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Sachs leads a tour of his show Spaceships at Acquavella Galleries in New York



“If it looks like a UFO, well you're right because on Mars we are the aliens. So this piece is called Entry.”
“Fancy audio equipment the main purpose of it is to impress other lonely guys and alienate beautiful women.”
“If you want to go to the next star system, it takes a thousand years. So if you want if you wanna survive you better bring a waterfall.”
“I was inspired by the book, Project Hail Mary that had a similar kind of propulsion system.”


00:00:00 Tom Sachs: Hi I’m Tom Sachs I’m Acquavella Gallery, this is the last couple of days that you can see my show Spaceships so I thought I’d take a few minutes to walk you through it.

00:00:11 Tom Sachs: I’m standing in front of the Golden Record the voices from Earth. This is a facsimile in 24 carat gold leaf and pyrography of the record that’s bolted to the front of Voyager, the first object to leave the solar system. It’s some code and I can tell you a little bit about it, this part’s the map and this is Earth and these are the nearest pulsars so if you measured the pulsars you can understand where this is coming from or who it’s coming from. The record or vinyl record that has voices of Earth on one side and images on another it has a stylus that’s included. You can see it turning using these dots and dashes and this symbol that’s supposed to represent hydrogen you can extrapolate the speed. Why they didn’t just put a crank thing on it like a victrola, I’ll have no idea. The flipside of the record has sounds that can be transformed into video images this is test pattern and this is some crazy code that explains how it works. Some Army Corps of Engineers figured out how to do it using modern computers but it took em like three weeks, I dunno why they just didn’t use sharpie cause in all science fiction movies I know they speak English.

00:01:28 Tom Sachs: Anyway this is kind of a acrylic version of that same painting.

00:01:36 Tom Sachs: But spaceships aren’t really limited to things that leave the solar system they also include well imagine if you were going from England to New York in 1914 on a titanic vessel it would kind of and it’d only take a week it kinda be like a spaceship or at least a time machine. I made this for my son Guy and kind of fucking him over by exhibiting it as art but I don’t feel that bad because he doesn’t like the things I make for him as much as he loves his iPad.

00:02:19 Tom Sachs: The human figure, the human body is a spaceship for code, this is a homemade barbie that I made a portrait of my wife Sarah but with vectran hair. But it’s code that’s the human body is a vessel for our genetic code that we maintain for our short lives as it travels through the cosmos over aeons and starts as slime and develops over many millions of years into creatures that can talk about slime.

00:02:58 Tom Sachs: This is kind of a regular spaceship this is the command module, service module and lunar module or the command, service lunar module and this is used to land on the moon. This is this piece we used in Hamburg in our last mission of the Space Program, the final mission. You can see it dot, and this a docking camera that we used in the special effects. And in the post you can see a little video of how that works.

00:03:40 Tom Sachs: The backshell, got this from my buddies at the entry descent landing team at Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the backshell is the part of the Mars rover that enters the thin Martian atmosphere and this parachute deploys Tomasso Rivellini drew this and he’s my muse for the Mars Yard shoe and the parachute opens, it’s the first hypersonic parachute it goes faster than the speed of sound and the thing works. If you come really close you can see the backshell is this flying saucer shape and if you think about. If it looks like a UFO, well you’re right because on Mars we are the aliens. So this piece is called Entry.

00:04:37 Tom Sachs: Fancy audio equipment the main purpose of it is to impress other lonely guys and alienate beautiful women. This is a scale model of a Technics model 1200 turntable. No it doesn’t work, but everything moves very very gently. It’s very fragile, it’s all made out of wood. I know it doesn’t play records but it’s also kind of a spaceship because, record albums are the only media maybe other than a book that we have real, true, random access to information. You drop the needle anywhere you want to go, it’s not a tape or a computer that has a series of ones and zeros. It is, it’s a transformation using the strobe to get the right speed and the peaks and valleys transform an analogue shape into sound.

