“There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow and it’s just a dream away!”
Song lyrics for the Carousel of Progress (1964)
by Richard & Robert Sherman, commissioned by Walt Disney
“Man’s Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe” stated the dedication of the 1964 New York World’s Fair, held at Flushing Meadows Corona Park – once a sprawling ash dump in the heart of the borough of Queens.
The 650-acre fair site was populated by hundreds of temporary structures and attended by 51 million people. Amidst all the attractions, the colossal New York State Pavilion, with its space age design and its boasting rights as the largest and tallest pavilion at the fair, embodied the spectacle of “man’s achievements” (or of those by certain men, such as Governor Nelson Rockefeller, World’s Fair President Robert Moses, and pavilion architect Philip Johnson).
57 years later, this once colorful symbol that sought to project the ultimate vision of progress, optimism, and power lies largely dormant. Its concrete vestige now casts shadows upon its surroundings…and its original vision. While other structures from the fair have been repurposed, rehabilitated, and moved to various sites, the New York State Pavilion, with its central structure known as the Tent of Tomorrow, still awaits its grand departure.
The Great Ruins of Saturn by artist Alvaro Urbano speculates upon its unknown future. Through the technique of shadow puppetry, Urbano presents a film and an installation that playfully and satirically resurface stories from the Tent of Tomorrow and its politically and socially charged past. Urbano’s work situates the neglected pavilion in a theater occupied by a cast of inanimate characters, bringing them to life in order to question both obsolete and contemporary notions of growth and development.
Untethered from its original site, the building relinquishes the bright lights of achievement and instead seeks an otherworldly ending. In the process, it escapes the shadows formed by the still-thriving promises of a techno-capitalist future.
About the Artist
Alvaro Urbano (b. 1983, Madrid, Spain) is a visual artist based in Berlin. He studied at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Madrid (ETSAM) and the Institut für Raumexperimente of the Universität der Künste in Berlin. He is currently a professor at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Urbano’s practice embraces a variety of media, from performance to spatial installations that unfold throughout an experimental process. Often using architecture, theatre, and heterotopia as points of departure, his work invites dialogue in newly conceived environments – exposing conflicts between reality and fiction that redefine and render time-space based situations. Recently, his work has explored and researched the futures of abandoned and vacant World’s Fair pavilions, as in his 2020 show The Awakening at La Casa Encendida (Madrid), which animated the 1958 Spanish Pavilion in Brussels. The Great Ruins of Saturn is Urbano’s first solo exhibition in the U.S.
The Great Ruins of Saturn is presented as part of Building Cycles, Storefront’s ongoing curatorial program that examines building as both a place and a process. The Great Ruins of Saturn follows four exhibitions in the cycle, Aquí vive gente, Ministry for All, Arabesque, and Something Broke.
The Great Ruins of Saturn by Alvaro Urbano. Graphic design by Estudio Herrera. Organized by Storefront for Art and Architecture, 2021.
Artist: Alvaro Urbano
Puppeteers and Scenography: Victor Ame Navarro, Yao Liao, Luli Pérez, and Elena Peters
Editing: Joji Koyama
Graphic Design: Estudio Herrera
Commissioned by: Storefront for Art and Architecture with the collaboration of Acción Cultural Española, AC/E
Storefront for Art and Architecture Team:
José Esparza Chong Cuy, Executive Director & Chief Curator
Jinny Khanduja, Deputy Director
Eduardo Meneses, Gallery and Operations Manager
The Great Ruins of Saturn is presented in collaboration with Acción Cultural Española (AC/E), as well as with the support of Silman, ChertLüdde, Travesía Cuatro, and Sotheby’s. Lighting design is supported by L’Observatoire International, with contributions from Lutron / KETRA, Lumenture, and O’Blaney Rinker Associates.
Building Cycles has been made possible through the support of the Graham Foundation, as well as from DS+R; KPF; Steven Holl Architects; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; and by Storefront’s Board of Directors, members, and individual donors.
The Great Ruins of Saturn
By Alvaro Urbano
97 Kenmare Street, New York, NY
Saturday, December 4th from 5-7 pm - March 12th, 2022
L'Observatoire International's team; Hervé Descottes, Jenny Ivansson and Julian teNeues.
|Location||New York, NY, USA|
|Client||Storefront for Art and Architecture|
|L'Observatoire Intl Team|
|Project Leader||Jenny Ivansson|
|Photo Credits||Ivane Katamashvili courtesy of Storefront for Art and Architecture|