18 June—6 August 2011

Aleksandra Mir

The Seduction of Galileo Galilei

Back Gallery

For its banner summer exhibition, Mercer Union has commissioned international artist Aleksandra Mir for a new work titled The Seduction of Galileo Galilei, produced with support from Charles Street Video. This new video piece will be the centerpiece of Mir’s solo exhibition in our galleries.

Mir is interested in the specific dynamics of popular myths and technologies, and she has proposed a directive for her work inspired by Galileo Galilei whose experiments with gravity are well known. As the apocryphal tale goes, Galileo dropped objects of differing mass off the Leaning Tower of Pisa in order to observe their rate of acceleration. In so doing, he discredited Aristotle’s assumptions on the matter, giving us the Law of Falling Bodies.

In The Seduction of Galileo Galilei Mir ignites an intellectual affair with the scientist, four centuries after the fact. Her proposed rendezvous takes place in a gravel lot adjacent to a racetrack, where she performs a gravitational feat of her own—the stacking of a single column of automotive tires that rise precariously to the heavens. Though the column may reach the height of the famed Tower of Pisa, Mir is more concerned with space of play that opens when failure is a permissible outcome. This impetus represents an inversion of the normal parameters and aims of construction. Though Mir relies on the highly skilled labour of the crane operator—his theoretical knowledge of physics combined with in-the-field experience of hoisting objects into space—her thrill is the tipping point between the expected results and the limits of control. For example, wind, the shape of the tires, the energy of the crew to gather the tires, all these determine at what point the construction will spill over. The impulse to stack is a primordial one—visible in the play of children handling building blocks, but also the most elaborate ancient architectural wonders.

Mir’s experiment is experiment for experiment’s sake and in The Seduction of Galileo Galilei she indulges the delight of failure, making the tower topple, over and over again, for the sheer joy of watching the fall.


Aleksandra Mir was born on September 11, 1967, in Lubin, Poland. She grew up in Sweden, where she studied Communications at Schillerska/Gothenburg University in Gothenburg from 1986 to 1987. After moving to New York, Mir earned her BFA for Media Arts at the School of Visual Arts in 1992, and from 1994 to 1996 she studied  Cultural Anthropology at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research. Since 1995 Mir’s work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions mainly in the USA and Europe. She has created many artist books and is actively involved in the current discourse of contemporary art. Her work is available in important private and public collections such as The Whitney Museum in New York, Tate Modern, London, Kunsthaus Zurich, Zurich, and others. The images created by Mir are clearly recognizable reconstructions of historical events; they often resemble test arrangements or preliminary stages of productions, especially in major documentary projects like First Woman on the Moon (1999) and Newsroom 1986-2000 (2007). Furthermore, Mir points out the participatory character of her work, be it to determine results for challenging technical problems with the aid of engineers, like the life-size inflatable copy of a passenger aircraft in Plane Landing (2003), or to take possession of over 2595 sports trophies donated to her by local Sicilians for her work Triumph (2009). Mir is also interested in social networks and the globalizing effects of the tourist industry, referenced in her postcard project Venezia (all places contain all others) (2009) for the 52nd Venice Biennial.

Mercer Union gratefully acknowledges our community sponsor Charles Street Video, our corporate sponsor Modern Crane, and the assistance of Goodwood Kartways, Cookstown Auto Centre and the Gladstone Hotel. We also wish to thank all the volunteers who lent their time and energy to realize the project.