Like any other science fiction enthusiast, Ati Maier has dreamed of traveling through the cosmos since she was a child.
Now there is a chance she will. This spring, Japanese billionaire entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa announced he would be accepting nominations from artists around the world for eight open seats on the SpaceX flight he chartered to circle the moon in December 2023. Maier said jumped at the chance, and she made it to the second selection round.
Artistically, Maier has already traveled across space on numerous occasions. His recent work includes a series of experimental films that follow his intergalactic alter ego, the Spacerider. Each film features Maier atop a speckled steed, the rider and horse wearing large white geometric helmets.
There is almost no exposure or dialogue in the films, but the series is rich in recurring motifs. Still, the mysterious figure wanders into a foreign area and plants a ragged flag – a depiction of figures set on a blanket of stars.
“The Spacerider is an astronaut or an alien on horseback, the very first form of transportation,” Maier said. “But he can travel anywhere.”
Maier has a long-standing friendship with Jackson’s contemporary curator Camille Obering. In 2017, Obering included her in the “Observatories” exhibition at the Arts Center. Those who were around this summer may remember Maier, in Spacerider gear, tracing the shape of the Apollo 11 moon walk around the Jackson Hole rodeo grounds in a unique performance.
Now Obering has brought the helmeted horseman back to the Tetons. The ‘Spacerider’ series, as well as a number of Maier’s latest designs, are available by appointment at the Obering Home / Art Space.
Obering created the exhibition space in her home in 2019 with the intention of exhibiting and sharing art there, but she is quick to point out that this is not a gallery. Because she isn’t looking to make a profit by showing art, she does little publicity for her space. Instead, she hopes that those who seek it are self-selected – curious and thoughtful art lovers.
“If you come, it will be me who will open the door and welcome you into space,” she said. “The idea is to start conversations about art, rather than going in and sitting behind a desk.”
The works on display are a far cry from the animal sculptures and bucolic oil paintings that characterize the valley’s art scene. Past exhibitions have included minimalist sculptures on the theme of colonialism, a mixed media meditation on the commodification of the wilderness, and “Photosymphony: An Orchestra of Living Plants.” A recent Artsy.com article titled Obering, artist of the valley Matthew Day Jackson and Andy Kincaid, owner of Holiday Forever, “The Jackson Hole Contemporary Art Triumvirate.”
The “Spacerider” cycle definitely did the trick. Shunning sci-fi world-building trends, Maier chooses to leave the logistics of Spacerider’s journey ambiguous. The figure moves cautiously and quietly through culturally charged landscapes, from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to Times Square.
The closest thing to a story, and the only easily discernible dialogue in the series, is a Lakota legend heard about “Spacerider 3 – Prophecy of the Encounter”. As the Spacerider commune with modern members of the Lakota tribe on horseback, Charley NewHoly’s voice explains, “Long ago our people came from the stars.
Later, horses become legendary: “The horse is sacred. The four legs represent the four directions. The mane represents the people.
Perhaps even more meaningful are the words printed on the T-shirt of a Lakota girl that Spacerider befriends in the movie: “I was born to shine.”
“I didn’t tell them what to wear,” Maier said. “It turned out that I had an immediate connection with this girl.”
Although the shirt slipped into the Spacerider universe by accident, it’s a motto that befits the enigmatic character. The Spacerider does not alter or interact with any of the places it passes through. Instead, he performance struts and plants a flag. He was born to (travel the multiverse and) sparkle.
“The Spacerider is an observer, not a conqueror,” Maier said. “I want to show the viewer a mirror of humanity.”
Because of this style of observation, the setting of each film becomes its centerpiece. In “Spacerider – The Nearest Faraway Place”, the character draws the line of the old Berlin Wall. A statue of the Roman god Victoria riding in battle provides the juxtaposition. The character’s walk through Germany ends in the dilapidated orb-shaped buildings of an old American listening station that was used to intercept radio communications during the Cold War.
Although it is difficult to distinguish the static, the scene is told through the voice of Maier’s mother. She recalls her memories as a teenager at the start of the Cold War in Germany.
“It’s basically his life story,” Maier said.
Maier has spent most of his life in Germany and New York City, but the character of the Spacerider was born in Wyoming. Maier, who grew up training for dressage competitions, had long been fascinated by the cowboy culture of the American West. Friends in New York put her in touch with an artist who owned property in Cody, and she traveled to her ranch to explore the wide open landscape on horseback.
Over the evenings, she became increasingly engrossed in reading two seemingly unrelated topics: the history of European settlement in the American West and the fate of Curiosity, the NASA rover that had recently landed. on the surface of Mars.
The character of Spacerider was born at the intersection of these two ideas: manifest fate and exploration of the unknown. With each film, Maier has expanded these concepts into new territory.
Maier’s most recent addition to the series again takes place in Wyoming. During his performance in 2017 on the rodeo field, a film crew followed. Maier edited their images with original images from the 2017 solar eclipse to create “Spacerider – The Hole”. Obering partner Ben Musser aka Benyaro provided an ambient soundtrack with a Western twist. Obering’s exhibition is the film’s de facto premiere.