Select Included Works
We live in a moment of cultural, social and political inflection, where past prescriptions for constructing a perfect world are crumbling in what feels like permanent emergency.
New media fuels an ever-increasing proliferation of messages promising a better life and greater connection with others, but which do little more than present conflicting pictures of what is real, fact, and truth. Amidst this din, how do we distinguish truth from the empty promises of politics, consumerism, and entertainment?
Solaris – Shelter for the Next Cold War appropriates symbols of identity – some endogenous and others imposed – to explore broader themes of authority and power in contemporary politics and commerce, individual expressions of national, religious and class identity, and civic agency and power in a radical moment. Together, they reimagine and juxtapose U.S. and Russian political and economic symbols to raise questions about how we might find shelter from the evolving dynamic between the two countries: Who will lead our communities? What do we need to sustain ourselves? What should we believe?
This is an emergency. But whereas past crises threatened physical destruction – the Red Scare, the Cuban Missile Crisis, global nuclear proliferation, domestic and international terrorism – today’s emergency is the assault on the foundational ideas that define our communities and our ability to maintain an individual identity. How should an individual respond? Where do we find shelter and solace amidst contemporary cacophony? What must we retain to sustain our sense of self?
Download the project prospectus
Companion Movie and Score
Original Installation Documentary
Explore the bathroom that inspired the art installation. In the heart of Washington, DC, a visit to the studio bathroom of artist Mark Kelner, reveals an impromptu installation that collects and reimagines U.S. and Russian political, economic, and pop culture symbols to illustrate and interrogate basic images through which he defines his identity.
Original Score and Playlist
The Solaris soundscape was composed by Kondotronics. The pieces draw on a language of the human body to evoke austere and anodyne spaces and to inspire a sense of information asymmetry and decision paralysis among listeners wrapped up in their own desires for material abundance.
Zachary Paul Levine | Curator and Project Director
Levine is a museum professional and historian in Washington, DC. He is currently Director of Exhibitions and Collections at the National Building Museum where he provides strategic and administrative support for exhibition development and the museum’s collections. Levine has worked as a curator, writer and advisor for museums across the US on subjects on the intersection of history, technology and art. He trained as a historian of eastern and central Europe with a specialization in the Cold War and Jewish philanthropy. He has written and regularly speaks on a range of topics related to Jewish history and culture, the built environment, and the museum field. zplevine.com
Mark Kelner | Visual Artist
Mr. Kelner is a multidisciplinary artist based in Washington, DC. His work explores themes of duality, identity, and mass culture through painting, sculpture, and video. Selections from these and other series have appeared in The Washington Post, Artenol, The Atlantic, and The Times, among other publications and media. From 2009 - 2017, Kelner served on the Board of Directors of the Hermitage Museum Foundation (USA) where he helped develop the Museum’s “Art from America” and “Art Without Borders” programs. Kelner is represented by Galerie Blue Square (Washington, DC) and LAZY Mike (Los Angeles) and has shown at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in New York and Librairie du Globe in Paris. markkelner.com
Kondotronics | Composer
Kondotronics is a DC-based musician and programmer who creates compositions with inexpensive and obsolete synthesizer hardware. Inspired by the vacuity and madness of daily life in the heart of the American empire, Kondotronics works with synthesizers, drum machines, and samples to build percussive and hypnotic tracks from the relative comfort and safety of his “bunker” in DC. soundcloud.com/kondotronics
We hope to bring Solaris – Shelter for the Next Cold War to a mix of traditional and non-traditional venues including storefronts and abandoned buildings, historic structures, and museums and art galleries in as many communities as we can.
Solaris debuted at Umbrella (April 2019), a four day pop-up gallery in a soon-to-be demolished building located in the heart of DC’s thriving U Street arts district. The 900 square-foot installation attracted more than 11,000 visitors and received rave reviews.
Thousands more explored an expanded presentation (2,000 sq ft) from May - July 2019 at Culture House, a buzzing event and art space in a historic church, four blocks from the US Capitol. Complementary programs included a Cold War-themed dance party, panel discussions and lectures on present-day propaganda, site-specific improv performances, and customized tours.
Solaris is designed for spaces ranging from 1,000-4,000 square feet. It includes a freestanding “bunker,” paintings, sculpture, video and sound media, interpretive text panels for all areas and pieces, and environmental lighting, plywood and steel stud walls. Please contact Zachary Paul Levine if you are interested in bringing Solaris to your community: email@example.com