00:05:37 Tom Sachs: If you just take a quick look at the room from far away as we leave this gallery, these pedestals I think in a lot of ways are part of the piece. Brâncuși taught me that, but also this is gallery number one and it has three openings, two windows and a door.

00:05:57 Tom Sachs: Let’s go into the next gallery.

00:06:08 Tom Sachs: Gallery number two has two openings. This is a sinkable Titanic, you turn the valve from float to sink and water enters here. It takes a couple of minutes to fill with water and sink to the bottom of the swimming pool. I made this for Guy so he could use it in Abu and Unnies swimming pool. And yes it does sink.

00:06:43 Tom Sachs: These are quarters. Porcelain. Life boats, PVC pipe. Plywood. Epoxy. Plywood. Steel. I once saw this amazing art show this artist that I really liked, but they’re on these giant plywood pedestal bases and it really crushed me because I realised that when you look at the room without thinking about it, it was mostly an exhibit of plywood. I don’t think that was the artists intention, so when I saw that I thought, OK. I’ll take this a little bit more seriously, that’s while you’ll see these really finely detailed bases with lightening holes.

00:07:30 Tom Sachs: If you want to go to the next star system, it takes a thousand years. So if you want if you wanna survive you better bring a waterfall.

00:07:46 Tom Sachs: It’s called generation ship and it runs all day on these makita batteries.

00:07:57 Tom Sachs: Because you’re at home and you’re not going to necessarily see this unless you come in the next couple of days, you can see that the RCS reaction control thrusters are made of toothpaste caps. And yes I brush my teeth with em. And the oxford English dictionary which is the Lingua Franca of Earth. It’s so small it’s almost like microfiche so you need to take out the magnifying glass. But the reason why this is here is cause it’s got all the other books of the English language in these words.

00:08:38 Tom Sachs: Those batteries get charged at this charging station and I was really lucky to be able to show this at Tomio Koyama Gallery in Tokyo as part of a show called space smuts and it’s an eight charger which. And each battery station is named after a different character from the magnificent seven which is a ripoff of the seven samurai. Lee, Harry, Brit, Cheeko, Bernardo, Vin, Chris and of course the beautiful Petra.

00:09:18 Tom Sachs: This is for sharpening. Coarse and fine. For the machete.

00:09:32 Tom Sachs: This is Guy’s cargo plane. Shadow’s kinda good. Can you see it?

00:09:51 Tom Sachs: This portrait of my lovely wife Sarah as a Hoover concept one, futuristic vacuum cleaner.

00:10:14 Tom Sachs: So when we come inside and look at, she’s not a forty-two. Sarah Hoover is not a forty-two. She’s a size triple zero. But it is you can tell it’s Sarah because there are three modes, self-adjusting, plush and it’s on shag. It should say bang bang because that’s her real name. But I guess things you might not see if your here, close, let’s bring it in here. This is handmade, the plug. Using a little bit of hot glue, I’m going to scrape that off. See it’s made of mending plate. String.

00:11:09 Tom Sachs: You’ll see lots of references to the artist Constantin Brâncuși and if you don’t know him, look him up. Cause he was the first artist to really integrate the base with the sculpture. I mean if you look at this piece, the base is about the same size as the sculpture. So who’s to say what’s more important, the sorta simplicity of the cylinder or the complexity of this leaf blower that’s also maybe a kind of a trust in faith. If you come right here, straight up you can kind of see. You have to come back a little, yeah like I can imagine that’s like a figure you know with a nose and the mouth and the brow. Of course the piece that I’m referring to is Brâncuși’s bird in space, it just has the same kind of formal relationships with the ground and if you wanna read more about that, I’d encourage you to get the spaceships book and if people request it, I’ll. You can read the essay by Thomas Crow and if people you don’t wanna get the book. I could, I could scan the essay and post it somewhere because it’s really worth reading. It’s really beautiful. In particular about this idea of formal relationships of shapes that were very explored in twentieth century when art figurative art to abstract shapes and Brâncuși is the essential abstract artist. There was always still representing forms that wasn’t like later with Donald Judd where it didn’t really represent anything. Just purely abstract forms, but it was beginning of abstraction. And maybe sometime if you guys want, we can do a little, do a little discussion. Like a live about, an AMA about abstract art and formalism if you want. Maxwell let’s find a time and do that.

