video installation transforms the NOMA gallery into a planetarium, with “Mary” floating in space | Arts

In this series, Lagniappe presents each week a different work from the collection of the New Orleans Museum of Art, with commentary by a curator.

On display at the New Orleans Museum of Art until January 23, Dawn DeDeaux’s “Space Between Worlds” exhibition confronts our current climate crisis, scrutinizing a bleak future in which humanity must flee a ruined Earth.

DeDeaux’s 70-foot video installation, “Where’s Mary,” transforms a rarely-used gallery at the back of NOMA’s special exhibition space into a dystopian post-human planetarium.

The video centers on a marble sculpture of the Virgin Mary, her face eroded by water and time, as if tossed and turned by the tides for centuries.

DeDeaux chose this faceless statue to represent the last evidence of human existence following catastrophic destruction of Earth.

Marie, pushed into space, floats in the void. Guided only by the mysterious forces of the universe, its icy marble melts and merges with the surface of meteors and asteroids.

Imagining the consequences of a climate apocalypse, “Where’s Mary” asks if we will give up life on Earth – or lose our last chance to save it – for nothing but the empty promise of space.

Moving simply by gravitational pull, “Where’s Mary” confronts a world in which we have lost human agency and the ability to exercise our free will. “Where’s Mary” marks the end of the story, or at least the end of human history. Is our last and final meeting with the stars preordained, or could we act now to save the planet and ourselves?

Mary is an oracle without answers, or rather, an oracle who leaves us the answer.

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Katie Pfohl is the NOMA Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.


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Arline J. Mercier