Jonathon Keats's Local Air and Space Administration sells Mars-filtered water, plants cacti in extraterrestrial soil, and brings space to the city.
The San Francisco artist Jonathon Keats is a master of delectably deadpan works. He has founded a pornographic theater for plants, screening grainy footage of pollination for an audience of titillated rhododendrons. He once mixed a ring tone based on John Cage’s silent composition, “4’33.” And he gave pencils and easels to Cypress trees so they could express themselves when the wind blew. “Everything I do comes out of practicality,” Keats says. The guy’s just trying to help out.
His latest project is one of his most practical yet. Dismayed at the high cost and downright hassle of private space travel—“I didn’t have $200,000 to spend on Virgin Galactic,” he says, adding that “freeze-dried ice-cream is really disgusting”—Keats wanted a way to bring the extra-terrestrial experience down to Earth. So he formed his own space agency—the Local Air and Space Administration, or LASA—and has designed several convenient tours for Earth-dwellers. In one, the artist embedded pieces of meteorite in the soles of slippers, allowing space walks inside any apartment. Not wanting to exclude plants, he also smashed bits of asteroid into dirt, then planted cacti in the foreign soil. Why cacti? “Initial test pilots tend to be brave and a little bit stupid. And I realized that kind of described a cactus.”
But the simplest way for people to tour space will be to drink it. In an upcoming show at San Francisco’s Modernism Gallery, Keats will be selling bottles of water mineralized with pieces of the Moon, Mars, or a star. Call it the opposite of Neil Armstrong sipping Tang in the LEM. (Keats also offers a trip to potatoes, through osmosis.) And like any good travel agent, he’s ready to cut a deal for the ambitious voyager. “There will be package tours for people who want to experience all three.”
The show opens to the public at Modernism Gallery Thursday, October 21, at 5:30 p.m.