-O-B-I-L-E.
So, ironically speaking, these works remind those of us who lived through it that the 20th Century was no secret at all.
Dan Rose is a professor Emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, in the Department of Landscape Architecture, and is the author of several scholarly books of anthropology, artists books, essays, and white papers.