Laverdiere’s Mystery Science Theater


Ever since 1993, when he was a grad student at Yale, LaVerdiere’s strange sculptural objects—a Neural Suspension Unit, a Hydrogen Bed, an Ether Cabinet—have been enigmatic misfits in group shows. This impressive first solo heightens the aura of mystery in his work.

A projected safe—a rusty treasure chest—tumbles through space on one wall in the unlit gallery. Nearby, a tiny, encapsulated model chest is consumed in an elusive ball of light. It’s the harbinger of two larger works memorializing heroic technological failures en route to paradigm shifts, both of which give off an eerie glow. One, a monumental space-age casket on mortuary trestles, contains a precise nine-foot model of the encrusted sunken wreckage of a clipper ship—the vessel that in 1854 made a doomed first attempt to lay a transatlantic telegraph cable. The other, on a funerary pedestal, harbors the equally amniotic scale-model remains of a battered V-2 rocket, developed by the Third Reich in hopes of achieving the first manned space flight. Ambient techno music by composer Wolfgang Voigt, vaguely Wagnerian, and two murky photographs simulating the scenes of the wrecks add atmosphere.

Both wrecks slide in and out of focus in an almost holographic spacey blur, fogged incrementally by an invisible, high-tech film. Collapsing past into future with a touch of sinister nostalgia, LaVerdiere preserves the evasiveness of his vision conceptually and visually. He claims in a statement that his “historical hyper-texting” isn’t didactic, critical, or cautionary, but optimistic. He calls it “inspirational, romantic propaganda to help continue the march of progress.” I’m not so sure.