00:13:15 Tom Sachs: Just going kinda quickly, there’s a bunch people outside waiting in the cold for the book signing. Hang on we’re almost there, this is photon drive and I can’t. Let’s hold the camera still and I’ll move it around. I can’t turn this on, right now because a photon drive ship’s very powerful and it’ll cut a swath through all of Manhattan and all of us, so for everyone’s safety we’re not turning this ship on. But these emit so much light that it will move this ship at near light speed. I was inspired by the book, Project Hail Mary that had a similar kind of propulsion system. This is the landing object, come come in closer the this is the landing craft. I’ll land it here just so we can play with it and this is the re-entry vehicle. It is worth noting this camera, I did sacrifice this camera and it does still kind of focus, but I brought this when I lived in Mar Vista, California instead of food. In the end of the 80’s cause I really wanted to do photography for my life but I, never really got that organised and I didn’t use it enough and just a few months ago I sliced it, I sliced the film drive mechanisim out and you can still kinda see through. Still kinda works. So, I dunno what that says but I guess I’m good with a bandsaw?

00:15:06 Tom Sachs: K. Yeah. I also sacrificed a shimpo pottery wheel.

00:15:16 Tom Sachs: This is another backshell in gold and pyrography.

00:15:28 Tom Sachs: And then, I dunno if you’re familiar with litter robot but it’s this is a litter robot one and the nice people at litter robot sent me one of these cause they know how much I like the original and the idea is your cat goes in there, takes a shit and you close it and then you. There is a sensor and it cycles and the cat shit goes through a screen and it clumps and cleans itself and goes in a tray that you take out and throw away. But this landing module is kind of an adaptation, I don’t think you want put it with your cat in there, in fact there’s a sensor so it can’t turn with a cat inside. But there are a few other things that are special and maybe worth noting, probably, pretty obvious but the Apollo era landing gear is mimicked by similar era of eames folding tables. But actually it’s earlier, 1948 it’s folding card table that sacraficied itself to be the pedestal for this sculpture. And if you come around a little bit I know this is really geeky but for those of you who make stuff seriously, I used a Makita battery with a voltage regulator which is really great to bring it down to twelve volts this thing will run all day. It’s magnificent, also there’s no electricity in this top half. And you can see these lights are on, so we made a commutator ring here. Come around this side. And with graphite contacts and as you see, if you take a look at this light or zoom out, as I pull them back. If you can get my hand. As you lift them, it breaks the arc. So I think from like a maker standpoint, this is a career highlight, I really wanted to share that with you.

00:17:23 Tom Sachs: And last. The mothership. This is a nugget size of the mothership that we used to go to Mars or our entire rocket factory community joined to go into the mothership to land on Mars, to claim Mars rocks, to transubstantiate them into new worlds and will be debuting that pretty soon in the monaverse. Stay tuned and come and see us in Miami, we’re going to do a presentation on that and we’ll post that on insta soon. So come and check it out and learn more about the mothership.

00:18:06 Tom Sachs: Anyway, I’m here again at Acquavella Gallery, 18 East, 79th Street. The last days are I guess today, Monday till six and then, tomorrow, Tuesday and I think we’re closed on Wednesday and Thursday for thanksgiving but Friday and Saturday are the last days, so make sure come on Saturday if you can’t make it during the week. I’m so proud of this show and I’m going to be spending the rest of my life, making spaceships and this is the first time I’ve ever really had the nuts to bring it all together and say hey I’m making spaceships for a while. So see you on the otherside.