The Great Ruins of Saturn
Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York
4 December 2021 – 26 February 2022
“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.
Photos by Ivane Katamashvili.